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A Hindu Perspective on Judgement and Salvation

Seeta Lakhani's picture

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Law of Karma and Reincarnation

How can an all-compassionate God dish out punishment? Hindus could not accept this idea. Hence a God sitting in judgement was never accepted by the Hindus. Judgement came about through an impersonal law called the Law of Karma. It was recognised that what we set into motion has a habit of producing consequences that catch up with us sooner or later. This seems like a reasonable proposition, but Hindus claim that sometimes the consequences of what we set into motion will catch up with us in our next life. Ideas of law of karma and reincarnation are thus inextricably linked with each other. In the last forty years the concept of reincarnation has been well investigated at the University of Virginia and sits well as a scientifically verified theory. Even if one were to believe in reincarnation, the question arises: ‘How can the Law of Karma catch up with an individual in his or her next life?’ The answer is that the individual carries the seeds of his activities in his mental make-up which will resurface in his or her next life. So for example if a liar or a thief was never caught in one life, they will exhibit the same habits in their next life where they would more than likely get caught and punished.


One of the scriptures of authority of the Hindu scripture the Kathopanisahd expresses well the evolution of Hindu ideas of the hereafter, judgement and salvation. The initial concept visible in the Hindu tradition was that of carrying out certain righteous and ritualistic practices to achieve rewards in heaven. But this idea was seen as over-simplistic and soon transcended. The idea of living in heaven for a long period where one enjoys pleasure alone was seen as naïve. Pleasure and pain are relative concepts so what is pleasurable for sometime, will become less pleasurable in due course. It was recognised that without pain, pleasure will soon lose its potency. Hence the idea of living in heaven was seen as a fickle condition. The resolution of the human condition was seen as recognising our essential nature not what we think we are i.e. body and mind complex but what we truly are: spirit. Until we recognise our essential nature as the spirit we are destined to be reborn – this became a key concept of samsara (reincarnation) in Hinduism. The Kathopanishad ends with a cutting comment that ‘ the knowing Self is no longer born nor does it die.’ This state is described as moksha literally meaning end of delusion about our nature as spirit rather than the body & mind complex we inhabit.

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