All the phenomena of Nature are governed by one important law, the universal law of causation, which is also known by the name, the Law of Karma. The law of causation is a universal law that keeps up the inner harmony and the logical order of the universe. Man's deeds are as much subject to this law as the events and occurrences in this physical plane. Karma is a Sanskrit term that comes from the root 'Kri', meaning to act, and signifies action or deed. Any physical or mental action is Karma. Thought is also Karma. Reaction that follows an action is Karma. Karma is a broad term. Attraction, repulsion, gravitation, breathing, talking, walking, seeing, hearing, eating, feeling, willing, desiring, thinking-all the actions of the body, mind and senses are Karma. Karma includes both cause and effect.
All other laws of Nature are subordinate to this fundamental law. The sun shines, the fire burns, the river flows, the wind blows, the tree blossoms and bears fruit, the mind thinks, feels and wills, the brain and the various organs like the heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys work in harmony and in strict obedience to this grand law of cause and effect. This grand law operates everywhere on the physical and mental planes. No phenomenon can escape from the operation of this mighty law.
The seed has its cause in the tree and itself becomes in turn the cause of a tree. The grown-up father procreates a son, and the son in turn becomes a father. The cause is found in the effect and the effect is found in the cause. The effect is similar to the cause. This is the universal chain of cause and effect which has no end. No link in the chain is necessary. This world runs on this fundamental, vital law. This law is inexorable and immutable.
Scientists are carefully observing the phenomena of Nature and are trying to find out the exact causes of all that take place in Nature. The astronomer sits in his observatory with his long, powerful telescope and watches the heavenly map, and studies the stars and planets very carefully. He tries to find out the exact causes that bring about the phenomena. The reflective philosopher sits in a contemplative mood and tries to find out the cause of this world, the cause of the pains and miseries of this Samsara and the cause of the phenomena of this birth and death.
No event can occur without having a positive, definite cause at the back of it. The breaking out of war, the rise of a comet, the occurrence of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, thunder, lightning, floods, diseases of the body, fortune, misfortune-all have definite causes behind them.
If you develop a carbuncle or get a fracture of the leg or arm, this is obviously due to some bad Karma in your previous birth. The bad Karma was the cause and the carbuncle or fracture is the effect. If you get some fortune in this birth, the cause is some good action that you must have done in your previous birth.
There is no such thing as a chance or accident. The cause is hidden or unknown, if you are not able to trace out the cause for the particular accident. This law of cause and effect is quite mysterious. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says: Gahana karmano gatih-mysterious is the path of action. If your finite mind is not able to find out the cause in an accident or other incident, it does not mean that there is no cause behind such occurrences.
All the physical and mental forces in Nature obey this grand law of cause and effect. The law and the Law-giver are one. The law and God are one. Nature and her laws are one. The laws of gravitation, cohesion, adhesion, attraction and repulsion, the law of like and dislike on the physical plane, the laws of relativity and contiguity, the law of association on the mental plane, all operate in strict accordance with this law of cause and effect. From the vibration of an electron to the revolution of a mighty planet, from the falling of a mango to the ground to the powerful willing of a Yogi, from the motion of a runner in athletics to the movement of radio-waves in the subtle ether, from the transmitting of a telegraphic message to the telepathic communication of a Yogi in the thought-world-every event is the effect of some invisible force that works in happy concord and harmony with the law of cause and effect.
A close study of this law gives encouragement to the man who has lost hope, and to the desperate and ailing. Destiny is created by man's thoughts, habits and character. There is every chance of his correction and improvement by changing his thoughts and his habits. The scoundrel can become a saint, the prostitute can become a chaste lady, a beggar can become a king. This mighty law provides for all this. The Law of Karma only can explain beautifully the inequalities of this world, such as why one man is rich while another is poor, why one is wicked while another is a saint, one is very dull while another is a genius or a versatile prodigy, one is born decrepit while another is strong and healthy, etc. How can you explain these inequalities? It is all Karma. God can never be unjust or partial.
This world is a relative plane. It contains good, evil, and a mixture of good and evil. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita:
Anishtamishtam misram cha trividham karmanah phalam.
"Good, evil and mixed-threefold is the fruit of action hereafter for the non-relinquisher." Chapter: XVIII- 12.
There can be neither absolute good nor absolute evil in this world. That which gives you comfort and pleasure, that which is beneficial to you, to the world and your neighbour, is good. That which gives you discomfort, uneasiness, pain and misery, that which is not beneficial to the world and to your neighbour, is evil. That which gives misery and pain to some, and pleasure to others, is a mixture of good and evil.
Every action that you do produces a twofold effect. It produces an impression in your mind and when you die you carry the Samskara in the Karmashaya or receptacle of works in your subconscious mind. It produces an impression on the world or Akasic records. Any action is bound to react upon you with equal force and effect. If you hurt another man, you really hurt yourself. This wrong action is bound to react upon and injure you. It will bring misery and pain. If you do some good to another man, you are really helping yourself. You are really doing good to yourself because there is nothing but the Self. This virtuous action will react upon you with equal force and effect. It will bring you joy and happiness. That is the reason why sages and Rishis, prophets and moralists harp on the one note: "Love thy neighbour as thyself. Never hurt the feelings of others. Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah-noninjury is the highest virtue. Do good to all. Do as you would be done by." He who has rightly understood this law, can never do any harm to anybody. He will become an embodiment of goodness.
If you do a wrong action against an individual, it disturbs the whole atmosphere. If you entertain an evil thought it pollutes the whole thought-world. That is the reason why occultists say: "Cultivate good thoughts. Eradicate evil thoughts." Every thought has a cause behind it. Every action, every thought, however trivial and insignificant it may be, affects the whole world directly or indirectly. That noble soul who always does good to the world and entertains sublime thoughts, is a blessing to the world at large. He purifies the whole world.
Suppose for a moment you write some sensational article in some newspaper. It arouses the emotions and sentiments of the readers. They begin to do something against the Government. A serious riot now ensues. Police forces are brought in. Many people are shot. Many new rules are framed to check and repress the riots. The parents of those who were killed suffer. This riot produces an effect on the minds of the people of other parts of the world also. In fact the whole world is affected by a single event. A single sensational article has wrought such disastrous results. One event may be both a cause and effect at the same time. The endless chain of cause and effect is kept up all throughout. You cannot say that this link is useless or unnecessary.
You have now a comprehensive understanding of this grand law of cause and effect. You can change your thoughts and habits and mould a new character. You can become a righteous man and a saint by doing virtuous actions and entertaining noble and divine thoughts. When you attain knowledge of Self, when you annihilate this little mind, when you transcend the three Gunas and the three Avasthas, you can rest in your own Svarup. You can become identical with the Law-giver and then the law of cause and effect will not operate on you. You can conquer Nature. May that invisible Law-giver, Brahman, guide you in the attainment of final beatitude of life!