Unraveling the Complexity of the Law of Action and Reaction

All energy moves, acts and has its effects in a field of activity. We need to review various factors to understand this action and the resultant effects. Some of the factors include:

1. type of energy. different types of energy work in different ways wth varying objects, according to the principle of action of that type of energy. Physical energy may build up mountains or flatten buildings. Vital energy brings about life and growth. Emotional, intellectual or other mental forms of energy each have their own respective impacts. One cannot expect an emotional energy to build up mountains! At the same time, energies of one type can and do have potential impacts at numerous levels. Thus, a tornado, in flattening a community, can bring about intense emotional suffering in the residents affected, although it does not, of itself, have an emotional aspect to it. With respect to human action, the actual energy released is generally of a mixed, not single, type and thus leads to mixed results.
2. intensity of the energy. a weak energy has very little ability to create strong effects or results.
3. the field of action of the energy. the operative conditions surrounding the action of the energy influence the potential impact and results, as well as where and how it is going into action.
4. countervailing or offsetting energies at work. in the world at large, no energy works purely in its own native action; rather, it’s action is modified and influenced by other forces at work at the same time.
5. receptivity of the object to the type of energy being applied. The more receptivity of the object, the more effective the action of the force at work, generally.

These factors help us to understand the complexity of the action of the law of Karma. It is not simply a mechanical rule of “action/reaction” but rather, a resultant impact taking into account the many factors that influence the action.

We also tend to fixate on the law of Karma as something that affects the individual expressing the action, and while that is true, it is not the entire story. There is an effect on the universal manifestation, the others with whom we interact and the long-term spiritual goals of the manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo discusses these issues at length, including the following summary: “The nature of the energies we put forth and even the return and reflex of their consequence upon us affects not only ourselves but all around us and we must account too for the direction of our acts upon others, its effect upon them and the return of the direction and rebound of consequence of the effect upon our own life and being. But the energy we put forth on others is ordinarily of a mixed character, physical, vital, moral, mental and spiritual, and the return and consequence too are of a mixed character. A physical action, a vital pressure thrown forth from ourselves carries in it a mental or moral as well as a physical and vital power and issues often quite beyond our conscious will and knowledge and the consequence to ourselves and to others is found to be different enough in character and measure from anything we intended or could have calculated and foreseen.”

Sri Aurobindo,Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 13, The Foundation, pp. 115-116,