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Karma: What Every Aspiring Yogi Needs to Know

karma - what goes around comes around

A selection on Understanding Karma, from Perspective on Yoga, a new book to be published later this year.

Everything, without exception, material, or immaterial, arises from a cause, and is a revelation of that cause. Because of this, everything has a meaning.

Those who believe in karma should carefully analyze their life situation in order to understand what kind of actions from the past are coming to fruition now and to see what their minds were like in that past. The real lesson to be learned is that just as the present is created by the past, the future is created by the present, sometimes combined with elements from the past.

Before, we were unaware that we were creating the future, but now we do know, and can take complete charge of our destiny. The best thing, of course, is to “fry” the karmic seeds through yoga sadhana.

The key to understanding

The knowledge of cause and effect is an absolute necessity if we are going to understand anything about our life. Those that do not understand about karma and rebirth have no idea why they are here and how they should live. All the religiosity in the world cannot substitute for practical spiritual knowledge.

Consider how the “one lifers” lay all the blame for human suffering and misery at God’s door rather than rightly attributing it to human action (karma). So they claim that all this mess is “God’s will” supposedly “for a reason.”
Buddha meditating

Buddha and the Law of Karma

Buddha stated the essence in the Four Aryan Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause of suffering. Suffering can end. There is a way to end suffering. The power behind all four of these statements is insight into the Law of Karma. Otherwise we keep whirling and suffering.

It is our karma that brings us here and takes us away, until enlightenment frees us and we leave of our own liberated will.

Many think of karma as a kind of cosmic force that operates upon all, that human beings are helplessly subject to karmic retribution/reaction. Karma is often a bugaboo they use to frighten their childish students. But if the seeds of jnana are operative in them they will come to realize that karma is completely within the mind of each one of us, that karma is the mind in operation, and that we are moment by moment creating our inner and outer environment.

This is fundamental truth: we create our future totally–no one else. This is why karma must be grasped fully and kept in mind at all times in order to have a right understanding of where we are, what we are, and why we are.

Karma: the force that determines our births

It is karma and the level of evolution that determines the birth of all beings. Not only that, the soul is attracted by those who are like it in karma, samskara and basic character.

Paramhansa Yoganandya-The Last SmileYogananda said that when a man and woman engage in sexual relations an astral light emanates from their base (muladhara) chakras. Highly evolved people emit bright light, whereas those of low development emit a dim and murky light. Souls waiting to be born are attracted by that light, but unless the light is completely harmonious with them, they turn back and only those that are compatible with the light will come near and try to enter and be conceived.

No matter how rebellious a child may be in relation to his parents, if there was not a powerful affinity (even if it is bad karma and enmity carried over from past lives) with them he could never have become their child.

All the evil and good that comes to us comes from ourselves: from the karma we created in the past. So we alone harm and we alone help ourselves. What about “grace”? Karma is grace, as is everything.

The powerful karma of prayer

People pray and good comes to them. Praying is the karmic seed and receiving the good is the fruition of the seed. Just to turn to God and holy people for help is powerful karma.

roy acuff on a stampWithout good karma people do not even think of God in time of trouble. That is why the American country singer, Roy Acuff, wrote in his song “Wreck on the Highway.”

Who did you say it was brother?
Who was it fell by the way?
When whiskey and blood run together,
Did you hear anyone pray?

I didn’t hear nobody pray, dear brother,
I didn’t hear nobody pray.
I heard the crash on the highway
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

When I heard the crash on the highway
I knew what it was from the start.
I went to the scene of destruction
And a picture was stamped on my heart.

There was whiskey and blood all together
Mixed with glass where they lay.
Death played her hand in destruction,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

I wish I could change this sad story
That I am now telling you,
But there is no way I can change it,
For somebody’s life is now through.

Their soul has been called by the Master.
They died in a crash on the way.
And I heard the groans of the dying,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

I didn’t hear nobody pray, dear brother,
I didn’t hear nobody pray.
I heard the crash on the highway,
But I didn’t hear nobody pray.

The power of thought

Thought is the most powerful tool of the human being and creates the most powerful form of karma, especially in the form of samskaras and vasanas that determine our life path from life to life. This is why Jesus said that evil mental desire and intention are themselves real deeds. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Thinking evil but not doing evil overtly does not make a person good, because thinking is doing and every evil thought is an evil deed. We often excuse ourselves because we do not realize (or accept) that this is the truth.

Blaming others

We may say that another person is the cause of our being good or evil, but that is not true. Rather, it is our attunement to that person which evokes either good or evil from within us. In other words, it is our thoughts and attention to that person which causes us to begin vibrating to their subtle levels. We do not absorb good or evil from them, but we reproduce in ourselves their qualities by an act of highly subtle will. Furthermore, their qualities evoke the same qualities buried in our subconscious, so they surface and will eventually manifest in our outer life.

This is why we should avoid as much as possible all ignorant, negatively oriented, undisciplined, irreligious and outright evil people. The wise yogi may have to work with them, but he goes home, closes his door and is alone with God. And when he becomes really good, those people will avoid him.

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