The Purpose of Life: Karma and Reincarnation
“There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart.”
Chandogya Upanishad, 3.13.7
The six darshanas and four yogas ultimately have the same goal: moksha, or liberation from the endless cycle of death and rebirth known as samsara. This may be accomplished by identification of the individual soul, or Atman, with the AbsolutIe Godhead, called Brahman. Most Hindus accept that liberation must be achieved over a succession of many lifetimes, and that how one is reborn in each subsequent life depends on the quality of one’s actions in this and previous lifetimes. Rebirth is controlled by karma, a Sanskrit word meaning “deed” or “action” that refers both to individual deeds and to the accumulation of good and bad effects resulting from one’s actions in this or previous lives. Karma can also refer to the overall pattern of cause and effect that is a universal principle, often colloquially stated as “what goes around comes around.”
The Buddha largely accepted the concepts of karma and reincarnation that are essential to the Hindu worldview, but he understood them somewhat differently, and those differences are part of the essence of Buddhism and part of what makes Buddhist belief different from Hinduism.