In modern society justice and rule of law are inseparable, you can’t have one without the other. Exact relationships between them should probably be left to philosophers, I just want to look at it from the Vedic perspective. It’s interesting how both justice and law has been discussed throughout western history, ever since Plato, and there are countless theories about it, but they all miss simple points brought to us by Śrīla Prabhupāda.
They can argue all they want about natural law or retributive justice, all it ultimately does is enriches the lawyers – because the more learned they appear they more they charge for their services. There’s also the illusion of justice being done to justify our spending on it but, ultimately, there’s only karma and dharma. Everything else is just pointless fluff distracting us from pursuing the goal of human life.
Why can’t we just live with karma? It is perfectly just as it is, why do we want to improve on it and offer our own ideas what results should come for what actions? Materialists don’t believe in karma and so their position is understandable but what about us, the aspiring devotees? I think it’s a manifestation of our still atheistic mentality.
One obvious hurdle is reincarnation. Without rebirth karma makes no sense, and we don’t see people being reincarnated, for us it’s a matter of belief, not experience. Consequently we believe in karma but we don’t experience it to the degree required to erase all doubts. We just don’t live long enough to see every action maturing into a reaction and even when we think we see karma working we can’t be sure of the connection between activities and their results. Who knows, maybe getting a good job now is the result of our trying hard in the previous life and not studying hard in this one? It looks like people’s jobs are directly related to their studies but how can you be sure it’s not something they deserved in their previous birth? There’s no way of knowing.
Vedic sages could see past, present, and future but even they could not understand karma in full, even they had to rely on the belief that karma is always right. I mean you can’t make a statement that karma works in each and every case unless you can check each and every case directly. It’s like saying that there are no people with blue skin. All the people we’ve seen so far haven’t been blue. We obviously haven’t met Kṛṣṇa, Viṣṇu or Śiva, or even Uddhava whose body resembled Kṛṣṇa’s in every way.
I guess this approach – believing that karma is always right, will always end in confusion. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we offer a different solution instead – karma relates to the movements of dead matter and therefore it is not important. We can’t know it, we can’t control it, and we are not interested. What we are concerned with is dharma.
If karma can be compared to justice dharma can be compared to law, ie it’s not about punishments but about prescriptions. Transgressions against dharma is a different matter, we just want to know what it is and follow it as best as we can. We are not concerned with offenders and their fate, we are concerned with what we will get out of following our path. The only way offenders could matter is if they show an alternative method of achieving the same thing. If we don’t care what they offer then their very existence should be irrelevant to us.
In real life, however, we are concerned because we are not sure we ourselves are doing the right thing. What if it’s possible to achieve bhakti by not following a guru and by concocting our own mantras? What if it’s possible to please our guru and Śrīla Prabhupāda by not cooperating with GBC and even openly denying its authority? What if those people really learn their siddha-svarūpa from bābājīs who can really see it? What if there’s spiritual life outside ISKCON? What if we want to try all those alternatives?
Christians used to burn their heretics but our GBC does not prescribe any punishment for all these transgressions. Their only prescriptions is to cut off association with those people. We are not suing them for perversion of dharma and we are not seeking karmic retribution for distracting our devotees, which costs us manpower and therefore money. It’s because, as I said, we are concerned with following our dharma, not with the karma of other people, or any karma at all.
Of course if we want to achieve some other results like building temples and communities then we must have some sort of laws to govern our relationships and some system of punishments when these laws are broken. We can’t have someone stealing funds and say “it’s not our concern, it’s just karma, we should be above it.” Spiritually speaking – yes, but if we are building a temple then funds should be used only for this purpose, not for anyone else’s sense gratification.
So, we do need man made laws to live in a man made world. It doesn’t mean that our laws substitute karma, though, ie if we have laws and enforce them than law karma gets suspended. It means that our institutions become channels for karma to manifest itself. No one in the universe get punished twice for the same sin – first by government and then by karma. Rather all forms of punishment – judge’s sentencing, social sanction, loss of job, family break up etc, are different aspects of the same karma in action.
If we think about it this way there are no man made laws at all, it’s all karma, we just claim our ownership of it. We do the same thing when we think we are our bodies, too. Nope, it’s just material elements interacting with each other under control of the Supreme. They are not alive, they are not conscious, they are not causes of action either. They are moved by time and guṇas but we imagine that it’s us who move things and cause things to happen. It satisfies our desire to be controllers but it’s an illusion, we are never in control of anything here, not even our desires.
That’s why, once again, we should only concern ourselves with our dharma and pursue our goal without worrying about karma. We need to become Kṛṣṇa’s devotees and start serving the Lord, what everybody else is doing and whether they get rewarded or punished for their actions is not our business at all.