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What Is Reincarnation in Hinduism? - Definition & Cycle

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  • 0:01 Reincarnation Defined
  • 1:10 Karma
  • 1:59 Mukti
  • 2:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught Psychology and has a master's degree in Clinical Forensic Psychology, and will earn a PhD in 2015.

What is reincarnation in Hinduism? Is there an inevitable goal or is it something that happens? Explore some of the ideas behind Hinduism's reincarnation, karma, and the cycle of rebirth.

Reincarnation Defined

Hinduism is the belief in a supreme being that watches over an endless cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Reincarnation, a major tenet of Hinduism, is when the soul, which is seen as eternal and part of a spiritual realm, returns to the physical realm in a new body. A soul will complete this cycle many times, learning new things each time and working through its karma. This cycle of reincarnation is called samsara.

Reincarnation in Hinduism is not limited to being born as human. You may have had prior lives as animals, plants, or as divine beings who rule part of nature. If it has life, then it is part of the cycle. Remember that, the next time you step on and crush a bug; according to the idea of reincarnation, it could be your great uncle or future grandchild.

The old saying 'you can't take it with you' applies pretty well to samsara, or the cycle of reincarnation. When you die, if you achieved riches, lands, or other physical things, you cannot bring them with you into the next life. And, what you end up as in the next life depends very much on your karma.

Karma

Karma is the accumulated energy of deeds, both good and bad. It is not regulated by any deity, but as a spiritual law, always works itself out. This is not something seen in a current life, such as doing a good deed, and then finding $20. Karma is an accumulation of every good deed or bad deed, thought, word, and everything else you have ever done in this life and in all of your other lives.

The universe diverts a person with particularly bad karma into some form of nonhuman entity, to work that karma out. Maybe your uncle was a jerk and ended up as a mosquito, or he needs time to consider his past actions and is now incarnated as a tree. Eventually the bad karma is worked out, and a person reincarnates again into a human being.

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