In the Gita, Lord Krishna Himself explains His incarnations:
You and I have passed through many births. I know them all, but you do not remember. I am born from time to time whenever the good need my protection. I am born to destroy the bad and help the good.
My birth is divine and those who understand this become part of Me and do not have to be born again.
The Gita, Chapter 4, The Sword of Knowledge, Verses 5-9
These beautifully succinct verse encapsulates Hinduism’s fundamental beliefs: the existence of God, His powers to create and destroy, God’s benevolent intent, the importance of understanding divine power, the reality of reincarnation, and the meaning of salvation which is becoming one with God.
Hinduism takes karma for granted. It does not seek to make a justification for its validity, but rather bases its principles, beliefs and guidance on the ways in which karma operates. Thus the underpinning of karma is the view or reality that actions have consequences.
While discussions of karma focus mostly on individuals, we should consider that peoples and nations also have destinies determined by consequences of prior actions. Over millennia we have seen nations rise and fall and we now see nations and national values in turmoil. Thus we should consider our behaviors not only in terms of ourselves but also in terms of our politics. Our national and international karma decides questions as momentous as war and peace.
See “Karma and Reincarnation,” Chapter Six, of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.
Like individuals, nations and societies own their karma. The impact of their collective actions and interactions produce consequences such as widespread prosperity, poverty or war.
On some occasions, we are put in positions that mandate war. At other times we seek war. Sometimes nations and our leaders are united in purpose. At other times they are divided. But whatever the circumstances, cause and effect are at work.
It is difficult to understand or even clearly imagine the interplay of karma involving millions, perhaps billions, of people, but I find it more difficult if not impossible to consider that collective destinies are random. History is evidence and much of what happens in the world is understood in terms of our past behavior.
See Chapter 6, Karma and Reincarnation, of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar to understand how karma works.
The earliest Hindu references to reincarnation describe journeys to other worlds or realms known as lokas. These worlds represent astral planes to which souls can travel outside of the body after death or when the body attains different levels of consciousness. At the same time, these worlds are viewed as regions in the universe. Thus, Vedic cosmology sees a singularity or oneness in the universe that is reflected in our consciousness. The universe exists beyond us and within us at the same time. It is a multidimensional and a multitemporal cosmos. Souls migrate from one world to another and fro one body to another until, after many lifetimes they yearn to become free.
–From Chapter 6, Karma and Reincarnation, of Irina Gajjar’s book, On Hinduism
Karma and Reincarnation are not really theories in Eastern religions. Rather they are premises that have evolved over time and continue evolving. These notions do not depend upon one another, but rather complement one another to provide answers to questions pertaining to the human condition. To understand this better, see Chapter Six of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.
The past few days have been terrible for our planet. Howsoever we may evaluate recent events, culminating in the Israeli Palestinian hostilities and the downed Malaysian airliner in separatist held Ukraine, I think we must acknowledge that these occurrences did not come out of the blue. Bad things like changing climate including increased atmospheric turbulence and increasing divisiveness have been happening for some time, but some good things have also been going on. For better or for worse peoples are more aware of the plight of others and nations are unable to remain uninvolved in goings on far from home.
In my opinion karma is clearly responsible for what now occupies just about everyone’s attention.
Consider this excerpt from On Hinduism explaining the mechanics of karma:
. . . Multiple causes may give rise to a single effect or to a bundle of related effects or to seemingly disconnected effects. Karma is like a ripple in a pond. It can expand for a wide area and disturb the peacefulness of all the water contained within its circle. As it spreads, it dissipates until it gets lost in the waters of the pond.
Karma is a force comparable to magnetism or electricity. The laws of magnetism govern the attraction and repulsion of magnetic force and the laws of electricity govern interaction between electrically charged particles. The law of karma governs causality between moving forces. Human beings activate karma at the same time that we are subject to its power.
Gajjar, On Hinduism, Chapter 6, Karma and Reincarnation, p. 101