The law of Karma leads to the question—
‘What part does Isvara (God) play in this doctrine of Karma’?
The answer is that Isvara acts as the Dispenser of the fruits of action. He does not cause happiness or sorrow, we ourselves are the cause. Isvara, with perfect justice, hands out exactly what each person deserves according to his/her accumulated unskillful acts (papa) or skillful acts (Punya).
We choose what we want and God grants it with perfect Justice. If we make the wrong choice we can hardly blame God! Karma is considered to be eternal and it is almost impossible to free oneself from the tangle of actions and reactions by self‐effort — it requires hundreds of births in which a concerted and continued effort is made to reach perfection.
So it is only through Divine Grace that Liberation from the fetters of Karma which obstruct our path to Self‐realization can be achieved quickly. The way of liberation lies in the path of self‐surrender. By surrendering to Divine Grace, the accumulated Karma can be eliminated, and to a degree, through the goodwill of the Guru, but the Karma presently fructifying has to be experienced until it wears out. The Karma that we are presently generating is transformed by our surrendering to the Divine and by our intention to dedicate all our actions to the welfare of all sentient beings — through this act of surrender and self‐dedication we can cease the creation of new Karma.
Now the question arises; “Is there free will?”
Well, the answer is yes and no. None of us chose the circumstances into which we are born. We did not choose our sex, nationality, race, or intellectual powers, nor our inherent susceptibility to certain diseases. Even from a materialistic point of view, all these conditioning factors are either ‘accidents’ or they are ‘genetic’.
From the Hindu point of view, everything that we experience in life is our “just desserts”. If we cannot trace the cause in this present life we can attribute it to our previous one. We deliberately and freely choose to act in a certain way and this behavior sets up a chain reaction, the consequences of which it is impossible to avoid! One may choose to leap off a cliff or not, but once the fall has begun there is no question about avoiding the inevitable impact! So we have complete free will to act but there is no free will or choice in the experience of the results.
When compared to infinity, the span of human life is a split second. How can the results of this exceedingly short life span mean anything in eternity in terms of the afterlife which is said to be eternal? How does one explain the moral injustices accruing in cases of unmerited suffering? Why does a compassionate God allow innocent people to suffer? Why are people born with handicaps? Why do so many people prosper with relative ease and others live a life of constant sorrow and hardship? Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?
The general explanation of the Abrahamic coalition is that it is the (capricious) will of God. This doctrine is totally rejected by Sanatana Dharma because God is morally perfect and no negative qualities can be attributed to Him.
Reincarnation and the doctrine of Karma are the only rational explanations for the diverseness of the human condition. Many people would also raise the objection that — “because all suffering is deserved why should one feel pity for a suffering being?”. The answer is that compassion is not to be based upon a personal moral judgment of another; it is a spontaneous feeling of empathy that gives rise to the desire to alleviate the suffering, regardless of the cause. Compassion naturally arises in one who is spiritually developed and should be cultivated in those who are not yet developed.