Reincarnation, or punarjanma as it is called in Sanskrit, is the principle of rebirth in which a person’s jiva progresses through many births on its path to moksha, or liberation. Hindu Dharma preaches that while death may destroy the body, the jiva is immortal—it never dies. The jiva is intrinsically pure, but because of the layers of desires and ignorance of ‘I-ness’ and ‘my-ness,’ it goes through transmigration in the cycle of births and deaths, which is refered to as samsar. At the time of death, the jiva takes on another body with respect to its karmas. Every karma performed produces a result which must be experienced either in this life or the next.
As long as the jiva is warped in maya, it remains attached to material desires and is subject to the cycle of births and deaths. According to the Purãnas, the jiva passes through 8,400,000 different births, which includes all of the phyla in the animal and plant kingdoms, before it attains a human form. Depending on our karmas, our jiva will regress into a lower life form due to base karmas or progress into a higher life form due to righteous karmas. A jiva’s birth into a human body is the highest and rarest of all births. In a human birth, the jiva’s main purpose is to worship God in order to achieve moksha and to free itself from maya and the cycle of births and deaths.