Category : Reincarnation
What is Karma?
Karma can be thought of as similar to Isaac Newton’s 3rd law of motion: every action must be followed by an equal and opposite reaction. When Newton discovered that law, however, he didn’t realize, or at least didn’t mention, that the same principle applies to emotions and behavior. If we get really excited, we will inevitably feel tired and depressed later. If we hurt someone, someone will later hurt us. Even our desires cause karma; they must eventually be satisfied or overcome. However, if we hurt someone unintentionally or if what we desire is also the right thing, then there is a much smaller repercussion.
Karma is a natural law – just like gravity is a natural law. It is not about punishment, and certainly not about vengeance. It is perfectly exact, just and fair and applies to everything and everyone in creation. It can be speeded up, and slowed down – but never avoided; hence it is sometimes termed the law of inevitability. In essence it is Divine simplicity itself – but its manifestations can be highly complex.
It is surprising how universal the fundamental precepts of karma are – in religion, popular culture and even science. In the Bible it says “…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7), which describes karma simply, but perfectly. “Action and reaction are opposite and equal” stated Newton in his third law of motion, a definition commonly used to describe karma in Buddhism. In everyday conversation, people sometimes say “what goes around, comes around”, which is a loose but nevertheless truthful description of karma. The word “karma” – and the basic concept behind it – appear in songs, television programs and movies – and most people in the western world seem to have some grasp of what karma is about.
When people refer to a person’s karma, they are referring to the person’s past actions and feelings that are waiting to be balanced out with it’s opposite. As long as we have unfulfilled desires and actions that have not yet been repaid (good or bad), we we must reincarnate to neutralize them, which keeps us from merging completely in God. The difficulty is that each time we come back to balance out our previous actions, we create even more karma. Before we know it we have lived millions of lifetimes and have a seemingly insurmountable store of karma.
Of course there is free will, or how we choose to respond to a situation. If someone hurts you, and you hurt them back, then they hurt you back, this cycle of karma could go on indefinitely.
Karma gives us all individual tuition 24 hours a day. Each lesson is perfectly tailored to our spiritual needs, and we are never presented with any test we cannot pass. Karma gives us experience, and experience gives us the opportunity to learn to live in harmony with the eternal laws which are God. As we learn, we advance – coming ever closer to ever higher spiritual states of consciousness, and enjoying ever greater spiritual freedom.
Viewed in this light – the terms “good karma” and “bad karma” become almost meaningless in a way – because in fact all karma is good for us, even if it might feel unpleasant in the short term.
Reincarnation and karma are core concepts for several religions of India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
Basically, both concepts have to do with an understanding of time and how we as human beings are propelled forward through life in time.
Reincarnation is sometimes called transmigration of the soul. To believe in this is to believe that the soul migrates through many different physical lifetimes. The soul undergoes rebirths into different kinds of lives – human, animal or even supernatural – until it reaches its final destination.
So, reincarnation implies a cyclical understanding of time instead of a linear understanding. In the Western world, people tend to think of time in a linear way – you are born, you live, then you die. Depending on one’s belief about afterlife, the soul may live forever in a place of suffering or blessing. But, it does not return to earth to live again as a human or animal.
Those who believe in reincarnation, however, hold to a cyclical view of time in which the soul undergoes cycles of life, death and rebirth. The soul may be born into a human body and then, when the human body dies, it may be reborn into an animal body or the body of a supernatural being (angels, demons, etc.). This cycle may be repeated many hundreds of times.
What propels the soul forward from life to life? What determines the kind of rebirth or life the soul will have in the future? The answer is karma.
Karma is the positive or negative energy that accompanies all actions of moral worth. Hitting someone with a stick brings negative karma to the person who does it. Using the stick for a positive reason brings positive karma to the person.
So, each person – each soul or atman – goes through life doing both positive and negative actions and accumulating the karmic energy or “baggage” that comes with them. The nature of one’s karma determines the nature of one’s rebirths in futures lives. Negative karma over many lifetimes will cause an unfavorable rebirth as an animal. Positive karma will cause a favorable rebirth as a human or auspicious spiritual being.
This belief in karma and its impact on future rebirths is at the heart of basic ethical sensibilities in Hinduism and in all the other religions that affirm it. People should do good actions and avoid bad actions so as to not accumulate bad karma to themselves.
Karma and reincarnation are inseparable and reincarnation is a logical consequence of karma. When someone dies, they will not have worked out all their karma. What has been “sown”, will not all have been “reaped”, and there will not have been an “opposite and equal” reaction to their every thought and action. Therefore, logically speaking, although they have left their body, they cannot cease to exist. They have to come back.
Between incarnations we spend a period of time on another “plane”, also called another “realm”, of Earth, which exists at a different frequency of vibration. These realms are physical – but physical at a higher or lower frequency than this realm. The existence of these realms explains the orthodox notions of “heaven” and “hell” – the higher realms being the “heavens”, and the lower realms – the “hells”. After death, we go to the realm which best suits our level of spiritual evolution, prior to being reborn here. The more basic level, or levels, of so-called “heaven” are sometimes referred to as “the spirit world”.
When all the lessons which reincarnation on Earth can offer have been learnt, we then either go through the initiation of Ascension, or begin the experience cycle of another, more advanced planet.