To gain an understanding of the nature and action of the law of Karma, it is essential to distinguish the various elements involved. There is first, the law of Nature which expresses itself in the action of energy, of whatever type. Physicists tell us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; that is, that Energy functions under certain laws in the material world, and in fact is subject to calculation and the ability to be harnessed for work. We may explore the question of Energy further into the realm of life, mind and spirit, and similarly find laws of action and reaction that determine the movement and result of that energy.
A question arises whether this is purely a mechanical, external law of Nature to which the soul is subjected, in which case, as Sri Aurobindo points out “it cannot have a mental, moral and spiritual significance” ; or if Nature is “…not itself the energy, the work of a Mind, a Soul, a Spirit.”
Next, the relationship of the soul to the action of Nature is a seminal concern for understanding the working of the law of Karma. “If the individual energy is that of a soul putting out action and receiving a return in kind, physical, mental, moral and spiritual from the universal energy, the universal energy too that makes the return should be that of an All-Soul in which and in relation to which this individual flame of the All-Soul lives.” This is necessary if we see that the universal Energy carries any higher significance than just a physical law.
We observe that the individual expresses the energy of the universal, lives according to universal law, and carries out the force of the universal movement of energy. “But if that were all the truth, then there would be no real individual and no responsibility of any kind except the responsibility of universal Nature to carry out the idea or to execute the force put forth in the individual as in the universal by the All-Soul, the cosmic Spirit.”
The individual acquires meaning and significance by virtue of its acting as an independent center of Energy capable of an individual response and return to the universal Energy. “But there is also this soul of the individual, and that is a being of the Infinite and a conscious and efficient portion of the All-Soul, a deputy or representative, and puts forth the energy given to it according to its own potentiality, type, limits with a will that is in some sense its own.”
It is the nexus caused by these two, the universal law of Nature and the reality of the individual soul, that provides us a platform for the action and meaning of the law of Karma.