Written 2014

Karma and Reincarnation

Karma and Reincarnation are the core ideas on which religions born in India, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism stand. Most ancient civilisations and cultures believed in reincarnation. Indeed the early Christians also believed in reincarnation. Without a belief in reincarnation it is impossible to understand human life and its past and present. How can we answer questions such as who decides that an individual is born in a particular race, culture and gender? To believe that this all happens without any cause is to deny the fact that everything in the material world has a cause. According to Hindu scriptures there are 8,400, 000 species of life. While the body perishes, the soul is immortal and it takes another body after death. We have all had innumerable lives. So why can we not remember our past lives? Firstly it is just as well that we do not because of the obvious psychological problems it can cause. However the memories of our past lives is stored away somewhere in our brain and is is possible to unlock it but it is not recommended! It is said that some Yogis in India are able to remember their past lives by the practise of certain forms of Yoga and some enlightened souls can even tell your past life. The law of Karma is inexorably linked with the belief in reincarnation and it is impossible to explain one without the other. The first thing to understand is that the fact that we are born as human beings means that we have done enough good deeds in our past lives to qualify for this most exclusive club! As mentioned above there are millions of forms of life and we could have been born in any one of them. To have been born in this human form of life is described as ,’ anmol’, priceless! This is because it is only as human beings that God has given us the intelligence to differentiate between right and wrong and it is only in human form that we can achieve the ultimate goal of life which is to get out of the cycles of birth and death and go back to God’s kingdom. Getting out of the cycles of birth and death is the most desirable objective of the seeker of truth because this material world is full of suffering. Birth, old age, disease and death are facts of life and they are all a cause of suffering. Hindus do believe that our past determines our presence, otherwise how could any one explain that if there are two children born at the same time, one goes through all kinds of suffering and the other grows up like a prince? Hinduism does not condemn anyone suffering in their present life for their actions in the past life but offers an explanation in the absence of any other. The biggest myth about the law of Karma is that it is fatalistic and discourages the down trodden to improve their lot. However just as our actions in our past lives colour our present, our future life will be coloured by our actions in the present life. What more incentive could there be to do as many good deeds as possible? Serve the needy, feed the hungry, do not harm any living being, improve your lot so that you can serve those less fortunate then you! Forgive-this is extremely important as it disentangles us from Karma reactions with our adversary which may have been going on for many life times. This is the dynamics of the law of Karma! This then is an overview of how Karma works but in practise it is very intricate. For example if you kill an ant unknowingly and if you kill it deliberately the Karma reactions will be different. What is certain is that there will be a reaction sooner or later! So what is the full proof way of achieving the ultimate goal of life which is to get out of the cycles of life and death and going back to God’s kingdom? The scriptures say that if at the point of death one remembers God then he or she goes back to the kingdom of God. Mahatma Gandhi achieved this goal because it is said that he uttered the name of Lore Rama as he was dying. However it is not easy to remember the almighty at the point of death, it needs the practise of a lifetime!

Nitin Mehta

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