True Justice Requires Both Karma and Reincarnation


It is a law of all civilized countries, that when a prisoner is convicted or executed, he is told the reason why he is being punished. Our higher reasoning and justice call for this. This higher reasoning has been given to us by God. If that is so, then when we get divine punishment, we are very conveniently told all these are a result of past life bad karma. Isn’t it weird that God and his Law of karma punishes us for the sins we have committed in past lives which we don’t even know. Shouldn’t God punish us in the same life itself so that at least we know why we are suffering. At times,when good people suffer for sins they have committed in distant lifetimes, they may end up losing faith in God. So could you explain how the law of karma being carried forward to many lifetimes is not defective and faulty.

—Geetika, India


Dear Geetika,

I find your question fascinating! (Are you a lawyer?)

Well, let’s examine an underlying assumption: that of punishment! Who, exactly, is punishing whom? If I hurt someone and I receive the same in return, is it God punishing me, or is it ME initiating my “just desserts”? If I kill someone, he doesn’t have the opportunity (at that time) to kill me in return. We both have to wait until another lifetime. Whose problem is THAT? If there is to be justice in this world, then there MUST be a law of karma. If there’s to be justice, there MUST be the opportunity to reincarnate!

Let’s look at this “law of karma”! In science we have the law of action and reaction: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Without the law of cause and effect, human life and the cosmos would be uninhabitable, chaotic, and not worth living. We, as humans, are firmly committed to the proposition that we can improve or change our circumstances by taking the right actions. When that is not part of our belief, we sink into despair and passivity.

So, you see: this isn’t about God punishing us. It is about us receiving back what we give. As the Christian Bible puts it, “Be not deceived, for God is not mocked: as you sow, so shall you reap.” The law of karma and reincarnation are inextricably linked as is justice and mercy. If we could remember our past misdeeds from prior lifetimes we would be so burdened that we could barely breath and live. Mercy comes in the form of getting a fresh start, just as each night we forget our troubles in sleep. Mercy comes by the fact that the consequences are postponed to the future when we are perhaps stronger. Paramhansa Yogananda also added that the consequences are often postponed owing to the “thwarting cross-currents” of competing egos and complicated karmic patterns.

There is a way out, however: God. As we reach up to the transcendent joy of inner stillness (wherein resides the Spirit), we are refreshed and enlightened step by step. As we dissolve the hard shell of ego with the power of self-effort and redeeming grace (combined), we cut the cord that links us to our past karma. Our past karma is then at least partially mitigated because the ego principle which initiated that karma has been erased. When it does come and we have little or no ego, we don’t react as we accept all that comes as our own. In that very fact (of not reacting) we end the repeating cycle of karma, of action and reaction.

I recommend you read the book by Paramhansa Yogananda: The Essence of Self-Realization (available in India).  There are chapters in that book on karma and reincarnation. There’s another book by him, also, called, simply: Karma and Reincarnation (also available in India).

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman