In Tune with Infinity

Yoga and Relaxation –  Tony Crisp

The way of Karma and rebirth – Karma Yoga – Chapter 6

“For, (over and over again) there is nothing that is evil except because a man has not mastery over it; and there is no good thing that is not evil if it have mastery over a man; And there is no passion or power, pleasure or pain, or created thing whatsoever, which is not ultimately for man and for his use or which he need be afraid of or ashamed at.

The ascetics and the self indulgent divide things into good and evil – as it were to throw away the evil;

But things cannot be divided into good and evil, but all are good so soon as they are brought into subjection.

And seest thou not that except for Death thou couldst never overcome Death?

For since by being a slave to things of sense thou hast clothed thyself with a body which thou art not master of, thou wert condemned to a living tomb were that body not to be destroyed. But now through pain and suffering out of this tomb shalt thou come; and through the experience thou hast acquired shalt build for thyself a new and better body;

And so on many times, till thou spreadest wings and hast all powers diabolic and angelic concentrated in thy flesh.”

In this wonderful piece of writing, taken from “Secret of Time and Satan,” Edward Carpenter expresses clearly and beautifully the ideas of Karma and rebirth.

In several places the word Karma has already been used, but now an attempt will be made to explain something of Karma Yoga. According to the Yoga teachings, whether we realise it or not, we are subject to the workings of Karma in our life, just as we are subject to the laws of polarity.

Through a deeper understanding of Karma, and a co-operation with its workings, the yogi attains union with the absolute. First of all the word can be summed up by the biblical phrase, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” However, this is not, and must never be thought of as some describe it, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

Put in another way Karma can be described as the experiencing in events and circumstances, of that which is within us of our own attitudes of mind and emotion. The things we have done do not count for so much as the motivations that led to the action. Carpenter has described what we call the evil side of our experience, as a direct confrontation with our own weakness and also as an immediate opportunity to develop that weakness into a strength. Elsewhere in “The Secret of Time and Satan,” he writes, “And the power that thou now hast (such as it is) to build up this present body, thou hast acquired in the past, in other bodies; and again, so in the future shalt thou use again the power that thou now acquirest.”

In describing the formative part one’s inner attitudes and desires play in our Karma, he writes, “So if thou seekest fame or ease or pleasure or aught for thyself, the image of that thing which thou seekest will come and cling to thee – and thou wilt have to carry it about;

And the images and powers which thou hast thus evoked will gather round and form for thee a new body clamouring for sustenance and satisfaction; And if thou art unable to discard this image now, thou -wilt not be able to discard that body then: but wilt have to carry it about.” Near the end he says, “And the pains I endured in one body were powers which I wielded in the next.” Even in these few words one can already see a detailed and deep commentary upon Karma Yoga, its practice and results. But let us delineate it for more clarity.

Karma is the law of cause and effect. If we take poison, we will either suffer pain or cause the body to die. If we never exercise our body sufficiently the result will be a poor muscular system, resulting in a less efficient circulation, which will influence the whole body. If we cannot forgive or forget an action against us that hurt, we will continually suffer the pain of that experience. If we believe deep in us that our sensual impressions and sensations are us, then we will be continually torn this way and that by sensual desires. -If in doing something in life, such as starting a business, saving money, seeking pleasure, pursuing an art, we become -possessed by it, the result is that we cannot stop that pursuit even if we wish, even if it now causes terrible pain. All this is Karma.

Every doctor will see in his patients all, and more, of these conditions. The person has become a slave to part of themselves that ought never have been given the reins of mastery. Consider for example, the businessman who handed over control of his fate to his own ambition. Now, in later life, when all of the desires of his personal self have been fulfilled, and he has money, security and opportunity in plenty, he cannot stop working even though it is killing him and destroying his relationship with his family. This is his Karma, he is reaping the seed sown.

There is the woman who has become suspicious, grasping and neurotic because the dictatorship of her fate was early given to her emotions and fears and now she is their slave. Consider again, how the ageing sensualist, no longer so able to gain pleasure through his body as in youth, is terrified now of death and decay and the fleeing possibilities of his body. This is Karma. Though the start of a particular fear or attitude may have been an event in the past, in the pre-sent it is with us as a general motive and tendency.

What were, or rather are, the seeds of your own present experience? For remember, Karma is not about retribution. Immediately one forgives, immediately the businessman, woman or sensualist hands back mastery to its proper place, they are free of their self-caused experience, though it is not usually as simple as that after a lifetime’s Occupation.

Karma is ever at work in our lives, shaping our future from the past and present. Our actions at this moment create our future experience. Suppose that there is something at the top of a house that one wishes to get. If one climbs the stairs one reaches it. If one remains at the bottom it is still beyond us. At first the object to be reached is a part of one’s future and its possibilities. If one climbs the stairs -then one’s present actions have put us in touch with that which awaits. If we remain below, still one’s present actions have influenced one’s future, but negatively.

One can then ask, what lies behind the action of climbing or staying? Surely it is the moods or attitudes we are immersed in. Let us put it this way. The cause of our present experience, if it be painful, is due to all our actions of body, mind and emotion that are out of harmony with the source of our being. Therefore, as already stressed, it is not through -action arising from our conscious self or latent tendencies -that we win back the peace that passeth understanding. It is by going about our everyday tasks without being moved by the tendencies that have proved in our own life experience to be full of painful possibilities. It is through doing nothing, refraining from being moved by our past masters, that our harmony is re-established. It is by allowing the control of our activities to be the whole self.

This is not a giving up of all outer activity; but simply a recognition that we, our vital selves, are not those things we experience. Thus, the businessman is not ambitious-he only experiences ambition. The woman is not her emotions and fears-she only experiences emotions and fears. The sensualist is not the feelings and appetites of the body, he only experiences them. The pain only comes when, deep down, we say I” am ambitious, or emotional, or sensual, and therefore, if I give up, or lose these things “I” will cease to exist. For when we feel a thing is us, if that thing is threatened, we feel we are threatened also.

For this reason we see political, religious or materialistic factions fighting and killing when the things they have ‘given their life to’ are threatened. In this way men have killed their own parents, family, children, friends, and themselves. This is Karma.

It is also interesting to note that recent researches into car accidents, have amazed the researchers by showing that, in fact, there are probably no such things as pure accidents. After carefully questioning and examining those in “accidents,” it is found that there are certain emotions, feelings of insecurity or other attitudes in these people, making them accident prone.

As far as Yoga is concerned, our inner state predisposes us to certain experiences. Life is a unity, no one, nothing is accidental. We are led toward an event because of our inner needs or conditions. This applies, tragically -enough, even to children who are raped, assaulted, or murdered.

In some societies, even today, such as the Hunzas, serious crimes are unknown. After all, Karma in its negative phase of pain, cannot occur unless individuals or societies have transgressed against themselves in some way. An examination of the Hunzas will show how true this is.

It has been emphasised that our present condition is due to our Karma. With this realisation it does not matter whether we believe the Yoga teaching of reincarnation (the immersion into matter, again and again, of the vital principle). Reincarnation is not the rebirth of Tom or Mary in –a fresh body, it is the re-embodiment of the vital principle that produced Tom and Mary. Therefore, if that which was Tom, re-embodies itself as Christopher, Christopher would not realise himself as Tom unless he became aware of the vital part of his own being that had experienced life as Tom also. In any case, we can now say that Karma equals the sum total of our self. This sum total of our self is experienced outwardly as events and circumstances, and inwardly as state of mind, emotion, and also abilities, weakness, genius or degeneracy. If we cannot believe in past lives as conditioning the circumstances of our present birth (i.e. whether born crippled, healthy, musical, weak willed or strong) then we must either accept that the actions of others in the past, our parents, forebears, have led to this or that it is just “accident.” Whatever we believe, we can begin to experience that a change of attitude brings about changes within ourselves, and in outer events. In this way we may assure ourselves that our experiences in life are a reflection of ourselves. Next time you are out, look at the faces about you. See how certain expressions, certain moods, often of a painful nature, are engrained into the features of those around you. Look at your own face, asking yourself, “what do I reflect? How am I shaping my own life?”

One so often hears it said that the degenerate, evil, untruthful, grasping, “get away with it while the good suffer.” History shows the error of this enormous untruth. Even in our own times how many perverse dictators have ‘got away with it” for long? One can of course pick people who seem to smile in the face of their own evil, but in measuring them as a success or failure, our standards of measurement seem to be all wrong. If a man succeeds in making money despite his evil tendencies people say, “Just look at him. Now where is your Karma?” They say this as if money, power, the lack of physical pain, were the acme of peace and fulfilment. Look closely to see what is written upon the faces of those people. As Carpenter says, the images of the things they sought and the way in which they sought them, “cling” to them.

There is, however, no need to take another’s word for it, look at your own life-deeply! Look at the lives of those about you. From real life one can draw so many pictures of -Karma; like the man who sold a friend a motor bike that he had been almost given, for a large profit. Sometime later he bought a car which as soon as he paid his money, broke down. Despite spending a great deal on repairs, it never amounted to much, and in the end he had to pay to have it towed away. His words were, “How could anybody do that; sell me a car that was worthless.”

The surprising thing about it all is that people can go for so long without seeing that life cannot be cheated or deceived. For individual, social and national Karma calls us to account. Karma Yoga then, recognises that all our acts and motives out of harmony with our Source, collect upon us like parasites. They divert our life-giving energy into themselves. Being now unable to relate fully to our surroundings, -(because our energies are in-turned instead of going out of us to contact things) we suffer frustration, lack of communication and pain. For really we do not receive anything from outside of ourselves. what we receive in this way is only a reflection of our own Outgoing light, outgoing energies or feelings. Therefore, when our love flows out to others, it appears to us that we are much loved. While the person who cannot express his own love, even if surrounded by loving persons, feels lonely and unloved. The feeling of love is turned back upon itself by envy, or selfishness and the other blocks. Likewise the other fulfilling aspects of our being can be turned upon themselves, and cannot mate with the receptive objects of our life. Here is the cause of our fate, our disease or illness.

As with all the other Yoga methods, the task of Karma Yoga is to free our energies that they may realise themselves. As we are our energies, this amounts to self-realisation.

At the very start of his practice, the Karma Yogi has to admit very definitely that the experiences of his or her life are not accidents, that they are a reflection of themselves. This is a terribly difficult thing to do for many, as it naturally points to one’s own wilfulness or ignorance as the cause of one’s own suffering. The Catholic practice of confession is very near to this, but still not quite such a full admission of responsibility. The inner effect of even beginning to admit this, is a growing maturity, humility, and a sense of responsibility, but if we still blame a capricious fate for our position in life, we are neither responsible, humble or mature.

Looking at life in this way, the Karma Yogi also begins to understand the complexities of his own nature, its triumphs and weaknesses as he sees them reflected in his circumstances. The difficulties or pleasures of his marriage, work, health, will be seen as the things learnt or to be learnt. Pain will be seen as a merciful barrier preventing one from straying too far in activities destructive to one’s wholeness. while the trials of our life will be valued as wonderful opportunities to build into our nature new powers and pleasures. For the power developed in dealing with the trials of our life would never have been ours in an Uneventful life. It is as if the unpromising exterior of our problems, when worked upon, yields up a wonderful jewel.

So looking into the lives of others, we will no longer measure, their success or fulfilment by their finances, their house or their public acclaim. Our scale of measurement will be how well they have faced their circumstances. In what degree have they unveiled the wonder and promise of their own pain and trial. Or, whether they have learnt to stand back from self-interest, and act in the world from their sense of unity and oneness.

Having admitted the responsibility for his own circumstance, good or bad, the Karma Yogi balances this with something else. For it is paradoxical that while we are living creatures, life is not ours. We can take the example of money, which while it passes through our hands is not ours, but has the government’s or ruler’s sign upon it. We can spend it or hoard it, wisely or foolishly. We can use it as a token to help or destroy others or ourselves. Just so do we spend the energies of our lives. Yet whether we succeed or fail according to our own judgement, we have to admit that we will never properly understand the meaning of our actions or inactions. Neither does anything that we have done have meaning or existence outside of THAT-the ultimate reality, which we may not even have glimpsed. So our success or failure even, is not our own, but belongs to THAT. Our wisest course being to become a silent watcher of the spectacle of life, neither uplifted, nor thrown down by the events of our life. For that which we call “I” has arisen from the mists of time. And who knows from what source our -present actions have arisen, or what they will lead to?

Offering all we are to THAT in self-surrender is humility. This balances our sense of responsibility. Accepting responsibility for one’s actions; realising one’s circumstances as a reflection of self; humble and unattached in the opposites of life, this is Karma Yoga.

This is all very well, one may say, but I am still very human. Not only do I find it difficult to see how all the events of my life have arisen from my own attitudes, but to be humble and unattached seems to be beyond my capabilities. What can I do?

Each of us can only start the path to Yoga from the very point where we are. This means to say that we may be -totally unwilling to accept any of the principles mentioned. Or it may mean that something in us would like to, or even does, accept such principles, but finds it difficult or impossible to abide by them. Or else one both accepts, and to some extent abides by them naturally or with a little effort.

In answer to such people as may find themselves in these situations, the Karma Yogi would advise as follows. Firstly, belief is not asked for the Yoga principles. They are either true explanations of what exists; partially true; or untrue. If they are true or partially true, your belief is not needed, for if you simply watch the events of your life carefully they will become self-evident. If they do not become self-evident with observation, then one was wise to refrain from accepting them. If one watches and they become self-evident but one still refuses to act differently, one’s own painful experiences will eventually provide enough energy, humility and courage to change; again, supposing the principles are a reflection of actuality.

Should one accept to some measure but find it difficult to align one’s unruly nature to accordance, do not despair. The events of our life, if they are a reflection of self, are a sort of spontaneous healing process, a natural form of inner -evolution. Karma is constantly facing us with the very situation and circumstance we most need. Therefore, we have only to live through the events and circumstances of our life as wisely as we are able, and we are dealing with ourselves. For the very act of living is a self-revelation. The wise man reveals himself by living in accord with his nature, and experiencing joy, but the fool, by his own pain, is also revealing his true nature, even if he will not admit the lesson of his suffering. Our revelation occurs whatever our condition. Unfortunately, it is only the wise man who learns from his pain and his joy. The foolish learn from neither, believing that their experiences are aught but accidents of fate.

The Karma Yogi attempts to release upon his outer life whatever he has glimpsed of his eternal nature. Thus, if during his meditation he sees that the eternal within him is unchanged, unmoved by all the swirling events of his life, he tries to hold this in consciousness as he meets the conditions of his existence. If he sees that the eternal is timeless, then he allows this vision to unfold patience in him. If he sees also that the eternal is selfless, then he gradually allows his grasping for self to drop away. In this way he slowly begins to express more of his own eternal nature, Unchanging, Timeless and Selfless.

He does not do this as a terrible denial of self as some people do, but because it becomes self-evident. There are very few pieces of literature that express this as clearly as Kipling did when he wrote:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;

If you can think-and not make thought your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you. but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And-which is more-you’ll be a Man, my son!

So the Karma Yogi looks out upon his experiences as the great book of life, unveiling to him the mystery of his own being. while as he reads the secrets of life, he allows what he has learnt of THAT, to come into his life and transform it. Thus the hidden acts upon the revealed, transmuting the base metal of our nature into gold, so that the outer is one with the inner, and both have union in THAT.

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