An interesting question was asked on one of my posts on Karma. Do plants and animals also fall within the purview of Karma? I answered that Hindu philosophy does consider such to be the case but, I am aware, that that is not a complete answer.
The probable purpose of the questioner was to ask me how instinctive creatures can be said to acquire Karma when they do not make considered choices. Since I had said that the realm of the mind decided your Karma and since Plants and Animals are considered not to have a mind, how then could they be fitted into a system operating on the basis of Karma?
I have no facile answer to this question. If I considered that the framers of the Karma philosophy were philosophers like Descartes or Kant, I could well say that their world-view of their days assumed a mind for plants and animals and, thus, they assumed that the Karma philosophy applied to them. If they do not have minds then the Karma philosophy must be considered to be applied to human beings only.
The basis of Hindu philosophy, however, are that the Vedas are said to be given to the world by the Lord, himself. If so, this ignorance of a lack of mind in plants and animals cannot be a reason and, thus, Karma philosophy ought to be applicable to them. In what manner, then?
I have no pretensions to self-realization! I can only postulate the possible ways in which the philosophy could apply.
1. A soul may be housed in a plant or an animal in order to work off negative Karma without the means to add to it. Much like a criminal being jailed (Jails were primarily meant to be correctional institutions and not punitive) to work off what we called their ‘debt to Society’.
2. A soul may be housed in a plant or animal in order to live a life without choice so that the experience teaches it the value of the freedom to make choices and care in making choices.
I cannot think of an option that allows a soul in this condition to add to its Karma in either direction. So, it could well be that these are meant only to subtract from negative Karma.
All beliefs take a leap of faith and cannot always be rested four-square on a rational basis. Remember that even Mathematics starts off from a priori axioms, which do not necessarily admit of independent proof!