The usual conceptions of the law of Karma revolve around either the sense that there is some machinery that metes out precise responses to our actions; or else, that there is some tribunal somewhere that weighs and metes out rewards and punishments to us based on those deeds. Sri Aurobindo, however, has indicated that the truth behind the action is far more complex, as well as far more flexible than the popular concepts would acknowledge.
“No rigid narrow ethical law bound down to a petty human significance is here, no unprofitable wheel of a brutal cosmic justice automatically moved in the traces of man’s ignorant judgments and earthly desires and instincts. Not these artificial constructions but a thing spiritual and intimate to the deepest intention of Nature. The ascending march of the soul’s consciousness and experience as it emerges out of subconscient Matter and climbs to its own luminous divinity fixes the norm and constantly enlarges the lines of the law or let us say rather since law is too mechanical a conception the truth of Karma.”
Insight into the workings of Karma requires therefore both a patient observation at the level of the physical world and the action of the life energy and mental energy and an insight based on our deeper spiritual being that is aligned with the inner sense and meaning of the universal manifestation. This in turn requires us to give up the popular framework that has acted as the definition of Karma in the past, and acknowledge that Karma is essentially the working out of the universal evolutionary energy within the limitations of each type of energy that successively manifests. It may take on the aspect of a mechanical cause and effect at the most basic levels of physical energy, but as it ascends in the scale of consciousness, it becomes ever more subtle, with actions across energy types possible, but limited by the interaction and intensity of that interaction.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Appendix 1, Chapter 17, The Tangle of Karma, pg. 155, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117
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