Karma and reincarnation theory has its origins in the Indian subcontinent and is laced with the spirituality of the East. Reincarnation and the Karma theory are tied together like twins. One cannot be separated from the other. It states that we, as mortal beings, have a human form which is made up of five elements: Fire, Water, Space, Earth and Air. This human body is, thus, made of Punchatatva. This is only the beginning, the body is just a temporary home and in it resides the eternal. The eternal is the soul, the soul was never born and never dies. It cannot be destroyed. It just moves from one body to the other like a traveller moves from one home to the other. The soul travels from one body to the other.
The body can be destroyed by age, by disease, by famine, by a weapon, by hunger and so on but the soul is indestructible. It is eternal and will remain so. Therefore, why weep for the body which is in itself a temporary abode and why weep for your loved ones as they are just temporary relationships. From the time we are born in the body to the time we are dead, we see our loved ones pass away. Death and disease destroy the body and we weep at our loss. But know that this is just temporary and will also pass. Thus temporary are all our relationships today. Today, they exist and tomorrow, they will disappear. Today, they seem real, alive and true but tomorrow, they will be nothing but a dream, a haze just existing in the past and in our memory. So why lose sleep over them as they themselves are temporary.
Now amongst all this, only one thing remains immortal and that is the soul. As the Vedas say, the soul cannot be destroyed by fire, water or any weapon even of mass destruction as it is beyond all that. As we age, our body withers away, becomes weak and then dies. The soul escapes from the jail of the body and takes up another body and so the cycle of reincarnation goes on. So in fact, from the level of the soul, we never die and are never born. We just trespass from one form to another. This form can be human, animal, bird, insect or even bacteria. The Vedas talk about 84 lakh yonis or life forms that a soul has to go through to get a human form or body. The human form is the most supreme so as 6 billion humans on this planet. We should be grateful that we have been blessed with a human form and a human body. We, as humans, have an ability to think and act due to free will which can be used to either do good or bad.
So what is this good or bad? Good is when we think of others and do for others. Bad is when we only think of ourselves and not for the greater good of society or for others. To do good for society is to be and do good. The more good we do, the more brownie points we get which means that we will get a better human form in the next life. We might be born as a king and have a much better life than we have currently have. To do bad is to only think of our needs and harm others for our selfish needs. This will lead to an inferior life like the life of a dog or an insect. The fact to remember is that if we are born as an insect, we will again have to travel 84 lakh yonis to get the yoni of a human.
So here, Karma comes to play. The better our actions, the better our deed. This leads to the good of all society and therefore, we have the chance to purify our soul further. Better deeds lead to a better life in the next Janma and so forth. Thus, we are told to be good and do good. Good is a movement towards the positive, the enhancement of the self and the happiness of the others. Bad leads us to an inferior life in the next Janma.
So what of the soul? The soul is the life energy which is part of the universal soul or as we say, the combined life energy of the universe. Thus, the phrase “We are not the drop in the ocean but the ocean in the drop”. The act of prayer, sadhna, pooja and meditation is when we go inwards to find God and find and understand the soul. This is what we call looking inwards or Antarmukhi, a person who meditates to find the meaning of the soul by going inwards. Doers also search for God but they do that by Karma Yoga. By action, they look for God outwards.
In the Buddhist monasteries of Dharamsala, I saw the Bhikshus chanting and meditating. They were doing this to cut desire and escape the cycle of birth and death to reach an eternal space called Samsara, a point of no return. It is the point where the individual soul merges with the universal soul and never takes a human form or another form. It escapes this cycle and never returns. The drop merges with the ocean. This is called Moksha, a point of no return. Every soul has only one goal and that is to attain Moksha and escape the cycle of birth and death.
Like the balance sheet of a company, our karmas are the good and bad of our lives according to our deeds and when the books are balanced, Moksha is achieved.