To understand the doctrine of reincarnation, the concept that humans have lived past lives, one must first come to an understanding of the concept of Karma. Karma is a Sandskrit word that means “action”. Karma is not the result of an action but is the action itself. The current circumstances in which one finds oneself in this life is directly linked to their Karma; their actions. All thought and action that one has had in the past and in the present, determines the future conditions of a person’s physical existence.
Such concepts as past lives and Karma are extremely foreign, and nearly incomprehensible, to the Western mind and to those who are followers of the three great desert religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Those mindsets continually attempt to understand Karma and reincarnation, when they attempt to understand them at all, through the understanding of their religions. It cannot be done and therein lies the challenge.
The followers of those religions tend to think of Karma as some manner of ultimate justice. They think this way because that is the way their religion thinks in reference to their creator God. Ultimate justice, an end result, is not Karma. Karma is not the result. Karma is the action.
In the other two great religions on this planet, Hinduism and Buddhism, both Karma and the doctrine of past lives is absolute truth and one must conduct one’s life in such a way so that the possibility of return no longer exists. Especially for Buddhists, the aim of life is to put an end to the maddening cycle of death and rebirth.
Karma unfolds through the living of many lives and may not manifest itself for lifetimes to come. In other past lives, harmful and negative thoughts and actions manifest in lives to come so that the negative Karma buildup can be eliminated. Often, people are confused by things that happen to them in this life. They find no explanation for it either by way of their religion or by way of the religion of science.
The reason such unexplainable events do happen is due entirely to the past thought and the past action in past lives. By acting with anger and confusion and vengefulness, a person simply develops more negative Karma that they must eventually come to terms with and deal with. By accepting the fact that this has happened because that has happened, they can begin to act positively toward the unfortunate event. A person can realize that what happened to them was the result of their own action either in this life or in other past lives. By accepting that, they offset that negative energy with the positive energy of understanding and transformation.
To put a final end to the cycle of death and rebirth, one must seek and attain liberation from the self, from the ego that is only a delusion. To realize the Buddhist concept of No-Self, that there is no separate individual identity apart from the great whole of consciousness, is to be free from the laws of Karma. To understand past lives, one must understand the present one and the opportunity it offers to free oneself forever.