Does Karma Exist? Do we have multiple Rebirths / Samsara?

What is Karma?

Karma is a belief that is based on the law of cause and effect. According to the law of Karma, our thoughts, words, and deeds affect our future lives. If we do something kind, we will receive kindness back; if we do something cruel, we will receive cruelty back. Karma is often used as an explanation for why some people suffer misfortune, such as poverty, sickness, or death. 

What is Samsara?

Samsara is the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Each of our actions in this world has a consequence. These consequences create effects which add to our Karma. Due to the Karma, humans after they die are born again in this world. Their actions in their new birth determine their Karma and depending on their Karma, they are born again in this world after they die. This cycle of birth, death and rebirth continues until the person has not acquired any more Karma. 

What is Moksha?

The word Moksha means “to be liberated from”. So, Moksha is to get liberated from the cycles of birth and rebirth. A soul attains “Moksha” and is liberated from the cycles of birth and rebirth when it has no more Karma to deal with.

Concept of Samsara or multiple rebirths & Justice

The concept of Samsara or multiple rebirths is linked with justice and is used to explain why some people are born blind, handicapped, poor and why some people enjoy a good and luxurious life. On the face of it, the explanation seems good but if we dig deeper into the concept of Samsara or multiple rebirths, can we conclude that the system of Samsara offers perfect justice? Let’s find out.

Person should know why he is punished or rewarded

You are fast asleep and you are woken up by the sound of the calling bell. You open the door and you find police standing. The police say they are going to arrest you. What will be your first question to them? You will ask them “Why are you arresting me?”

The question “Why” is a very natural one and is very important. If you are not given a reason for the arrest and the police take you with them, won’t you call this injustice? Of course, you will. No sane person will accept a punishment without knowing the reason for it. 

Making the person understand why he is punished is an important element in justice. That is why the court does not hang the convict if he is insane. The court will wait for him to get healed and become sane, as the convict should understand that he is being punished for his crime.

Now ask yourself:

1) Do I know if my birth in this world is my first or second or third or Nth?

2) Do I know for what previous actions of mine, am I rewarded or punished in this birth?

If the answer is NO for both the questions above, then you are either punished or rewarded without you knowing the actual reason for it. How can we call this justice?

We are unaware of our previous births and actions but yet we go through the difficulties of this life without knowing the reason for it. When our judicial system does not punish a person without letting him know the reason for his punishment, how can we imagine that Most Just and Most Wise God would punish human beings without letting them know why they are being punished?

Justice must be witnessed

When justice is rendered, the victim must know that the aggressor was punished. For example: A man rapes a woman. The man is the aggressor and the woman is the victim. The woman is called to the court and is made to witness the judgement (punishment) for the aggressor. Why? This is because the victim should know that justice was given to her. 

This aspect of justice is completely absent in the concept of Samsara or multiple rebirths.

Let’s take the example of Hitler who killed 6 million innocent people.

What happened to Hitler? Was he punished? If yes, how many births has he taken? (Ideally, he needs to take 6 million births). 

Do the people who were killed by Hitler know how he was punished? 

Were the victims of Hitler’s oppression compensated?

We have no answers to these questions. Remember, Hitler was just an example. The world has seen lakhs of oppressors and criminals like Hitler. What happened to them? What happened to their victims?

How can we expect such a huge flaw in the justice system?

World has to end for complete and perfect justice

The world has to come to an end for complete and perfect justice to be rendered to human beings. Let’s understand this through an example.

A person plants a tree and dies a few years after he planted the tree. The tree continues to live for another 100 years and benefits people by giving fruits and shade. You would agree that the person who planted the tree must be rewarded for it. If the person is born again before 100 years, he is not fully rewarded for planting that tree as the benefits of the tree still continue. So the person will have to wait for 200 years till the tree dies to be fully rewarded for planting that tree.

This is the case with every good deed we initiate. Imagine starting an orphanage. We can never be fully rewarded as long as the orphanage functions.

This is the case with a bad deed as well. For example: Take the example of the atom bomb dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Doctors say that the aftermath of that bomb is still seen today. As long as the aftermath exists, the people who were behind the dropping of the bomb can never be fully punished. 

As we can see, unless the world ceases to exist, the effects of many good and bad deeds will not cease to exist. So logically, the world has to come to an end for complete and perfect justice to be rendered.

This aspect of justice is totally missing in the concept of birth-rebirth.

Do some people have memories of their previous birth?

Many argue that Samsara or multiple rebirths must be true as some people have memories of their previous births. This subject has been studied by various psychiatrists over a period of time. 

One such person who did an experiment on this subject was : Nicholas Spanos, who was a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Laboratory for Experimental Hypnosis at Carleton University, Canada.

Spanos research leads him to the conclusion that past lives are not memories, but actually social constructions based on patients acting “as if” they were someone else, but with significant flaws that would not be expected of actual memories. To create these memories, Spanos’ subjects drew upon the expectations established by authority figures and information outside of the experiment such as television, novels, life experiences and their own desires.

The details of this information can be found in the book “Multiple Identities & False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective. Washington: American Psychological Association.”

For the sake of argument, even if we agree that the rebirth is proved because some people remember their previous births, the issues with how justice is rendered in the concept of birth and rebirth still remains unanswered.

Conclusion

The fundamental elements of justice are completely absent in the concept of Samsara or multiple rebirths and therefore it cannot be true. If one reads the literature that speaks about the concept of Samsara, they argue that a person is born in a lower caste because of the karma he acquired in the previous birth and a person is born as a Brahmin or in upper caste because of their Karma in the previous birth. So, more than the aspect of justice, the concept of Samsara is used to justify the discriminatory nature of the caste system (Varna system).

You may ask: How do we explain the birth of handicapped and blind children? What about the justice to those who are oppressed and murdered? These are valid questions and are answered in this article.