There is a large and decided factor between the original meaning of karma and that which has come to be assigned to it through the efflux of time. Once I rented a house in India and had to take the gardener into my employ with it. After a few days he asked my secretary to approach me to give him an increase in wages. As his former pay was by Western standards pitiably small, I instantly agreed to grant an increase. But as a student of human nature I took the opportunity to send for him and pretend that it could not be granted. He blandly raised his eyes to the sky and muttered: "It is your karma to sit comfortably inside the house but mine to toil fatiguingly outside it in the grounds. If the Lord had willed that you should give me an increase in wages you would surely have done so. As it is, my karma is bad and yours is good. There is nothing to be done but to accept it." He went back to his work, scraping the ground with a shaped piece of wood as his ancestors had scraped it two thousand years earlier. I saw that piece of wood as a symbol of inertia and unprogressiveness which the misunderstanding of karma had stamped upon his character. For whereas karma has come to mean that a man's life is predestined and patterned for him all the way from conception before birth to cremation after death, its original meaning was simply that a man could not escape from the consequences of his habitual thoughts and acts. It meant that success or failure in life lay largely in his own hands, that satisfaction or sorrow followed inevitably upon the heels of virtue or wrong-doing.
-- Notebooks Category 9: From Birth to Rebirth > Chapter 3: Laws and Patterns of Experience > # 137
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.