Her question got a lot of people to weigh in with their comments, even me.
At first I resisted the temptation to leave a comment. It's too big a topic to address in the comments section of someone else's blog. In the end, though, I left a comment. Here is what I wrote:
Wow. Big topic. But I cannot resist attempting to answer your question in such a laconic format, so here I go.
Quoting myself from last Monday's MindfulHeart post:
"I'm among those who recognize the fact that the vast majority of people throughout history have believed in some form of reincarnation. I'm not prepared to dismiss the vast majority of human experience simply because there's no scientific basis for ancient wisdom's belief in an afterlife.
And, perhaps, there IS is a scientific basis for such a belief...
Physicists say that some 90% of the universe is composed of dark matter about which we know very little.
Perhaps this dark matter hides heavenly realms?"
The Dalai Lama believes in reincarnation, and I'm willing to defer to his thinking on the matter. He's thought and written about this matter longer, harder, and with far more insight than I will ever be able to apply....
I'm happy to proceed in this life under the assumption that the actions I take today will affect future lifetimes. If this assumption proves to be true, my good behavior in this lifetime will pay off in future lifetimes. If the assumption proves to be wrong, I haven't lost anything valuable. Happiness, despite what corporations would like you to think, comes from deciding of your own free will to behave morally.
That said, I don't give this sort of speculation too much thought. It's plenty difficult simply to be the kind, thoughtful, non-judgmental person I wish to be.
In the Nikaya Sutras when the Buddha was asked questions like this, he avoided answering them. Speculating about the unknowable can serve as a distraction from attending to issues that need more urgent attention, like loving your kids or spouse.
How karma works across lifetimes when there is no self to begin with—as Buddhists insist—well, this is one of those paradoxes that, in my mind, can only be true.
Is there an afterlife? Yes, but don't worry about it.
Work instead in this present moment to be the kindest person you can be.