The Current Notions of the Law of Karma

As the mental force begins to make itself felt and tries to develop a law or rule of life, it starts out with the demands, needs, desires and fears of the dynamic life force as the primary controlling factor with which it has to grapple. Rather than being able to impose, therefore, a reasoned moral and ethical code, it resorts to attempts to modify and upgrade the vital impetus through offering a system of rewards and punishments, a “carrot and a stick”, for following the basic lines set forth in the moral doctrines. On close examination it can be seen that even the goals set forth at this point are mostly driven by the vital drive for success, achievement and prosperity and the fear of loss, suffering and pain.

It is thus at this point that the most common ideas about the law of Karma appear and take center stage. The moral principle, the ethical ideal is tied to the concept that the “good” will achieve worldly success; or if not worldly success, then at least a success in a life hereafter. The influence of the vital power is clearly seen in the fact that “right” has to be tied to “success” in order to be something to be attempted.

Sri Aurobindo describes this situation as follows: “It is these notions, this idea of the moral law, of righteousness and justice as a thing in itself imperative, but still needing to be enforced by bribe and menace on our human nature,–which would seem to show that at least for that nature they are not altogether imperative,–this insistence on reward and punishment because morality struggling with our first unregenerate being has to figure very largely as a mass of restraints and prohibitions and these cannot be enforced without some fact or appearance of a compelling or inducing outward sanction, this diplomatic compromise or effort at equivalence between the impersonal ethical and the personal egoistic demand, this marriage of convenience between right and vital utility, virtue and desire,–it is these accommodations that are embodied in the current notions of the law of Karma.”

Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 15, Mind Nature and Law of Karma, pp. 131-132, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117

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