reincarnation is often misunderstood as being a religion unto itself. in fact, it is really a philosophical belief structure that is part of many world religions, most notably hinduism and buddhism. while many different schools of hinduism and buddhism exist, they all basically agree on the fundamentals of reincarnation and liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, or samsara as it is known in sanskrit. the idea of reincarnation is basically this. in hindu tradition, the atman, or soul, is a person’s life essence or spirit. hindus believe that your soul collects karma through actions taken in life, which is stored in sort of a karmic “account.” as long as you have a balance, you can not leave the earth and are continually reincarnated. the hindu idea of nirvana or escape from samsara is the idea that once all karma has been shed, a person’s atman can become one with the universe. various sects of hinduism believe that this can be achieved through different practices, such as meditation, yoga, homage to the gods, etc. in the buddhist tradition, there is no idea of atman, or soul. buddhists believe more in a residual collection of karma that is reincarnated. it helps to think of karma as bytes of data and a person merely as a collection of bytes rather than a whole soul. the karma, or bytes, change as time goes on and different actions are performed. the buddhist idea of liberation is similar to the hindu tradition, and is achieved in the same way. once all karma has been dispersed, a person’s karmic collection becomes one with the universe. this is not an accurate description, but the idea of a singularity is difficult to convey through use of any written language. as for the idea that your actions in your current cause the accumulation of karma and whether or not karma affects your next reincarnation, this is actually 100% true. all actions in the current life, good or bad, create karma which accumulates and determines what you will be reincarnated as in the next life. ideally, one should act according to his or her “dharma,” or duty, in order to assist in achieving cosmic balance and to collect “good” karma. if a person accumulates enough good karma and dissipates the bad karma, he or she will be reincarnated in the human form, which is the most conducive to the realization of nirvana. of course, there is a lot more involved with hindu and buddhit mythology, philosophy, and practices, but this is a cursory overview of what reincarnation is.