Garuda is a guardian of Lord Shiva. One day he is sitting at the entrance gates of the Shiva's temple watching the flitting about of a small sparrow upon the great steps below.
Just then Yama, the god of death appeared, riding his black buffalo. He came to meet with Lord Shiva.
As he passed through the gates, Garuda noticed that the gaze of the Yama, the Master of Death, briefly fell upon the bird, but then he continued on his way into the abode of Shiva.
Since a mere glance from Lord Yama presages death, Garuda's heart was filled with pity for the tiny bird.
He gently picked it up and flew off with it clutched carefully in his powerful talons. He took it far, far, away to a deep forest where he gently placed it on a rock beside a rushing brook. Then he returned to Kailash and assumed his customary position at Shiva's gate.
When Yama emerged from his consultation with the Great God, Shiva, he nodded to Garuda in recognition. Garuda took this opportunity to ask Lord Death, Yama, "Just before you went inside, I saw you notice a little bird. You seemed to have a pensive expression on your face. May I know why?"
Yama answered, "When my eyes fell on the bird, I saw that soon it would find its death in the jaws of a great python. But there are no such serpents here, high on Kailash, and I was briefly puzzled."
I don't like stories where animals die in the end. That's not why this is the best story. But it is the tragic outcome of a heroic act that makes one question whether or not Garuda's action was an act of good karma or bad karma. Or will he have a karmic retribution bringing him good or bad. Or, possibly does this have nothing to do with Garuda. Did the sparrow do something "bad?" Or did the python just do something really good?
Karma is an action. A right action. It is a yoga. This story of Karma reminds me that even if we do what we think is right, the consequences are what they are going to be, not necessarily what we want them to be. My role, is to do what I feel is best in my heart at all times. That is all I can do. It is all I can truly be "in charge" of; be responsible. So, karma is to be aware of what is happening right now to be aware of our right-action in each action we perform.