On Karma (20 December 1999) Auroville - Karma 104

Because of this reason, many ideas of laws of karma have been built up in the history of the world. I shall not burden you with all kinds of ideas, but I shall tell you one which is very prominent: that if you do a good action, the consequence will be good, and if you do a wrong or evil action, the consequence will be evil result. And then there is a corollary: if you do a good action the results will be good in terms of happiness; if you do an evil action the results will be evil in terms of suffering. So the law which has been formulated by many people is: a good action produces happiness, evil action unhappiness or suffering.

Sri Aurobindo points out that this is a wrong formulation, that a good action producing goodness is not equal to happiness. There is no definite connection between goodness and happiness. If I am a good man, I should not expect  a big bank balance, which is supposed to be happiness. Sri Aurobindo points out that if you are a good man, then don't complain if you are poor, saying, ‘I am doing everything that is good and yet my coffer is empty.’ You should only ask, ‘Is my treasure full of goodness?’ If you are doing good actions the result will be good consequences. Have you increased in virtue, have you increased in goodness, have you been able to do good actions to the others? Do you have more and more capacity for good works? That is the mark, not bank balance. We see, on the contrary, that many wicked people have got big bank balances. So Sri Aurobindo asks the question: Are we to imagine that this man with a big bank balance was a paragon of virtue in a past life, and though now that he has suddenly become a wicked man, still he enjoys the bank balance because of the past? Can that be the real law?

Sri Aurobindo says that such is not the law of karma. The law of karma simply says that the kind of energy that you put forth gives you a consequence in that line of energy. He says that if you want to participate in a competition of sprinting, then you have to put forth your energies, every morning get up early, go for a sprint, increase your capacity to run better and better, – so the law of karma will take care of it. You'll run better and better and it may be that ultimately you'll win the race. So the consequence of exercising every day will be your winning the race that will be the reward, as it were. Don't expect that when I am a good boy, I am a good student, I learn my lessons very well, therefore even in sprinting I'll get the first prize. If you are a good student, if you are reading very well, perhaps you will get the best marks in your essay, in the examination, but don't expect that in the sprint also you'll be helped because of your goodness, because of brilliance in studies you will also get first prize in sprinting. There is no connection. For every energy, the kind of energy that you put forth will give a consequence in that kind of energy. This is the real law of karma. If you do an evil action, then you will be increasing in the capacity to do evil actions. And that is what we see, once you start a wrong action, you find that individuals go on doing further wrong, and further wrong. You tell a lie now, to suppress it you tell another lie, and a bigger lie; and to suppress it you speak another lie, – it goes on increasing, that is the law. That is why Buddha said that if you do good actions, you will go on increasing in good actions. So do always good actions. Not necessarily you will get happiness.

The second thing that Sri Aurobindo points out, and it is very important, is: The law of karma is not the law of rewards and punishments. Normally people think that karma, a law, is a law of rewards and punishments. If you do an action, according to this law, that action's energy will be increased but not in the terms of reward and punishment. Take for example, Sri Aurobindo himself gives this example, – you touch fire, and you feel a burning sensation, which is painful. In ordinary terms it is called a punishment. As it were, you touch fire, the fire punishes you, and you feel a burning sensation. But there is no punishment; it is the nature of fire to burn. It gives you experience. When you put your hand into the fire you now get an experience that when you put your hand into it, its nature is to burn. Not that fire wanted to punish you by giving you burning sensation, it is the nature of it. So law of karma is not the law of rewards and punishment, it is the law of experience.

This is a new formulation that Sri Aurobindo has given: law of karma is a law of experience. Whenever you do something there is a consequence; that consequence comes to you, not as a reward or punishment, but comes to you as an experience. What is important in this whole life is experience. As I told you, we are all blindfolded, and we are going on touching various objects, or we happen to touch sometimes something, sometimes it is all blank. When you touch something, it's an experience; you now know that here is a tree by touching. You're blindfolded, but you can now find out it is a tree. So it is an experience, you gain in knowledge.

As a result of this, gradually you become more and more luminous, until you recover the knowledge of yourself and knowledge of the world, in which you are to play a role. This is the goal. Through experience this is what we do. Now here the most important word is experience. What is experience, why experience? The entire law of karma is a law of experience. We are all here on the earth to regain the lost knowledge. So experience is a movement of identity of ourselves with the object. All experience is identity. It is when I touch this; I experience the smoothness of the skin. But that is done by identity. My fingers have a same kind of a texture as this skin, and when there is an identity meeting together, the experience emerges. All experience is kind of an ignition, giving out an experience of identity.