The unified concept of karma and reincarnation is a fundamental aspect of Hindu philosophy. Various concepts of karma and reincarnation have captivated the minds of people since the dawn of human civilization. This mysterious and intriguing subject has been debated by spiritual and religious leaders, philosophers and great thinkers past and present. Here, a short but illuminating article by Vrinda family member Radha Govinda devi from Switzerland offers a unique Vedic perspective on the matter.
In Sanskrit language, the word “karma” literally means action. An action necessarily also includes its reaction. It is a physical law, that whenever an action is done, it is followed by a reaction (“actio=reactio”). For people, this means that whatever action one does, a reaction will follow. If one plants a good seed, the resulting fruit will be good. If somebody performs a bad deed, an unwanted weed or bad reaction will come.
The law of karma explains very easily for example why somebody becomes ill. An action must have been made in the past that has caused the illness to manifest now. “Prarabdha karma” is the karma or reaction that is visible now because of a seed or action that was made sometime before.
But how does it happen, for example, that very young children become ill, or that someone is born into a poor or rich family? Does this mean they did some bad or good action before? But when? The Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures tell us that the actions must have been done in a previous life.
The Bhagavad Gita explains it carefully, that like the embodied soul that continuously passes in this body, from infancy to youth, to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The example is given, that one changes bodies like the changing of clothes. Someone who has taken birth will surely die, and after death one surely takes birth again. This is the teaching of reincarnation. This cycle of birth and death is called samsara, and it goes on and on.
How is it possible to exit this cycle of birth and death? If one must pay for each action of the past, while continually creating new actions, how can one stop this eternal cycle? The core of hindu philosophy, Bhagavad Gita states that the only way to come out of this cycle is for us to realize our true selves as spirit souls and to develop a loving relationship with God our creator, Krishna. By engaging in devotional service to the Lord, sages or devotees free themselves from the results of work in the material world and become liberated from the cycle of birth and death, and attain the state beyond all miseries, namely going back home, back to Godhead.
Beyond this temporary material world lies another world, the eternal spiritual abode of Krishna, God. He loves us, His children, and wants us to come back to Him, if we so desire, with our free will. As soon as a person starts to approach God through devotional service, prayers or chanting of His Holy Names, the Lord will reciprocate by granting His mercy.
It is explained in the Vedas, that the entire karma of a person can change in this way. Then life will no longer hold the burden of karmic reactions, but rather a loving exchange will unfold between the soul and the greatest Soul, Lord Krishna. If someone thinks lovingly of Krishna at the end of his life, while leaving their body, they will certainly go back home. Back to Godhead, as Krishna promises in the Bhagavad Gita. In spiritual world there is no karma and reincarnation.