top of page

Karma & Reincarnation

AFRICA: ANCIENT KEMET/ EGYPTIANS (8,000 BCE - 30 BCE) The ancient Egyptians' attitude towards death was influenced by their belief in immortality. They regarded death as a temporary interruption, rather than the cessation of life. To ensure the continuity of life after death, people paid homage to the gods, both during and after their life on earth. When they died, they were mummified so the soul would return to the body, giving it breath and life. The journey to the afterworld was considered full of danger. Upon arriving in the realm of the Duat (Land of the Gods), the deceased had to pass through seven gates, reciting accurately a magic spell at each stop. If successful, they arrived at the Hall of Osiris, the place of judgement.

The gods of the dead performed the "weighing of the heart" ceremony to judge whether the person's earthly deeds were virtuous. The weighing of the heart was overseen by the jackal-headed god Anubis, and the judgement was recorded by Thoth, the god of writing.Forty-two gods listened to the confessions of the deceased who claimed to be innocent of crimes against the divine and human social order. The person's heart was then placed on a scale, counterbalanced by a feather that represented Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the heart was equal in weight to the feather, the person was justified and achieved immortality. If not, it was devoured by the goddess Amemet. This meant that the person would not survive in the afterlife. When a pharaoh passed the test, he became one with the god Osiris. He then travelled through the underworld on a solar bark, accompanied by the gods, to reach paradise and attain everlasting life.

MIDDLE EAST: SUMERIANS (3,500 BCE - 500 BCE) Believed in an afterlife or the netherworld, which was “ a shadowy version of life on earth, located only a short distance from earth’s surface. The Mesopotamian netherworld is therefore best understood as neither a place of great misery nor great joy, but as a dulled version of life on earth. It must be emphasized that the Mesopotamian netherworld was not a “hell.” Although it was understood as the geographic opposite of the did not stand as a possible dwelling place for dead spirits based on behavior during life. The Mesopotamian netherworld was neither a place of punishment nor reward. Rather, it was the only otherworldly destination for dead spirits. The Mesopotamians did not view physical death as the ultimate end of life. The dead continued an animated existence in the form of a spirit, designated by the Sumerian term gidim or ghost." INDIA: HINDUISM & BUDDHISM (6 BCE TO PRESENT)

Karma is the sumtotal of our acts, both in our present life and in preceding ones. Karma signifies action or deed in three forms: thoughts, words and deeds. Thoughts are the primary and driving force of Karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect in Nature. One can not change the past karma, but one can plant good deeds for future karma. Karma not only means actions, but the result of actions. Wherever there is a cause, an effect must be produced. There is no such thing as "blind chance" or an "accident."

1. Law of Action and Reaction: If there is an action, there must be a reaction. The reaction will be of equal force and of similar nature. Every thought, sentiment, desire and imagination causes a reaction. Virtue brings its own rewards while vice brings it own punishments. It is your own karma that brings you rewards or punishments.

2. Law of Compensation: Keeps balance and established equilibrium and harmony in nature. If you take an individual life as an isolated event that begins with the birth of a physical body and terminated with its death, you can not find any correct explanation or solution for the affairs of life. So you have to go deep into the affairs of the eternal soul life. Life does not end with the disintegration of the physical body. There is incarnation.

3. Law of Retribution: Each wrong action brings its punishment according to the law of retribution. He who hurts others hurts himself. He who cheats others, cheats himself first.

Buddhists believe in a cycle of death and rebirth called samsara. Through karma and eventual enlightenment, they hope to escape samsara and achieve nirvana, an end to suffering. When someone dies their energy passes into another form. Buddhist believe in karma or 'intentional action’. Through good actions, such as ethical conduct, and by developing concentration and wisdom, Buddhists hope to either gain enlightenment or to ensure a better future for themselves. These good actions are set out in the eightfold path: 1 - Right Views; 2 - Right Thinking; 3 - Right Speech; 4 - Right Action; 5 - Right Livelihood; 6 - Right Effort; 7 - Right Mindfulness; 8 - Right Meditation. Good actions will result in a better rebirth, while bad actions will have the opposite effect. Depending on the actions performed in previous lives, rebirth could be as a human or animal or even ghosts, demi-gods, or gods. Being born as a human is seen by Buddhists as a rare opportunity to work towards escaping this cycle of samsara. The escape from samsara is called Nirvana or enlightenment. Once Nirvana is achieved, and the enlightened individual physically dies, Buddhists believe that they will no longer be reborn. Nirvana means realizing and accepting the Four Noble Truths ( the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering). Some Buddhists believe that enlightened individuals can choose to be reborn in order to help others become enlightened. Others believe that, when Nirvana is achieved, the cycle of samsara, all suffering and further existence for that individual itself ends.

NORTH AMERICA: CANADIAN ABORIGINALS, ALGONQUIN, ZUNI, MOHAVE & YUROK NATIONS Reincarnation was a large part of Canadian Aboriginal, as well as Native American afterlife belief and was a central aspect of tribal cosmologies in these societies." Many tribes believed that after death, your soul would come back to life in a new human form. Some believed that new birth in their tribe was from the soul of a recent death, some even believe the change to be as close as family connections. For this reason, a baby will sometimes be called 'grandma' or 'uncle' to express this feeling. The Algonquin tribes of the eastern United States and Canada, rivals of the Iroquois, postulated a shadowy afterlife where the spirits of dead men hunted dead animal spirits. From this came the saying "the natural world, abounded in spirit life'. In a spirit world, life was lived just the same as it would in the human world, only all 'living beings' were in spirit form. Sometimes this was believed to be a sort of 'limbo' for the souls of the dead, before they were to have an afterlife. The Zuni and Mohave believed that a human spirit was incarnated four times in a series of animal and insect births. At each incarnation, the spirit became more powerful. Such animal-insect transformations were said to be temporary with human incarnations remaining part of the cycle. Some Native American cultures believed that animal transformations were reserved only for evil people. For instance the Yurok, believed "in the transmigration of souls; that they return to earth as birds, squirrels, rabbits, or other feeble animals liable to be harried and devoured" as a punishment for being wicked. CHRISTIANITY & THE ROMAN EMPIRE Early church leader Origen (185-254 AD), held a strong belief in reincarnation with his teachings being accepted from the church until 553 AD. During this time, Roman Emperor Justinian called the 5th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople. "It is then that the teachings of Origin were overturned, and it became a heresy to believe in reincarnation, punishable by excommunication." In the reincarnation story, Heaven and Hell were a temporary state, When the Roman Emperor and Pope Constantine came along and created the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD, he got rid of the idea of reincarnation and replaced it with the eternal idea of heaven and hell. Any books or references that opposed this new view were burned and considered heresy. This was seen as a form of control. If people believed that they only had one life to live, they would be more encouraged to follow the rules and would be a good worker/servant. Their eternal place in the afterlife was determined by how well they lived and served the king.

New Testament (Mark 9:4 NIV) And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” (Mark 9: 9-13 NIV)As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what 'rising from the dead' meant. And they asked him, 'Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

(Matthew 11:13-14 NIV) "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come." (Matthew 17:10-13 NIV) “The disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” (Hebrews 7:10 NIV) because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

ISLAM: QURAN The Quran rejects the concept of reincarnation, though it preaches the existence of soul. The principle belief in Islam is that there is only one birth on this earth. The Doomsday comes after death and will be judged as to one has to once for all go to hell or be unified with God. However, the idea of reincarnation is accepted by a few Muslim sects, particularly of the Shia sect (Ghulat), and by other sects in the Muslim world such as Druzes. Ghulat Shia Muslim sect regards its founders as in some special sense divine incarnations (hulul). Historically, South Asian Isma’ilis performed chantas yearly, one of which is for sins committed in past lives. Further, Sinan ibn Salman ibn Muhammad, also known as Rashid al-Din Sinan, (r. 1162-92) subscribed to the transmigration of souls as a tenet of the Alawi, who are thought to have been influenced by Isma’ilism. Modern Sufis who embrace the idea of reincarnation include Bawa Muhaiyadeen. JUDAISM: KABBALAH In the Kabbalah we discover the concept of 'gilgul ha’neshamot' or 'the reincarnation of souls'. "The souls must reenter the absolute substance whence they have emerged. But to accomplish this, they must develop all the perfections, the germ of which is planted in them; and if they have not fulfilled this condition during one life, they must commence another, a third, and so forth, until they have acquired the condition which fits them for reunion with God." "The belief in the resurrection of the dead (Hebrew: techiyat ha'meitim) is also part of the Jewish prayer book and is even more a part of Judaism than the belief in the immortality of the soul. Other, Non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish groups while not placing a heavy emphasis on reincarnation do acknowledge it as a valid teaching. From the point of view of the whole system, all of these souls still are part of one great soul that is split up and incarnated into countless distinct bodies generation after generation. We can understand that all the different bodies that ever existed were particular manifestations of one great soul. The differences between them (the souls) lie in the different bodies that they incarnated into, for no one body resembles the next (each incarnation is totally unique)."

In the kabbalistic literature three types of reincarnation are mentioned: 1. Gilgul, transmigration proper, in which a soul that had previously inhabited one body is sent back to earth to inhabit another body.

2. Ibbur, “impregnation,” in which a soul descends from heaven in order to assist

another soul in the body.

3. Dybbuk, a generally late concept, in which a guilt‑laden soul pursued by devils

enters a human body in order to find rest and has to be exorcised.

Various sins are punished by particular transmigrations; for example, the soul of an excessively proud man enters the body of a bee or a worm until atonement is attained. The heroes of the Bible and later Jewish histories are said to be the reincarnation of earlier heroes. Thus the soul of Cain (Genesis 4:1‑16) entered the body of Jethro and the soul of Abel the body of Moses. When Moses and Jethro met in friendship they rectified the sin caused by the estrangement of the two brothers (Exodus 18:1‑12).


“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”


"I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence."

― Socrates

"For if the soul existed before birth, and in coming to life and being born can be born only from death and dying, must she not after death continue to exist, since she has to be born again?"

― Plato

"The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew… it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal."

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you're really a mean person you're going to come back as a fly and eat poop.”

Kurt Cobain

“A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

"Just as man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones."

The Bhagavad Gita

“To see and appreciate the soul of others with whom you are in a relationship is a higher state of awareness. To see only their outer characteristics provides a limited and incomplete perspective. Their current personality, just like their current physical body, is a temporary manifestation. They have had many bodies and many personalities but only one enduring soul, only one continuous spiritual essence. See this essence and you will see the real person.”

Brian L. Weiss, Miracles Happen: The Transformational Healing Power of Past-Life Memories