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Karma and Reincarnation
By Jennifer Singer

Karma, Dharma and the Eight Noble Truths

The First Mark of Existence- "Existence is suffering." We all live in an endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. Everything is about "becoming". To become one must be like a snake, always shedding it’s skin. To paraphrase Joseph Campbell from "The Power of Myth", life is about loss. In other words, in order to progress we must be unattached because all is impermanent and in the becoming we are always in flux and thus loss is the only experience available to make room in our lives for new lessons.

Second Mark of Existence- "Existence is impermanent." This means that even suffering is impermanent. We will know times of joy and sadness over the course of our lifetimes. This is the way of things and no matter how attached we are this will always be. What makes a sad man happy and a happy man sad? This too shall pass.

Third Mark of Existence- " Nowhere can a self or soul be apprehended". We have to transcend what we think we know to begin to grasp that which cannot contain.

The Noble Eightfold Path, as taught by Buddha requires meditation and the realization of the first three truths.

Right Understanding
Right Thought

So you must believe and have faith because you receive what you believe. Right Understanding and Right Thought equals WISDOM. Mastering the Eightfold path is about mastering one by one each level of the path knowing it leads you to the next level. Wisdom leads to Dharma or Morality. Yogi Ramachakra says "Dharma holds one up to his highest conception of right and expects him to do what is right for rights sake, and not because the law compels him to do so-it expects Right Action from him that if he sees a thing to be wrong, it is wrong for him even though the law of public opinion have not reached so high a standard of ethics."

Morality, Dharma is the mastery of:

Right Speech
Right Bodily Action
Right Livelihood

Hence one would have to master wisdom to even progress spiritually to the place of knowing what the meaning of Right Livelihood is. Once we have achieved understanding Right Livelihood, our needs for survival are satisfied in this area and we are now free to give attention to our "Higher Self" and progress towards Nirvana.

The Buddha taught that through meditation we can approach:

Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

There are 5 basic principles in regards to morality. Morality is considered important because without attention to morality and ethics we are likely to cause suffering to others and ourselves.

The five basic principles as outlined by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh are:

Reverence for Life (refrain from killing)
Generosity (refrain from stealing)
Sexual Responsibility (refrain from sexual misconduct)
Deep Listening and Loving Speech (refrain from lying)
Mindful Consumption (refrain from ingesting intoxicants).

Dharma allows for the fact that morality is relative but acknowledges that one cannot achieve Right Livelihood if in the earning of that living the five principles are not observed. Thus until we have defined our own morality in relation to our livelihood we are unable to attain the means necessary to spiritually elevate ourselves into a higher state of evolution. Morality can not be in conflict with the way we earn our living because we would then be breaking the principles that protect us from suffering remembering that the only way to avoid suffering is to not be attached to the permanence of Right Livelihood. In the words of an ancient chant that marks the mythological Goddess Persephone’s decent into the underworld and the subsequent change of the seasons, "She changes everything she touches and everything she touches changes."

Our Dharma and how we live it influences our Karma, which we then carry into our next life which manifests itself as our new lessons and our new Dharma which directly makes subjective our perception of our own personal path, of right and wrong which according to the law will always be subjective because of the nature of all sentient beings.

The word Karma means "to do". How you use your power will determine your Karma and your Karma will create your destiny. There is no beginning to Karma. It is action combined with right intent. We do employ free will through the actions we take, our Karma is influenced and thus our creation becomes our destiny because we have free will.

Karmic action creates a vibration that returns to its sender. It is magnetic because like attracts like. The magnetic effect of Karma is demagnetized through resolution and understanding. The karma we create influences three primary parts of our life, family, occupation, health and length of life, which is reflected in quality of life and its enjoyment. Each individual has to be responsible for their own personal conduct though in the ancient times the Vedic Priests were held responsible for the rites they performed for their community. Neglecting rituals or misperforming them created negative Karma, inviting disaster, illness and loss of prosperity. In the ancient times communities were knit more closely so their prosperity and suffering was more closely intertwined between them. The Priests held the primary responsibility for influencing the well being of the community.


Although there is no actual "proof" of reincarnation many people through various means have been able to remember past lives. There is some disagreement regarding the source of such memories. A modern theory, though unproven suggests that perhaps our past life memories are memories that are embedded in our actual DNA. The theory of "Cellular Memory" suggests that we are not remembering our past life but that of our ancestors whose DNA is passed down from the very beginning of time traceable to the very first man or woman.

Some philosophies teach that the soul reincarnates in order to bring two people together. Others believe that the body is only a tool for us to inhabit in order for our soul to learn the various lessons we are required to learn in order to progress to the point where all of our lessons are learned and we are then elevated to Nirvana or Heaven depending on the persons spiritual beliefs and granted eternal rest. The Bodhisattva is one who has learned the lessons necessary and chooses to stay to assist all sentient beings that are suffering in learning the lessons they need to learn in so they may ascend upon the completion of learning. The Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin is an example of a person that was elevated to the status of a Bodhisattva because of her willingness to assist others in their struggling to let go of attachment.

The Process of Reincarnation

When a soul extension has spent the needed time resting and reviewing the recent life, he will begin planning his next incarnation. He chooses his parents, brothers and sisters , educational opportunities, male or female body , country, skin color and the astrological configuration to be born into. This is all decided upon by the soul extension, the soul, and the higher teachers and guides. The true trauma is not death but is birth. A free spirit has now come back into the confines of a physical body that has not developed yet. Crib death occurs when the soul extension comes into the physical body and then changes its mind for some reason and returns back to spirit. The more obstacles soul extension has chosen, the greater the opportunity for spiritual growth and to pay off Karmic debts.

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Perhaps ones belief in reincarnation is not as important as their understanding of Karma, the universal law of cause and effect. I choose to believe I am going to incarnate again after my death so I am most deeply concerned with what I create as a human being in this lifetime in particular. As I have stepped into my power so have I stepped in my responsibility. I have shifted from the "victims consciousness" into a consciousness that is more in tune with personal responsibility. My actions impact my life and the lives of others. I am always concerned that I have the power to "interfere" in the Karma of others. This is not to say I have mastered these concepts even though it has deeply entered my awareness and intensified my search for the kind of understanding that leads to true wisdom. As a Buddhist teacher pointed it out to me, my very existence creates interference. My responsibility is to have integrity, be ethical and as harmless as humanly possible. ++

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