The Story of the Karmic Accountant

Sri Aurobindo illustrates the absurdity of some of the most popular conceptions about the operation of the law of Karma with a story from the press of his day.

It was a story of a “rich man who had violently deprived another of his substance. The victim is born as the son of the oppressor and in the delirium of a fatal illness reveals that he has obliged his old tyrant and present father to spend on him and so lose the monetary equivalent of the property robbed minus a certain sum, but that sum must be paid now, otherwise–The debt is absolved and as the last pice is expended, the reborn soul departs, for its sole object in taking birth is satisfied, accounts squared and the spirit of Karma content.”

Sri Aurobindo explains that this view develops the mechanical system to its logical conclusion and to an extreme, to the point that apparently “the precise accountant becomes very like an unconscionable hundred per cent usurer.” This is based on the fact that in this story the rewards for virtue take place both in heaven after death, and on earth after rebirth, while the punishment for sin also occurs both beyond and in the next birth, thus indicating a double punishment or a double reward.

Clearly the system illustrated by this story does not stand close scrutiny and cannot provide us any basis in reality for our understanding of the law of Karma.

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 12, Karma and Justice, pg. 102,