Humanity represents the development of a mental being active in the vital functions of life in the physical world. The first expressions of mentality are primarily focused on enhancing the experience of life, on achieving goals of success and rewards for mastering the physical and vital energies. However, this does not represent the essential nature of the mental being.
Sri Aurobindo describes the characteristics of mental nature: “The innate demand of the mental being is for mental experience, for the mind’s manifold strengths, its capacities, joys, growth, perfections, and for these things for their own sake because of the inevitable satisfaction they give to his nature,–the demand of the intellect for truth and knowledge, the demand of the ethical mind for right and good, the demand of the aesthetic mind for beauty and delight of beauty, the demand of the emotional mind for love and the joy of relation with our fellow-beings, the demand of the will for self-mastery and mastery of things and the world and our existence. And the values which the mental being holds for supreme and effective are the values of truth and knowledge, of right and good, of beauty and aesthetic delight, of love and emotional joy, of mastery and inner lordship. It is these things that he seeks to know and follow, to possess, discover, enjoy, increase. It is for this great adventure that he came into the world, to walk hardily through the endless fields they offer to him, to experiment, to dare, to test the utmost limit of each capacity and follow each possibility and its clue to the end as well as to observe in each its at present discovered law and measure.”
The foundation, basis and purpose of the mental being takes place outside the needs and demands of the physical being and the vital life of desire in the world. The mental sphere is the first one that can separate itself from the business of life and thus, is the first one that admits a true principle of morality or ethics not based on the negotiation implicit in the “reward and punishment” model. And thus, in terms of our review of the law of Karma, we may expect to see karmic consequence and returns on the mental plane that do not necessarily involve success or failure in terms of vital life rewards or physical well-being.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 143-144, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117