The law of karma is one of “cause and effect.” It works in the scientific world as well as the moral world. These unwritten karmic laws are universal and we can but obey these laws. These laws act in a similar manner in similar circumstances. For instance, whenever we put our hand in fire, we automatically burn our fingers. This happens at all times and at all places, to the newborn as well as to a physicist who might have some ten or fifteen years of research on fire along nobody can get away from the claws of karmic law, because by nature we all do actions all the time. Even those who sit idle are doing actions with their mind, even though their actions will be fruitless and idiotic. The doctrine of karma started in the days of the Rig Veda and it is very well explained in Brihad—Aranyaka Upanishad.
Indian religious tradition sees karma as the source of the problem of transmigration. While associated with physical form, for example, in a human body, beings experience the universe through their senses and their minds and attach themselves to the people and things around them and constantly lose sight of their true existence as atman, which is of the same nature as Brahman. As the time comes for the dropping of the body, the fruits of good and evil actions in the past remain with atman, clinging to it, causing a tendency to continue experience I other existences after death. Good deeds in this life may lead to a happy rebirth in a better life, and evil deeds may lead to a lower existence, but eventually the consequences of past deeds will be worked out, and the individual will seek more experiences in a physical world. In this manner, the bound or ignorant atman wanders from life to life, in heaven and hell and in many different bodies. The universe atman will not achieve release.
The true goal of atman is liberation, or release (moksha), from the limited world of experience and realization of oneness with God or the cosmos. In order to achieve release, the individual must pursue a kind of discipline (yoga, a “tying,” related to the English word yoke) that is appropriate to one’s abilities and station in life. For most people, this goal means a course of action that keeps them rather closely tied to the world and its ways, including the enjoyment of love (kama), the attainment of wealth and power (artha), and the following of socially acceptable ethical principles.
From this perspective, even manuals on sexual love, such as the Kama Sutra (Book of Love), for collections of ideas on politics and governance, such as the Arthashastra (Science of Material Gain), are part of a religious tradition that values action in the world as are part of a religious tradition that values action in the world as long as it is performed with understanding, a karma-yoga or selfless discipline of action in which every action is offered as a sacrifice to God some people, however, may be interested in breaking the cycle of rebirth in tins life or soon thereafter.
For them, a wide range of techniques has evolved over the thousands of years that give Indian religion its great diversity. The discipline that involves physical positioning of the body (hatha-yog), which is most commonly equated with yoga outside of India, sees the human body as a series of spiritual centers that can be awakened through meditation exercise, leading eventually to an oneness with the universe.
A central aspect of all religious discipline, regardless of its emphasis, is the importance of the guru, or teacher, Indian religion may accept the sacredness of specific texts and rituals but stresses interpretation by a loving practitioner who has personal experience of liberation and can pass down successful techniques to devoted followers. In fact, since Vedic times, it has never been possible, and has rarely been desired, to unite al people in India under one concept of orthodoxy with a single authority that could be presented to everyone.
Instead, there has been a tendency to accept to religious innovation and diversity as the natural result of personal experience by successive generations of gurus, who have tailored their messages to particular times, places, and peoples, and then passed down their knowledge to lines of disciples and social groups. As a result, Indian religion is a mass of ancient and modern traditions, some always preserved and some constantly changing, and the individual is relatively free to stress in his or her life the beliefs and religious behaviors that seem most effective on the path to deliverance.