Let me clarify a few more things about karma and reincarnation.
Spiritual traditions have created the notion of karma in order to fulfill some very human ideas about justice, based on the notion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, even within the realm of spirit, ethics, morality, and intention. These traditions have failed, for the most part, to understand the nature of this world, even in strictly spiritual terms. They don't understand that this world is something akin to a "virtual reality", rather than a real place. They don't understand that what goes on here has only limited repercssions spiritually, and does not carry over like some cosmic karmic reaction aking to Newton's second law of motion.
Actions within a virtual reality don't carry over from one "game" to the next. The only way in which that is true is the extent to which they have left an impression upon us, in establishing certain patterns of gameplay. Past mistakes, however, do not mean that we are bound to suffer equal compensating mistakes in future games. It only means that we become habituated to certain patterns, and certain kinds of mistakes, and thus become prone to repeat them, and to become trapped in those patterns repetitively. This may look at first glance like "karma", but it isn't the same thing at all.
It's important to recognize that reincarnation is a learning process, not bound by any particular laws of simplistic justice. The point of spirits being born in conjunction with physical bodies is to learn something, not to become trapped in a cycle of cause an effect. If we can recognize each lifetime as an exercize in learning, as a kind of test rather than a kind of criminal justice system, I think this becomes simpler to understand. When we take a test at school, the results of each test are independent of one another. We may do well on one test, and fail another. If we do well on one test, of course, we are more likely to do well on the next one, and if we do badly, that too is likely to be repeated. Lessons learned tend to build a body of skill and knowledge, and lessons failed tend to build a pattern of failure. However, none of that is strictly causal. If one does well on one test, it does not mean that one will do well on the next test automatically, one still has to actually study and improve and get things right.
Nor does it mean that if one passes a test, one will get easier questions to answer on the next test. The opposite is actually more likely. Doing well actually increases the likelihood that the next test will be even harder, since one has already mastered one level of learning and is thus more likely to get a harder test the next time on material one is less skilled at. So if karma is equated to a process of universal learning, rather than one of universal justice, the process of reincarnation is not going to be based on a system of rewards and punishments, but of increasing difficulty based on merit and performance. There is certainly some degree to which increasing skill and competence in the art of living a human life is its own reward, of course, but this is not do to some kind of karmic system of action and reaction, but to the conscious pattern of one's own learning process.
I hope it's clear then that the kind of "laws" which govern reincarnation are not akin to criminal laws based on rewards and punishments, but on a system of voluntary schooling. They are not meant to regulate behavior in some cosmic justice system of moral action and reaction, but to school us in a process of spiritual learning. At least, that analogy is a much more apt one than the justice system analogy that has been promoted by most religions.
For this reason, there is no genuine form of punishment for failing badly in any particular life. That failure is its own punishment, and has consequences to be sure in that we are "held back" and must repeat various lessons until we get them right, but there is no sense in which we are literally going to have to pay for having done something bad in a past life. That idea is an old misunderstanding that has become embedded in religious and spiritual thought because it perpetuates certain myths and patterns that humans have found comfort in, rather than because they are true. One can see how that illusion could seem logical to us, in that it simply creates a distortion of the spiritual process of reincarnation that makes some sense to many people who take this world to be the model for spiritual truth. They see the cause and effect patterns of the material world, and think the whole of spiritual reality operates in the same way. But it does not.
As I've said before, the more dimensions of reality one examines simultaneously, the less they are found to operate on the basis of cause and effect. Looking at the reincarnational model, therefore, involves looking at two major dimensions of reality and their interelationship,and in so doing, the strict causal model already begins to break down. One can see that it is not so rigid at all, but operates more like an educational system where causes and effects are moderated by one's own conscious learning, and not by some automated legal system of "laws". The laws which do operate in this relationship are more akin to the rules of a classroom, and not that of the halls of justice. One is not punished for getting things wrong, both literally and morally. Rather, that merely holds one back from growing and prospering. This is a lessening of the logic of cause and effect, but not its elimination altogether, which only occurs as one begins to see even this process from a more inclusive viewpoint that takes even more of the levels of existence into account. Of course, even then, the model of the school or a "learning process" remains valuable, The sense of what is fair changes more and more, but the basic concept of fairness itself remains intact, it merely shifts its context as one looks deeper and deeper into the karmic game.
Stepping out of the karmic viewpoint is thus even a part of the "plan", one could say. It's a form of graduation from the illusions of this world. However, it does not necessarily require full master of all karmic possibilities. One can begin to step out at time or place in the karmic wheel, which in itself never ends, but simply cycles us back and forth through all levels of learning and mastery, which can never become perfected in themselves. We can indeed repeat the same levels of learning over and over again if we wish, gaining deeper and deeper mastery of each level or place, and never actually graduate. Old souls are not necessarily more interested in graduating from the karmic round of appearances than younger, less capable souls. So the purpose of non-dual teachings is not about gaining greater mastery over the karmic process, but about gaining freedom from it. That too operates as a kind of school, but of a different nature than karmic learning. It involves stepping out of the karmic pattern entirely, which is done by looking at all dimensions of existence equally, and not concentrating one's attention or viewpooint only within one, or within a small range, but looking at the whole. This entails recognizing that the spiritual cosmos as a whole does not operate by cause and effect at all. Instead, it operates by synchronized patterns of consciousness that all emanate from the same source.
If we look around us at the objects in a room, we will see all kinds of shapes and colors. We might imagine that each object radiates a particular "energy", and that this is what makes them appear as they do. If we look closer, however, we will see that there is only one genuine source of light in the room, and that it merely reflects those objects depending on the nature of the light. If we have a very bright light on in the room, things will appear bright, with of course some variations. If the room is lit by a red light, everything will appear reddish in color. If the light is flickering, the objects will appear to flicker. These patterns are not caused by one object in the room affecting the next, in some chain of causation, but by changes in the source light itself. In a similar way, the patterns of this manifest universe are not actually caused by the apparent objects in the universe acting upon one another, but by the pattern of light and energy at the source shifting and changing. The process if infinitely more complex and occurs on many more levels than the analogy of the lighted room could convey, but the principle is similar. The ever-shifting pattern at the subjective, conscious source of this universe creates the changing patterns we see all about us, not the interactions of those patterns themselves. They are in synch with one another, but they do not create that synchronicity through a cause and effect process. Rather, their relationship is at the source, and the similarity in their patterns originates in the source. At each level of manifestation, that pattern exhibits its own character and apparent connectivity, such that it appears at that level as if causation and randomness were what connected each changing pattern, but neither is the case. The source-light is the only thing that changes, and it creates a natural harmony at all levels of manifestation. This synchronized harmony, however, is not visible if one's viewpoint is limited. Limited viewpoints make the mistake of seeing cause and effect as the ruling pattern of manifestation, when this is merely an illusion of perspective. In order to achieve true harmony and thus a true viewpoint on reality, one's viewpoint must include the source-light itself, otherwise one will always be fooled into thinking some causal, karmic process is at work. If one fails to see the source-light, one can't imagine how the objects in the room could possibly be connected other than by causation. But seeing the source-light clarifies the entire picture.
This is why the most important part of our learning is to become familiar with the source of our existence, and not merely to observe the process of appearance in and of itself. If we look to the source as much as possible, it will clarify the many optical illusions created by partial viewpoints. Karma is one of those illusions that seem sensible from a limited perspective, but which begins to evaporate once we look at a larger and larger picture. When our viewpoint begins to include the source-light itself, then everything begins to fall apart and simultaneous come together. We begin to see that cause and effect paths cannot possibly reveal to us the truth or reality, but will only perpetuate illusions in a perpetual cycle of seeming causes that never end up producing the ultimately desired effect of genuine happiness and freedom. The understanding of the world as a karmic cycle of caises and effects cannot possibly lead to liberation from that cycle, therefore, but only to its perpetuation.
We must come to understand the world as being uncaused, and uncreated, in order to find genuine liberation. We must recognize that the source-light "creates" the world in reality, and not through some process of cause and effect that trickles down from the source, but through a process of simultaneous synchronicity, at all levels and in all worlds. Knowing the source si therefore the key to liberation, not knowing how to create effects from the right set of causes. Therefore, there is no method of causation that brings about liberation, but only insight into the nature of the source and its relationship to manifestation.
I would also like to make it clear that this understanding is not some special form of esoteric knowledge only suited for special people. It's just the basic truth about this world and its source. There's no particular reason why anyone couldn't begin to understand it and operate from this understanding. It doesn't negate the basic practical knowledge achieved within any level of existence, or even between levels. It merely relates these levels properly to their source, and orients us to the unifying principle that actually does create this world we live in.
What is that unifying principle? It's nothing more or less than simple love. We can speak of love in many ways, but when understood in relationship to the source, we must recognize that love is at the very root of manifest existence, and it radiates to every part of it simultaneously, not as a process of cause and effect, but as instantaneous harmony. That harmony is not only evident from one aspect of existence to the next, but is most direct evident in relationship to the source. That relationship to the source is what is called love. That is why religion so often speaks of the source in devotional terms. Even non-dual teachings, which tend to use various impersonal abstractions in their language, are all based on the process of deepening love for the source. The experience of love, at any level, represents a basic freedom from cause and effect, and an immediate relationship to the acausal source. That is why love is so precious to us. It instantly penetrates the veils of karma, and relieves us of the heartless burdens of our past actions. Love transforms us at the heart of our existence, by revealing to us the source from which all of manifestation flows. The more deeply we love, the more deeply we are liberated from the karmic cycle, therefore. The process of learning non-dualism, therefore, is entirely about love.
Love does not operate by causes and effects, but by a spontaneous, synchronized harmony with the source of creation, which is not causal in nature at all. The uncreated "buddh", the unborn, is not something that is far away and disassociated from the manifest worlds, it is merely outside the illusion of cause and effect. It is the very heart of the reality of manifestation, which is love, and not some disassociated "emptiness". It is empty of causes and effects, and entities which see themselves as part of that chain of causes and effects, but it is not empty of love of the source-light.This love of our source is all that it realizes and understands, and by understanding the source, all understanding appears in synchronicity with it. We need not accumulate knowledge, therefore, or methods which can produce effects, but we need only love our mutual source and they will manifest themselves spontaneously in the natural course of things. This may take the appearance of causes and effects to those not including the source in their viewpoint, but that is not evidence that causation is the process of how existence works. Love is how existence "works", and by loving we are able to live in harmony with the source, and thus to experience the nature of the source in the midst of its mysteriously manifesting process, which is not properly understood by causal logic.
The best non-dual practice, therefore, is to put loving attention upon the source of our own existence. Self-enquiry is about love, therefore, and not merely some disassociated process of self -inspection. There is no genuine self-enquiry apart from love of the source, and thus love of all others as manifestations of the same source. This is what it means to love all others as one's very Self. It's important to understand such teachings in an acausal manner, however, because looked at by the logic of causation they would make little sense, and even be false. Following the chain of causation, one only finds oneself trapped in endless loops of effects. By stepping outside of causation, and looking to the source-light that illuminates the world, one is able to drive directly to the source. This is far more effective than any method aimed at producing effects themselves, paradoxically, because it bypasses the time necessary for an effect to be produced. It goes to the source of time, and makes use of the process by which time itself is synchronized to all appearances.
Therefore, it is said that love takes no time at all. And for the same reason, enlightenment takes no time either. This is because it isn't the effect of some cause. It steps entirely outside the time-frame of causes and their effects. It may appear to occur within time, but it does not. The source-light is not visible as an object in the room, it is the light which makes all things appear. It does not appear in time, therefore, but is the source of time. It synchronizes all forms of time, such that all things appear in harmony with one another. Even causes and their effects are harmonized naturally by this process. Even when enlightenment appears to be synchronized with some effect, some teaching incident or the grace of a Guru, it is not caused by any of these - any more than loving someone is caused by anything they did. One loves spontaneously, through recognition of the source, and this allows us our greatest moments of freedom and happiness. The love which is the real nature of enlightenment similarly manifests spontaneously, and not by any method or cause, other than the method of not resorting to any cause.
This is why living by grace is the key to spiritual practice. Genuine spiritual life is uncaused, is spontaneous, is free of any method, is a manifestation of the source. To live by grace, however, does not mean being dependent on some causal source who will make things happen for us by responding to our prayers. It means recognizing that no causes actually exist, and that everything happens by grace, not just "miracles". It means stepping out of the "world as we know it", because what we know is causes and effects, karma, and the source is not a part of that world, because it's an illusion, not the real world at all. In the real world, there are no causes and effects, only a spontaneously synchronized harmony with the source-light. To live in that world requires only that we understand and surrender to our own source.