Our concern for karma is rooted in our fear of death. It is a primal fear, that of the unknown. Our actions in this life are for the most part driven by the desire to be in a better place after death or the fear not to be in a worse place after death. This fear of leaving the body and mind has existed through the ages.
There is a nice story in Mahabharata, the great Indian epic:
There was once a king by the name of Yayati. He lived extremely well for hundred years, enjoying his kingdom and all the physical and mental comforts of life. At the end of hundred years, Yama, the lord of death, came to take him away as it was time for him to leave the earth. The king was shocked to see Yama and started crying, ‘Why have you come so fast and that too suddenly without any notice? I have not lived my life fully yet. Please give me some more time to live.’
Yama replied that there is no extension possible to one’s life. But Yayati pleaded with him and begged for more time. Yama finally agreed that if any one of his sons was ready to give up his life for Yayati, then the king could live for that much more time. (more…)