Karma, a Sanskrit word meaning "action," is generally explained using a universal spiritual law, The Law of Cause and Effect. This law suggests that our thoughts and actions now affect us in the future, i.e. in a future incarnation. There are, however, different viewpoints of karma.
PERSPECTIVE – KARMA IS PUNISHMENT
Bhavnagri (Khorshed), The Laws of the Spirit World, Jaico Publishing House, 2009, 342 pages.
"Karma means what you sow you reap. It is not God who punishes. Karma is the consequences of a soul's actions, good or bad. Negative karma is your punishment but also the higher purpose of learning. Positive karma also exists – it is the blessings you receive for selfless good deeds done. The soul has to 'repay' those he has harmed by taking rebirth and paying off his karma. This can sometimes take hundreds of years where other times it can take only a few years. This is entirely in the hands of each individual soul."
Commentary – Despite being information channeled from the authoress' two sons in Spirit, this seems to be an older, more limited viewpoint of the meaning of karma. We must remember though that not all spirits have the same understanding.
PERSPECTIVE – KARMA IS NOT PUNISHMENT, RATHER KARMA IS PART OF A DUALISTIC EXPERIENCE
Below is an excellent Teal Swan YouTube video about karma. Teal makes the point that most of us have an incorrect understanding of how karma works. She says that our general understanding of karma (The Law of Cause and Effect) is based on a misunderstanding of another universal spiritual law, The Law of Attraction.
Another great YouTube video, "How Karma Works," from Hans Wilhelm is also presented below.
Commentary – We may be directed to experience a difficult life when we reincarnate, not as a form of punishment but in order to get a more balanced perspective.
Whether, as embodied humans, we see karma as a punishment or as part of a dualistic experience depends on our perspective. If we hold a limited perspective, we believe that karma is punishment. If we are more open and hold a broader perspective, we come to understand that karma is simply a tool to obtain a dualistic experience. This is the viewpoint of Teal Swan, Hans Wilhelm and Jaya Kula (see below).
Here is a link to an interesting article entitled, "Is Karma Punishment?," from the Jaya Kula website. This article helps us to understand the two viewpoints expressed above. Jaya Kula describes itself as a "vibrant nonprofit community offering opportunities to learn and practice in the direct realization traditions of Trika Shaivism and Dzogchen."
Two Spirits, One Soul
Two great articles on karma are 5 Laws of Karma and What Many Don't Realize, from the Two Spirits, One Soul website.
Edgar Cayce's psychic readings present the idea that karma may also be thought of as "memory." It is a pool of information that the subconscious mind can draw upon and thereby utilize in the present. Some memories are positive and some are negative. The subconsious memory has an effect on how we think, act, choose and even how we look in our current incarnation.
In "Joseph Speaks – The Fall, " Joseph says that "all karma is simply the 'dust on your sandals' of previous jouneys." If we can consciously learn to better appreciate the negative effects of "The Fall" while we are embodied humans, we can flood ourselves with white light to change ourselves and eliminate our karmic carry-overs.
Thus you can see that there are many possible points of view with respect to karma. Whatever we choose to believe, we should understand that doing bad, improper or evil things will mean more spiritual remediation work for us, quite possibly in our future incarnations.