By October 1, 2012 1 Comments Read More →

Learning to Live with Your Karma

Christina Sarich, Contributing Writer
Waking Times 

“Doctrines of reincarnation are neither absurd nor useless. It is not more surprising to be born twice than once.” Voltaire

“The reservoir of Karmas (as in artificial lake, or one that we created) which are rooted in Kleshas bring a myriad of experiences in our present and future lives.” Yoga Sutra 2.12, Patanjali

Many of us wish we could remember our past lives. Some of us are certain there is no evidence that past lives exist. In the book Soul Survivor, a rather poignant case is made for multiple lives, but even if you are still unsure if this is true, your temperament and gifts, your desires and struggles, strongly suggest who you were before coming to this incarnation. The great yogic sage, Patanjali, points to this fact in his Yoga Sutras. He is convinced you have had many lifetimes to experience a multiplicity of things.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda

There are many people who come to this life with dreams, both happy and sad, of lives they’ve lived before. In yogic terms, these emotions color our experience here and now. The kleshas are how our thoughts are colored. Primarily, there are three kleshas or nyon mongs (in Tibetan), kilesa (in the Pali language): attachment, aversion and ignorance. All states of mind are included in the kleshas, however, just as there are different types of weather. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, jealousy, desire, depression, etc. are also kleshas. While many English translators call kleshas defilements or destructive emotions, Eastern philosophies, including Theraveda Buddhism and Tibetan Yoga, consider them, simply, obstacles to true wisdom, or unerring intelligence. Even doubt and restlessness are included in these ‘obstacles.’

So, if we come into this life with certain tendencies to think in a certain way, then how can we overcome our karma instead of just carry it over our shoulders like a heavy bag of boulders? A term called nirodha, from the Sanskrit language, meaning cessation [of suffering], is the key. We use mindfulness in order to take the color away from our kleshas. It is like whiting out all thoughts which lead to suffering, until there is only pure light.

Some of us unload our karma all at once through an act of incredible grace, such as is explained in the experiences of St. Teresa of Avila, but most of us un-color our karmic impressions very gradually. This is the main focus of yoga. Its tools were meant to be used to eliminate the versions of false self that we have grown accustom to. We all do most things in life as a reaction or habit. Very rarely do we see each moment as it truly is, uncolored by the thick karmic glasses we are wearing. St. Teresa came into this incarnation very sickly and was often bed-ridden, but through her devotion (a form of yoga, called bhakti) she overcame her illness and experienced spiritual nirvana. She was so incredibly full of bliss that the priests of her Catholic faith wanted to excommunicate her because they could not explain her orgasmic-like awakening. Eventually, she was named a saint, but not after much confusion about what she was experiencing in her body, which was essentially an overcoming of her karma.

“I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” – Socrates

The kleshas gradually dissolve through many practices, including pranayama, mantra repetition, selfless service (called karma yoga for those who are restless), and asana, as well as through cleansing practices like the yogic master cleanses or eating a mostly vegetarian, organic diet. Primarily, though, the karmic impressions are cleansed through deep meditation, or prayer. Meditation has been called the listening part of spirituality and prayer the speaking part. While it is important to pray, one can find relief from karmic impressions most quickly through meditation.

This can be challenging when one first tries to change the kleshas, or thought patterns, because they are often so deeply entrenched. The irony is that once you start to meditate, they all come rushing up to the surface, like impatient school children, to be given attention, so sitting in meditation seems very counter-intuitive. How can you calm such a restless mind, after all? If you stay with sitting in stillness, though, and with observing the breath and letting thoughts pass without attachment, or concentrate on developing compassion or any of the many other types of meditation from numerous philosophical traditions (Zazen, Vipassana, Transcendental or TM, walking or moving meditation, breath awareness, guided journey, vibrational meditation using sacred sounds like mantra or 432 hz, the Schumann frequency, etc.), you will start to feel as if the unruly school children are ready for a nap, or at least a quiet rest under a tree. Your kleshas will become less and less arduous to slough off. Once our soul learns as many lessons as it can in its current form, it goes to other habitations – literally, other habits, but hopefully, a lifetime that is less burdened by emotions that are non-productive. Our bag of boulders becomes a bit like a sack of pebbles, or even more apropos, a Zen rock cairn, turning a once-burden into beauty.

“The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew… it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • Phyl

    Arcturian Group –
    …Every life time an individual has, adds to an accumulation of experiences which eventually lead to spiritual (not religious) evolution. In the process, many may appear to have wasted their opportunities for growth but it matters not, for all experience teaches, and every individual will eventually remember and unite with their true selves at some point. There is no time, and those not yet ready for ascension will have another time.

    In lifetimes prior to this one, individuals incarnated having chosen one or two issues to be learned or resolved. However this time, because of the powerful shift taking place on earth, all who are serious about their spiritual growth and wishing to be a part of the new energy, came in with a much longer list of all needing to be finished, experienced, or learned quickly. Which is why so many of you have felt like your lives seem to be a series of moving from one issue to another.

    Some of you brought lessons of karmic completion with either one or many. As a result, you have found yourselves in relationships that were often problematic from the beginning. As you were intuitively guided to lovingly work through the issues, the old energy was balanced, released, and finished. Others came in to experience and learn specific lessons of the third dimensional energy still needing to be learned.

    The most powerful and the hardest lesson in this evolution is learning to look within instead of without. Learning through lifetimes of painful experiences and disappointment, that completeness and true happiness can never be found in person, place, thing. This is the barrier from third dimensional energy in to the fifth. Many spiritually ready to make this jump in awareness have found themselves in relationships of all sorts that seem to have stopped working, leaving them heartbroken and wondering what happened. Or in another scenario, they may have fulfilled their material goals in every way but still feel empty and unhappy. Some may suddenly lose everything they have.

    There are an infinite number of ways to learn that the “kingdom is within”, and for the beginner soul, most of them are difficult and often very painful but at some point in the evolutionary journey, the lessons begin to come by grace and not through pain and suffering. It is important to state; “I choose to learn gently and easily” because out there in the human matrix of world beliefs is the belief that spiritual learning must be done through suffering. Much of mankind’s’ suffering is brought about through trying to hold on to something that is finished in the belief that it holds one’s happiness.

    Every soul chooses before incarnating into “earth school”, those experiences that will eventually guide him into a state of consciousness that knows all reality is in and of the One omnipresent Consciousness. Because this Divine Consciousness is all there is, it must also be individual consciousness. Completeness , wholeness, intelligence, wisdom, abundance, and all the infinite qualities of Source lie sleeping within ITS manifestation and gradually awaken onto conscious awareness over lifetimes. The Higher Self of each individual never sleeps and has never forgotten who it is, and so the journey must always move forward even if at times it is with baby steps.

    We tell you these things because you are at a crucial point in your journey now. All that is left to be cleared and released is quickly coming to the surface. Do not fight it, but rejoice in the realization that what may look to the world as failure, is graduation dear ones, graduation.

    We are the Arcturian Group

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