INQUIRER: Need confirmation on the law of karma. Since it is called the law of karma – are we to assume that it was discovered as a law by the rishis/seers by observation through passage of time?
RESPONSE: There is no way to prove law of karma directly. According to the doctrine posited by Vedanta, the karma-phala (fruits of one’s actions) aren’t all experienced within a single lifetime.
What's more, despite accounts of people who claim to have had past life experiences – there is no concrete evidence that we have had any previous incarnations.
However we accept the law of karma because based on the fact that every effect we observe can be traced to a cause — it is reasonable to posit that our every action produces a result — and that every result is experienced by us to some degree.
Moreover, it is the only reasonable explanation for the extended period of time that it takes for the subtle-body (suksha-sharira) to attain moksha.
If all we had were a single lifetime in which to gain self-knowledge — few (if any) people would ever “attain” moksha.
If jiva didn't get another chance in another lifetime; it would mean everyone's life is scripted. IE: Some are destined to attain liberation, while majority (like doctors, engineers, scientists, inventors, etc) aren't. If you don't attain moksha in a single lifetime, though luck!
This kind of reality would turn the Lord into an uncompassionate, unreasonable, unfair sadist.
For example, what if you're pursuing moksha with all sincerity, but one day get hit by an irresponsible driver; causing you brain damage. Shouldn't you deserve another lifetime to attempt again?
Or what if one is born in an abusive neighbor or family who tarnish one's hopes and belittle his/her sense of curiosity. The child not knowing any better, innocently mimics the abuse, thereby becoming a selfish materialist. Shouldn't this person too get a chance next life to pursue virtue and salvation?
So it's reasonable to posit that many lives must be given because of the demanding, volatile and unpredictable nature of life which doesn't always gives us a suitable environment for contemplating on philosophical, existential or metaphysical matters.
INQUIRER: Also we have the mythological story of Dakshinamutri as the adi guru who taught the 4 rishis who complied the information for the 4 Vedas. Did the rishis discover the truth through experimentation over many years? Passing what they learned/compiled to their students — who then continued the tradition and investigation into the truth and passed it on to their students for generations — until finally we came up with what we know as the truth or Brahmavidya? Basically how modern science works today?
RESPONSE: Yes. Self-knowledge (brahma-vidya) differs from knowledge of objects — which is what material scientists are concerned with gaining. While the self (ātmā) is not an object.
We can’t find it (ātmā) by looking at the world or even the mind.
All we can do is negate all objective (pratibhasika/vyavaharika) phenomena.
Once this is done, the mind is “blown”, as it were, and experiences the revelation of the true non-objectifiable nature of limitless-conscious-existence (satcitananda), or the self.
Though this revelation is an event, and hence an object — the truth to which it points is not.
Thus, even after the event of the recognition passes and other thoughts arise in the mind — one realizes that the limitless-conscious-existence (in which all thoughts/objects/events/circumstances/qualities/characteristics appear and/or occur) — is ever-present as the non-objectifiable substrate of all these phenomena.
We know it is ever-present because something can’t come out of nothing, so something (which is not a “thing”) must be supporting whatever IS, and that something cannot disappear or cease-to-be.
If it could, then the non-existence (into which it would resolve) would be the fundamental reality.
But if non-existence was the fundamental reality, then nothing could have ever come into being in the first place because, again, something can’t come out of nothing.
In short, existence can't come out of non-existence.
Hence, limitless-conscious-existence must be the eternal—that is, not of lengthy duration, but rather wholly beyond the parameters of time and space, which are knowable objects themselves and are supported by limitless-conscious-existence—truth.