The powerful imagery of the human transgressing limits and then being struck down by a force of cosmic justice has permeated our response to life’s setbacks through the ages. We need only look to the famous ancient Greek tale of Oedipus or the story of the house of Atreus, or even tales such as Hamlet or Macbeth by Shakespeare to recognise that we have imbibed these concepts and accepted them at some level of our consciousness as “the way the universe works.”
It is at this point that we generally assign a moral or ethical component to this universal action, but as Sri Aurobindo point out, the response is not strictly to moral failings but actually a response to any form of weakness, insufficiency, imperfection at whatever level it manifests. The human striving is to exceed our limits, to achieve success in life through expansion, extension and enjoyment. We push ourselves to and beyond the normal limits. To the extent we have truly understood and implemented the universal laws we achieve that success; but wherever we have any imperfection in our energy, the universe takes that into account in the response and in the result. The inter-relationship between all manifested beings and forces in the universal eco-sphere and bio-sphere is a very sensitive mechanism so our attempt to aggrandise ourselves in any way sets up waves of action that both push forward and create feedback and various forms of resistance.
Sri Aurobindo summarizes this action: “The law it represents is that our imperfections shall have their passing or their fatal consequences, that a flaw in our output of energy may be mended or counterbalanced and reduced in consequence, but if persisted in shall react even in excess of its apparent merits, that an error may seem to destroy all the result of the Tapasya, because it springs from a radical unsoundness in the intention of the will, the heart, the ethical sense or the reason. This is the first line of the transitional law of Karma.”
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 15, Mind Nature and Law of Karma, pp. 134-135, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117