Many people share theories on reincarnation, or karma, or what happens at death. Paramhansa Yogananda, a master of yoga, writes from his own true knowledge and experience.

Coming through Yogananda’s words, above all, is the deepest encouragement to every reader: the reassurance that God loves us, and that all of life is designed to help us move toward our own highest fulfillment.

Included in the book are such subjects as:

  • Why do we see a world of suffering and inequality?
  • How should we handle the challenges in our lives?
  • What happens at death, and after death? Is there a heaven?
  • What is the origin and purpose of reincarnation?

This book offers fascinating answers for life’s great mysteries, but, more importantly, it tells you how to make the most of every day of the life you’ve been given.

As Yogananda explains the operation of karma, death, and reincarnation, he also shares the deeper purpose of existence for every soul. Understanding these truths can bring clarity, confidence, and inspiration into your life.

The Wisdom of Yogananda series features writings of Paramhansa Yogananda not available elsewhere. These books capture the Master’s expansive and compassionate wisdom, his sense of fun, and his practical spiritual guidance. The books include writings from his earliest years in America, in an approachable, easy-to-read format. The words of the Master are presented with minimal editing, to capture the fresh and original voice of one of the most highly regarded spiritual teachers of the twentieth century.

Paramhansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda (often spelled "Paramahansa" Yogananda) was born on January 5, 1893 in Gorakhpur, India. He was the first yoga master of India to permanently live and teach in the West. Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and traveled throughout the United States on what he called his "spiritual campaigns." His enthusiastic audiences filled the largest halls in America. Hundreds of thousands came to see the yogi from India. At some packed venues thousands were turned away nightly. A national sensation, Yogananda's lectures and books were extensively written about by the major media of the era, including Time magazine, Newsweek, and Life. He was even invited to the White House by President Calvin Coolidge. Yogananda continued to lecture and write up to his passing in 1952.

Yogananda's initial impact was truly impressive. But his lasting impact has been even greater. Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution throughout the world. His message was nonsectarian and universal. Yogananda's Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, sent him to the West with the admonition, "The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God's will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life."

Yogananda brought clarity to hundreds of thousands of people regarding the ancient teachings of India—previously shrouded in the cultural assumptions and terminology of an era long past. These teachings include the path of Kriya Yoga, which Yogananda called the "jet-airplane" route to God, consisting of ancient yoga techniques to hasten the spiritual evolution of the student.

"The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience. Intuition is the soul's power of knowing God. To know what religion is really all about, one must know God," said Paramhansa Yogananda, as recorded in the book The Essence of Self-Realization. He further wrote that "Self-realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God's omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing."

Visit the Paramhansa Yogananda website to learn more.

Publisher’s Note

The Law of Karma
What Is Karma?
The Soul Is Free
We Punish Ourselves
Good Karma
Evil Karma and “Hell-fire”
God Wants to Help Us

How to Face Your Karma
Life Is a Game
Karma Is Our Own Responsibility
How to Handle Karmic Challenges
Living from Within Leads to Freedom from Karma
Transcending Ego

Freedom from Karma
Overcoming Karma
The Consciousness of Great Souls
Kriya Yoga and Freedom from Karma
The Masters Take on the Karma of Others
The Importance of Meditation

Death and Resurrection
What Happens at Death?
Examples of Resurrection
Heaven Is Waiting
The Magic Carrot
My Pet Deer
The Last Day
Spiritual Resurrection

The Theory of Reincarnation
The Origin of Reincarnation
Reincarnation in a Nutshell
Reincarnation Scientifically Proved
Freedom from Reincarnation


Dear Reader,

Karma, death, and reincarnation are fascinating subjects
for many of us. The more we understand them, the richer and
more meaningful life becomes for us. In this book you’ll read
the words of Paramhansa Yogananda, a great master of yoga
who wrote not from speculation, but from his inner perception
of truth.

Yogananda offered teachings that can fill your life with
inspiration and clarify your spiritual direction.

Paramhansa Yogananda came to the United States from
India in 1920, bringing to the West the teachings and
techniques of yoga, the ancient science of soul awakening. He
was the first master of yoga to make his home in the West, and
his Autobiography of a Yogi has become the bestselling autobiography
of all time, awakening fascination in Westerners
with the spiritual teachings of the East.

Yoga is the ancient science of redirecting one’s energies
inward to produce spiritual awakening. In addition to
bringing Americans the most practical and effective techniques
of meditation, Yogananda showed how these principles can be
applied to all areas of life. He was a prolific writer, lecturer,
and composer. He lived in America 32 years, until his death
in 1952.

The articles included in this book are taken from several
sources: the lessons he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s; articles
of his that appeared in Inner Culture and East West magazines,
published before 1943; the 1946 edition of Autobiography of a
Yogi; Yogananda’s original interpretation of The Rubaiyat of
Omar Khayyam, edited by Swami Kriyananda; and notes
taken by Swami Kriyananda during the years he lived with
Yogananda as a close disciple.

Our goal in this book is to let the Master’s spirit come
clearly through, with a minimum of editing. Sometimes
sentences, redundant in the present context, have been deleted.
Sometimes words or punctuation have been changed to clarify
the meaning. Most of what is included here is not available

May Yogananda’s words on this important subject bring
you understanding, comfort, and inspiration.

Crystal Clarity Publishers

Chapter 1: The Law of Karma

What Is Karma?

If we accept the principle of cause and effect in Nature,
and of action and reaction in physics, how can we not believe
that this natural law extends also to human beings? Once
consciousness is understood as basic to everything the
question begs to be asked: Do not humans, too, belong to the natural order?

Such is the law of karma: As you sow, so shall you reap.*
If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering.
And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form
of inner joy.

* “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

To understand karma, you must realize that thoughts are
things. The very universe, in the final analysis, is composed
not of matter but of consciousness. Matter responds, far
more than most people realize, to the power of thought. For
will power directs energy, and energy in turn acts upon
matter. Matter, indeed, is energy.

Every action, every thought, reaps its own corresponding rewards.

Human suffering is not a sign of God’s, or Nature’s,
anger with mankind. It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance
of the divine law.

The law is forever infallible in its workings.

The Soul Is Free

Souls are made in the image of God. Even the greatest
of all sinners cannot be damned forever. A finite cause
cannot have an infinite effect. Due to the misuse of his free
will, a person might imagine himself to be evil, but within
he is a son of God. A king’s son might, under the influence
of liquor or of a bad dream, think himself poor, but as soon
as he recovers from his state of intoxication, or as soon as he
awakens, he forgets that delusion. The perfect soul, ever
sinless, eventually wakes up in God when it remembers its
real, eternally good, nature.

Man, being made in the image of God, is deluded only
temporarily. This temporary delusion leads him to think of
himself as mortal. So long as he identifies with mortality he
must suffer.

A soul’s delusion of mortality may extend to many incarnations.
Through self-effort, however, always influenced
by the law of God, the Prodigal Son develops discrimination,
remembers his home in God, and attains wisdom. With
illumination the prodigal soul remembers its eternal image of
God, and is reunited with cosmic consciousness. His Father
then serves him “the fatted calf” of eternal bliss and wisdom,
liberating him forever.

Delusion is Temporary

Man may misuse his free will for a time, considering
himself mortal, but that temporary delusion can never erase
from within him the mark of immortality and God’s image
of perfection. A baby’s premature death cannot possibly have
permitted him the use of free will to be either virtuous or
vicious. Nature must bring that soul back to earth to give it
a chance to use its free will to work out also the past karma
which caused it to die so young, and to perform the good
actions that lead to liberation.

If an immortal soul has not worked out in one lifetime
of school those delusions which bind him, he needs more
lifetimes of schooling to bring him the understanding of his
innate immortality. Only then can he return to the state of
cosmic consciousness. Ordinary souls therefore reincarnate,
compelled by their earth-bound desires. Great souls, on the
other hand, come on earth only partly to work out their
karma, but principally to act as noble sons of God to show
lost children the way to their heavenly Father’s home.

Attracting a Bodily Home

When good parents unite in physical union, they produce
a pure astral light as the positive and negative currents at the
base of their spines and in their sex organs, unite. This light
is a signal to good souls with compatible vibrations in the
astral world to be physically conceived in the union of the
sperm and ovum cells. When the soul enters, the embryo is
formed, and the body is gradually made ready to be born.
Souls with bad karma have to enter into the body of evil
mothers. When evil parents come into physical union, they
form a dim, impure light at the base of the spine, signaling an
invitation to souls with evil karma.

Like attracts like. Souls with evil karma are born into evil
families; souls with good karma are born into good families.
Evil families and good families attract souls according to the
magnetism of their inner likings. That is, evil families attract
souls with bad karma. Good families attract good souls. The
attraction is based on mutual likes and dislikes. Evil entities
have an affinity for evil families, whereas the affinity of good
souls is for good families.

People with more opportunity in life, owing to their
good karma, should help those with lesser opportunity, otherwise
they’ll develop bad karma. Selfishness is spiritually
degrading and ultimately makes one unfortunate.
God is not a divine autocrat passing judgment on people
for their actions. The judgments of cosmic law are based on
karmic cause and effect, and are just.

The divine law of harmony creates a natural equilibrium.
When any soul acts against this equilibrium, he hurts himself.
For example, if you dip your hand in cool water you enjoy
a soothing sensation, but if you approach fire, the very heat
of it warns you that your hand may get burnt. The fire has no
will to give you pain, nor does cool water produce a pleasant
sensation out of choice. The responsibility for getting burnt
by fire is his who puts his hand into it. And the responsibility
for feeling pleasure from cool water is, again, his who inserts
his hand into the water. Fire and water, heat and coolness, are
part of the overall state of the universe with which our duty is
to live in harmony.

We Punish Ourselves

By wrong living one can create a physical and mental hell
even worse than the fiery hell that vengeful people imagine
for others after death. By good living one can create within
himself a place even sweeter than the heaven people imagine
for themselves in the after-death state.

Man, influenced by delusion, ascribes to the all-loving
God a vindictive spirit that creates hells and purgatories.
God, in his infinite love, is calling the soul continuously to
come back to His eternal kingdom of Bliss. But souls, when
they misuse their God-given independence, wander away
from God and wallow in the mire of suffering, punishing
themselves by the effects of their own errors.

The idea of an eternal heaven is true, though most people’s
ideas of heaven are very limited. We are made in the image of
God and, at the end of the long trail of incarnations, our
wandering actuated by material desires, we will find the
blissful heavenly Father waiting to receive us, His prodigal
children, and to entertain us with everlasting, ever-new joy.
But the idea of eternal damnation for souls made in the image
of God is untenable and should be exploded and banished as
a superstition from the minds of men.

Good Karma

This life is like a movie, and just like in an exciting movie,
there has to be a villain so we will learn to love the hero. If
you imitate the villain’s behavior, however, you will receive
his punishment. It’s all a dream, but ask yourselves, Why live
a bad dream by creating bad karma? With good karma, you
get to enjoy the dream. Good karma also makes you want, in
time, to wake up from the dream. Bad karma, on the other
hand, darkens the mind and keeps it bound to the dreaming

From a mountaintop, one sees clearly the whole countryside,
and also the open sky above. From the heights it is
natural to want to soar even higher, far above the earth. In the
fog-bound valley below, however, the most that one aspires
to may be only to climb a little bit higher.

“As someone who has studied karma and reincarnation for more than thirty years, I found this to be a remarkable study of a much-misunderstood subject.

“Paramhansa Yogananda shows once again why he is universally regarded as a spiritual master. He brings clarity to the whys and hows of reincarnation—covering not only the questions that usually arise in our minds when considering the possibility of past lives, but taking us beyond to a deeper understanding of life itself.

“It becomes clear after reading this book that there is a definite and profound purpose and reason for everything that happens in our lives. We are being asked to comprehend the all-encompassing nature of karma and how to apply it for our highest welfare.

“I teach classes on karma and reincarnation, and when I do, I use this brief text as a guidebook. If you are interested in these subjects, you could scarcely do better than to begin or continue your search by purchasing and reading this wonderful book.”

—Richard Salva, author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln: Historical Evidence of Past Lives