The concept of karma is often misunderstood in the Western world, reduced to a "what comes around goes around" ethos. This mistake creates a false “fatalism” about Vedic astrology and Eastern thinking.
In the Eastern sense, the law of karma is like the law of gravity, a self-governing law of nature for the soul’s evolution. There is no need for a divine presence to keep us in line. The pain of our own mistakes, not the wrath of God, is what teaches us to do better. Rather than karma being a system of predetermined punishments and rewards, it is the law that explains our co-creative relationship with the cosmos.
The law of karma sees everything in a value neutral way. Everything has its appropriate nature, and it’s our job as evolving souls on Earth to understand ourselves while interacting with the world. Actually, we need only understand the nature of one thing: Our True Self. Then, the nature of everything else is automatically known.
Some life lessons are harder than others – relationships, for example – and we often keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
Karma vs. Freewill
How much of your karma do you have control over and how much is free will? Karma and free will are all part of the same process. The circumstances of your life right now are the results of your past karma -- through past lives, this lifetime, this day and so on.
We see this on a micro level by the daily choices we make. If you eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting, you are going to get sick. The choice to eat the ice cream is your free will; the ensuing stomachache is the karma from that act. Having enough money to buy ice cream, the psychology to eat too much, is also your karma. But the choice to act upon that karma, that is your free will.
The capacity to act with free will and test things is why we are alive on Earth. It is how our soul grows. The enlightened choices are always available to us, as the planets (the givers of karma) always give their wisdom. In the ice cream example, we know it is bad for us (the planets giving us wisdom), but we do it anyway (our free will).
An astrologer would probably view that overindulgence as the lower expression of Venus or the Second-House ruler – and advise you to focus on a higher expression of that energy. In this way, astrology is very helpful, bringing greater skill in the moment, (free will), which leads to a better future (karma).