Past Lives And Karma

What is it?

At some point in your life, you probably have run into situations that feel familiar, even though they are not. Maybe a person you just met that you feel you have met before. Or perhaps brand new places that seem eerily familiar. And even seemingly random circumstances that feel like an absolute déjà vu. One way many people explain this is through the concept of past lives or reincarnation, intimately intertwined with the concept of karma.

The concept of reincarnation states that our soul or consciousness lives on through multiple lifetimes. Furthermore, some people believe that memories, feelings, actions, and even traumas from past lives can still affect them today. This concept of cause and effect is in fact through multiple lives, the most basic definition of karma. You could think of karma as an unofficial bartering system within the spirit world. It is how we make arrangements with one another to create growth experiences. It holds us accountable for our actions.

And what is the relationship between reincarnation and karma? Simply stated, you live in as many lifetimes needed to resolve any unresolved issues created by your accumulated karma. In other words, the underlying belief in this philosophy is simple: put conscious effort into your current life to build as much good karma as possible. Not only this will avoid similar challenges in future lifetimes, but you may as well break free from the reborn cycle when you reach enlightenment.

Core philosophy

Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning “action”. It refers to a cycle of cause-and-effect that is an important concept in many Eastern religions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. At the most basic level, karma refers to both the actions and the consequences of the actions.

Karma is not set in stone. The steps of your life, spiritual development, and personality are directly molded by your thoughts and actions. Present you affects future you. Karma is therefore oftentimes linked to past lives and reincarcanation.

Various forms of the karma theory are found in all the three main religions that began in ancient India: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. All share the assumption that karma is ethically charged. Thus karma is good or bad, and the theory holds that the universe contains a mechanism to ensure that a good deed will bring good results for the doer, a bad deed bad results.

Hinduism and karma

The theory of karma first occurs in the last part of the Satapatha Brahmana. The sage indicates “a man turns into something good by good action and into something bad by bad action”. The sage indicates that a good action means action done without desire, signaling an ethical dimension.

In this text, there is a main passage concerning rebirth or reincarnation. They indicated three paths: i) those who offer sacrifices and perform austerities, who will reach a heavenly world but eventually return to earth ii) those who understand the teachings of the text who can go by the paths of the gods and escape rebirth and iii) those who know neither of those paths, who become insects and other lowly creatures.

Hinduism has three types of karma:

  • Sanchita: our accumulated karma. This is the karma of actions we have already undertaken.
  • Prarabdha: ripened karma. This is karma that is ready to be experienced in our present state.
  • Kriyamana: current karma. This is the karma that we make now, which we will experience in the future.

From this point on, all karma doctrines are linked to a theory of rebirth, which takes the form that whether one’s actions in life conform to the requirements of the particular ideology or not determines whether after death one is reborn higher or lower in the scale of being.

Jainism and karma

Probably the oldest elaborated theory of karma which we know of – and which indeed still survives – is that of Jainism. Jains believe that all matter contains sentient life in a form that adapts itself to the size and shape of whatever body it inhabits, and yet is defined as immaterial. It is called a jīva, which literally just means ‘life’.

The Jain conception defines karma as matter. A jīva is naturally pure and buoyant, and if left untarnished it will float to the top of the universe, where it can be in perennial bliss. But every bad action (karma) can weigh jīva down, which is why is important to make conscious decisions to let jīva ascend.

Buddhism and karma

The Buddha’s own theory of karma contemplates the ethical range of good or bad. For the Buddha, all that counts happens in the mind; so the moral quality of an act depends solely on the intention behind it.

This philosophy was categorically different from that coming from Jainism. It located ethics in the mind, not in externals. Along the same lines, the Buddha used the brahminical words for ‘pure’ and ‘purifying’. In fact, purifying acts is what will bring Buddhists good results in this and future lives. Even further, the metaphor of purifying the mind is constantly used to express progress towards the final goal, which is achieving nirvana.

Past lives

And even though the link between past lives and karma is clear, the relationship is much more nuanced. When you are a disincarnate soul (a soul without a body), you have a direct connection with source-consciousness. You have a complete awareness of your place within creation. And you exist free of negative human emotions such as fear, anger, and hate. In the spirit world, you only know divine love and oneness with the creator.

By incarnating in the physical, you forget your divine origins. It allows you to have an experience free from the bias of your eternal knowing. You have to learn how to be loving and compassionate without already having access to that knowledge. That’s the challenge of incarnating into a physical body. On the soul level, karma is how we advance our soul. Without the creation and resolution of karma from past lives, we would experience very little progression as souls.

Laws of karma

The best way to think of karma is as an energy that you are creating every moment. Every intentional action or thought generates this energy. In order to apply a framework for better karma in our everyday lives, there are 12 laws that are based on the Buddhist view. These laws are consistent with the fundamentals across ideologies and we can start using them today.

Law of cause and effect: according to this law, whatever thoughts or energy you put out, you get back – good or bad. In order to get what you want, you have to embody and be worthy of those things.

Law of creation: underscores the importance that life doesn’t just happen to us. In order to make things happen in your life, you need to take action, instead of waiting for something to just come your way.

The law of humility: based on the principle that you must be humble enough to accept that your current reality is the result of your past actions.

Law of growth: real change or personal growth begins with what you have control over, which is yourself, not others.

Law of responsibility: it’s a reminder that you own what happens in your life. What happens to you is because of you. This eliminates the opportunity for you to look outward to find the cause of your problems.

The law of connection: based on the principle that everything in your life, including your past, present, and future, is connected.

The law of focus: focusing on too many things at once can slow you down and lead to frustration and negativity. That’s why the law of focus encourages you to concentrate on one thing at a time.

The law of giving and hospitality: you must give to the things you believe in. This law helps you understand the importance of your actions, reflecting your deeper beliefs.

The law of here and now: you have to embrace the present. This can only happen when you let go of negative thoughts or behaviors from your past. If you focus too much on past events, you’ll keep reliving them.

The law of change: according to this principle, history will continue to repeat itself until you learn from the experience and take steps to do something differently to stop the cycle.

Law of patience and reward: which states that you need to be consistent in your goals, and they will come to fruition.

The law of significance and inspiration: every contribution you make will affect the world. You have been born with a specific gift, mission, and purpose that only you can bring into the world with your uniqueness. Authentically sharing your skills and gifts is why you’re here.



The term “karma” goes back to the early Upanishads. Early Hindu texts, the Vedas, the Brahmanas, and the Upanishads prior to 500 B.C.E., contain some suggestions of the doctrine, but do not indicate a definitive understanding of it. Buddhist teachings appear to have contributed a strong sense of moral responsibility and its consequences. Jainism attempted a detailed explanation of the process of karma and even gave karma the status of a material substance.

Beginning around 400 B.C.E., Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata illustrate a fully developed and generalized understanding of the doctrine of karma and rebirth. It was adopted and interpreted in various ways by most schools of Indian philosophical and religious thought. The law of karma also became the basis of theories of law, medicine, embryology, and astrology. It also became the theme of popular narratives and mythologies in all the Asian countries influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism.

The concept of karma in Indian thought has several different interpretations according to context, time period, and philosophical school. The doctrine of karma and samsara (the realm of rebirth and karmic retribution) has several functions in Indian thought. It provides causal explanations for the phenomena of life, serves as a foundation for ethical and religious understanding, and rationalizes the commitments to seek liberation from a painful and unsatisfactory worldly existence.

Karma nowadays

Various schools of thought disagreed over the nature of the karmic agent, the process of rebirth, the significance of human acts and decisions, the relationship between knowledge and action, and the possibility and method of achieving liberation or transcending the cycle of rebirth. The Hindu concepts of karma differ in important ways from the corresponding ideas found in Buddhism and Jainism. Most schools of Hinduism place God in the position of administrator, supervisor, and even mitigator of karma. Jainism and Buddhism regard karma as an impersonal force or law operating independently of God.

Through time these schools of thought converged into higher-level concepts, which are the ones we use today. Nowadays karma is a universal concept that many individuals use as an additional foundation for their day-to-day actions. Even more interestingly, since karma is highly linked to past lives, there are some techniques to access insights from past lives. Combining the general rules of karma with insights from past lives can give us a better view of our current life and circumstances and what our soul mission is.

Benefits and uses

Understanding that our soul is evolving through different lifetimes provides a deep perspective for our actions. Furthermore, when we accept that we can change the course of our karma through every action, we obtain a deep spiritual transformation, with a multitude of benefits.

Today, believers in karma use the teachings of this philosophy, sometimes combined with insights from past lives to develop a spiritual foundation. Applying these lessons consistently enhances the good karma in your life, with the following benefits:

  • Emits positive energy around you.
  • Keeps you healthy.
  • Slows down the process of aging.
  • Creates a positive atmosphere around you.
  • Helps keep your mind clear of negative thoughts.
  • Increases your concentration levels.
  • Heals your soul.
  • Develops wisdom and makes you wise.
  • Helps you achieve goals that you would have deemed impossible.
  • Enhances your aura.
  • Ultimately, makes you enlightened.

Who practices it

The concept of karma and how you can apply it in your life is a personal journey. People usually rely on spiritual advisors to help them create actionable steps aligned with spiritual concepts, such as karma. It is not uncommon, however, to encounter individuals who embark on this journey by themselves. In fact, many men and women self-educate on many spiritual topics at some point in their lives in order to find a deeper meaning to their lives.

In addition to the spiritual lessons that the concept of karma provides, some practitioners can give access to insights from past lives. This in turn provides more context to our current lives to improve our own karma. The means to access these insights are:

  • Past live regression: where the practitioner utilizes hypnotherapy techniques to induce a deep feeling of relaxation. The premise of this practice is that anyone has the ability to recall past lives by tapping into the unconscious mind. The practitioner will guide you through different stages in your life and invite you to “explore” previous lives. The insights provided can help you make sense of your current circumstances.
  • Akashic records: based on the belief that all the details of your soul and its journey are stored in an energetic “library” of information. This information spans past lives, present incarnations, and future possibilities. Through psychic insights and specific techniques, the practitioner can glean information about past lives that you can use for your spiritual journey.

Some practitioners are adept at spiritual guidance and techniques to access information from past lives. When that is not available, you can find practitioners for each technique or need separately.

Spiritual advisors

Though there are no certifications or governing bodies that regulate this practice, some organizations provide education in it. Examples are the AIHCP, which provides spiritual counseling certifications for registered nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors, or a health care licensed professional.

However, education may be less important than someone who has experience. This is why it is useful to speak with friends and colleagues who may know someone. If they have a public profile, really listen to what their clients are saying about them and trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.

Past life regression

Generally speaking, practitioners who use this technique are trained hypnotherapists (the concept of hypnotherapy at large can be found here). While the requirements are the same as a baseline, there is some additional training to apply the hypnosis techniques for the goal of accessing past lives.

This additional training is not regulated. For this reason, interviewing the practitioner and asking about their prior experience in past life regression is important. Likewise, asking for recommendations from friends and family is always helpful in finding the right fit.

Akashic records

Similar to divination practices, there are no education, accreditation, or standards for this practice. A practitioner who can read akashic records may have acquired this knowledge by themselves or from a more experienced practitioner.

Akashic record readers are usually individuals with a spiritual and psychic edge, so you ask for references from practitioners in related fields. Likewise, your local spiritual or metaphysical establishments can usually point you in the right direction in your specific community. Finally, you can find on the Internet some practitioners who feel comfortable with the concept of doing virtual consultations.

What to expect

Past life regression

A past life regression therapy session occurs in a safe, nonjudgmental, and confidential space. You rest on a comfortable couch and close your eyes, usually with soft lighting and ambient instrumental music supporting a comfortable experience. You talk for a bit about yourself and your areas of concern. The practitioner then guides you into a state of light relaxation, using imagery and hypnotic language. While in this ordinary natural state of trance, you will be awake and aware of where you are, able to speak, answer questions and report on your memories as prompted.

Memories arise as visual images, auditory messages, or simply a strong sense of “knowing”. You may receive quick snapshots or memory fragments, or they may be long and drawn-out like a movie. Emotions often accompany the images. Sometimes people recover specific details, such as names, dates, places, or the experience can be vaguer. Once the memory review is complete, the practitioner gently guides you back to normal consciousness, and you spend some time processing the experience, including new insights about potential life lessons and how they continue into this life.

Akashic records

During an akashic record reading, you are fully conscious. Usually, the practitioner will do a short visualization meditation or a small player together for grounding purposes. Then, the practitioner will usually say a prayer to access your “records” (other practitioners do this without the prayer).

Once the channel is open, you will be able to ask questions and receive healing for about 45 or 60 minutes. This is why is important to have a list of questions beforehand that can help you understand circumstances in your current life. In the last few minutes, the practitioner closes the channel and allows some time to discuss the insights gathered from the session.

Interesting facts

The topics of reincarnation and karma have fascinated countless people for thousands of years. Below are some interesting beliefs on the topic of past lives:

  • The soul evolves. By evolving, the soul changes in its level of beingness and consciousness, from newborn innocence to greater levels of love, power and wisdom.
  • The soul evolves most effectively in physical form. This is because of the concept of experience and choice. The soul gets to experience being physically limited and separated from others. This is actually an illusion, but one that creates desire, fear and other pressures to cause the soul to experience conflicts and dilemmas to make choices.
  • Each lifetime is pre-planned. Before taking birth, the soul will decide what experiences and choices life should include. Some lifetimes are explicitly set up for the soul to undergo a particular learning experience.
  • We are not tied to a wheel of endless death and rebirth. In spirit, the whole path is clear to us and we know exactly what we are doing. Each lifetime is a deliberate adventure born out of love and a desire to evolve.
  • There is research on Karma. In fact, there have been many intriguing findings that may be applicable to daily life. Noteworthily, Adam Grant, a renowned Wharton professor, has studied the effectiveness of “givers” in various facets.

Closing statement

Reincarnation is part of the process of soul evolution. Karma as the cause and effect relationship between an output of energy and its result and the return it provides. The individual soul, as it grows and develops, through various forms and lives, is able to gain a deeper insight and understanding of the action of Karma, and thereby adjust its action to achieve the evolutionary goal of consciously integrating the spiritual consciousness into the world of mind, life and matter.

The benefit of understanding this deeper and more complex reality is that it points the way toward the spiritual evolution that is the true sense and meaning of our lives and provides us a way to escape the artificial perspectives of physical, vital, and mental impulsions that hamper our growth. This viewpoint also helps us to understand and reconcile the apparently incongruous results that tend to mystify us, answering the questions of why do those doing evil prosper, or why do the good suffer, by providing the context and meaning that is secretly hidden in the entire universal life.