As we have seen the inadequacy of any concept of Karma that reduces it to some kind of reward and punishment system based on the expectations and desires of the vital life energy, it becomes relevant to ask what, then, is the law of Karma, and how does it relate to the higher energies of mental nature and beyond.
Sri Aurobindo’s response: “Meanwhile we get the clue to the higher law of Karma, of the output and returns of energy, and see it immediately and directly to be, what all law of Karma, really and ultimately, if at first covertly, is for man, a law of his spiritual evolution.”
He continues: “The true return to the act of virtue, to the ethically right output of his energy–his reward, if you will, and the sole recompense on which he has a right to insist,–is its return upon him in a growth of the moral strength within him, an upbuilding of his ethical being, a flowering of the soul of right, justice, love, compassion, purity, truth, strength, courage, self-giving that he seeks to be. The true return to the act of evil, to the ethically wrong output of energy–his punishment, if you will, and the sole penalty he has any need or right to fear,–is its return upon him in a retardation of the growth, a demolition of the upbuilding, an obscuration, tarnishing, impoverishing of the soul, of the pure, strong and luminous being that he is striving to be.”
Once we move our awareness and effort to the planes of mental energy, the rewards and punishments of worldly success and failure lose their attraction. Each output of energy calls forth a precise response in kind. Our focus on vital success and failure leads to results in the field of life. Our focus on the higher principles of the mental world yield results on their native plane. Influence and interchange between the different orders of energy can and do occur, and we thus can see that the strengthening of the impulses of the higher mental energies will inevitably have some impact on the world of life and action; however, the true karmic response still occurs at the level of the native energy. This explains to us why we see situations where the good are suffering in the world while the evil appear to be prospering. The inner spiritual evolution provides us the solution for why a soul, focused on increasing the principles of ethics, love, compassion, knowledge or justice may wind up accepting limitations in life for the sake of the higher principle.
“What to this high seeker of Right can mean the vital law of Karma or what can its gods do to him that he can fear or long for? The ethical-vitalistic explanation of the world and its meaning and measures has for such a soul, for man at this height of his evolution no significance.”
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pg. 148, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117