The concepts of Karma and Reincarnation are intimately connected. However, when we discuss the law of karma being dispensed over the context of multiple lifetimes, then invariable doubts arises. If I can’t link my present reaction to a previous action, then how does Karma actually teach me anything? What’s the point of suffering if I don’t know what I did to deserve it? How can such a system actually educate and evolve me? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to receive all reactions in the same lifetime?
Some points to consider:
1) Cases of remembrance - In special cases one may well be able to access past-life memories. Individuals can be regressed into previous lives, but even more striking are occurrences of spontaneous and vivid memories of the distant past. Researchers like Ian Stevenson have conducted numerous case studies on this phenomenon, finding clear connection between previous incidents and present situations.
2) Sub-conscious Imprints - although we may not remember specific details and experiences, the law of karma nevertheless creates sub-conscious impressions within us. For example, people often undergo experiences in their childhood which lead to a specific phobia later in their life - although they may never recall the actual incident which caused it. Thus, we are constantly learning from past lives on a sub-conscious level, because every experience evolves our deep psychology and mental state, which ultimately evolves our actions and approach to life.
3) General lessons - although we may not remember specific incidents, we can draw general lessons from our karmic reactions. For example, one experiencing suffering is often impelled to question their journey in this world. In hard times people become introspective and inquisitive. The karmic reactions in and of themselves are often an alarm bell. Through karmic reactions we experience the frustration of a material approach to life. Karma teaches us about the general nature of this world.
4) Educational Sensitivity – Karma is not administered in a mechanical, instantaneous and automatic way. For example, if we see someone acting inappropriately, we may not immediately correct them, especially if the time and place is inappropriate. We wait for an opportune moment to offer relevant feedback in a constructive way, giving the person the best chance of accepting and benefitting from it. Similarly, to offer all ones karmic reaction in an instantaneous way would not aid the educational purpose of karma. Thus, for the purpose of educational sensitivity, there is often a gap between the action and reaction.