Q: Everyone knows
A: Because we don't
From a Buddhist point of view, mathematics and science explain how things happen, but not why. Like science, Buddhism acknowledges the law of cause and effect in nature and physics, called niyamas (see footnote), but also includes the mental law of cause and effect.
This law works exactly like gravity or inertia. It is not run by observant gods punishing or rewarding people. If your friend jumped off a cliff and died, you wouldn't look up to the sky and cry out "Curse you gravity for killing my friend!" Similarly, if you constantly cause harm to other people and constantly have bad luck, there is no point blaming the gods or even the law of cause and effect itself.
You make your choices (likened to seeds in Buddhism). You bear the results (likened to fruit).
When Buddhism recommends precepts of behaviour (sila ), this is not in the style of a tyrant making arbitrary laws, but of a parent, with more experience than a child explain, for example, "Don't smoke". It's not that the parent is anti-tobacco, but that they fear the consequences of smoking on the child. Through bitter experience and insight they have a better understanding of the risk of pain, disease and death. They love the child and want them to avoid these consequences even if the child is unable to fully understand them at this point. Similarly the Buddha had advice for our conduct based on his greater understanding of the nature of realty. Like the child though, we can understand the basic ideas ourselves and use our imagination to perceive that, in reality, these rules are even more beneficial than they seem to us.
In your whole life, you never saw a thing that existed independently. That is to say, you never saw a thing that wasn't created by something else. Everything is being created and changed constantly. If we think deeply about this, we can see it has a lot of implications and also that we constantly ignore this obvious fact. We behave as if everything is permanent.
If you have an open mind, initially the you should try to understand the theory of cause and effect. Then look for it in your life. When you see it happening, you will come to understand the theory is a law.
Karma has a positive or negative quality but it also has a "poetic justice" quality to it. It often comes back in the form it was made. This makes it easier to spot when it happens in your life.
American billionaire Rockefeller spent his life working on clever ways to give away his money to the needy. When the government broke his companies up, he fought them, but when it finally happened, to everyone's surprise, he made an even bigger fortune. In spite of his own efforts money seemed to be attracted to him. You have to wonder if this wasn't because he worked to hard to get it to those in genuine need. His ideas were quite similar to the Buddha's explanation of giving intelligently.
A few years ago I was applying for my motorcycle licence at the DMV. Although I'm in my mid 30's, I knew my father would not want me to get the licence which is why I didn't tell him. I was doing the written test when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my father. He was replacing his lost licence at the same centre when he spotted me.
We all have stories like this.
Try and think of yours now.
Coincidences connected to your parents or very close friends and relations are extremely unlikely if you think the universe is random. To a Buddhist, meeting a parent or friend at a critical time or coincidentally in a far away place is no more surprising than taking the central station train and arriving in central station. The tracks that bought you together with these people in the first place are the same tracks that will take you back to them. For this reason it is important to settle any disputes with the people close to you. Ultimately there is no avoiding them, even if it is in your next life. Just as surely as the Terminator, they'll be back!
Utu-niyama are the laws of physics, such as the weather
and the changes brought about by heat and cold.
Bija-niyama are laws of heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."
Citta-niyama laws of psychology and cognition.
Kamma-niyama is law of cause and effect.
Dhamma-niyama is the laws of the interdependence of all things, the way all things arise, exist and then cease.
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