Understanding Karma and Becoming Free From Fear With Yoga
Christina Sarich, Contributing Writer
I am not the only one who has been delivered shocking and upsetting news. Sometimes our karma seems to come back to bite us so strongly that we can’t imagine what previous thoughts and deeds led to the culmination of this moment. It can’t possibly be my responsibility to deal with this kind of pain, this kind of emotional torture, this deep and dark moment that seems it will never pass. The problem with emotions of this density, this heaviness, is that they are literally very hard to carry. When we try to, we become tired, sick and sometimes even develop life threatening diseases.
Yoga gives us clues about how to drive out fear and guilt, anger and sadness. (Know, though, that all emotions come from either love or the absence of it.) Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Martin Luther King told us that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Mother Teresa said that, “words which do not give the light of Christ (ascended consiousness), increase the darkness.” Helen Keller lived in a world of literal darkness, but even she knew that, “faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” It often seems that someone else or something else has created our current emotional state. Karmic impressions can be very strong. A vasana is a recurring impression in the mind, or karmic seed. It can be very hard to burn these seeds out of our experience so that we can see the world in its true, perfect state. In order to understand how karma works, many ancient sages used the metaphor of archery to help people understand how thoughts become experience, and why, even when we feel as though we’ve done everything right, we still experience pain and suffering.
Indra Devi, the famous female disciple of Sri Krishnamacharya, tells us that “Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.”
When an archer takes an arrow from his quiver, and sets it against the bow to release it, he cannot take it back. Once his fingers release the bow string, the arrow goes hurtling through space for an intended destination. This is similar to how karma works. There are actually three kinds of karma, or thought impressions to digest, Sanchita, Kriyamana, and Prarabhda, but we will start with this simple archer’s analogy. Put simply, there are three types of arrows (or karma) – those in the hand, those in the quiver and those we’ve already let loose, which are flying through the air.
Our thoughts lead to decisions which lead to actions which lead to results. The results we are experiencing right now may be long-held, deep impressions from arrows we sent out long ago – and we are still dealing with the recycling emotions that transpire from sending those arrows out from a quivering bow. Carl Jung said that, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Karma translates literally from Sanskrit to mean ‘actions’. The life we experience today is the result of our actions from the past. It can be very difficult to face up to that fact. We often like to pretend we never shot the arrow in the first place, but we can’t take it back. What keeps us from re-experiencing the same situations repeatedly is choosing to send out different arrows (thoughts which become decisions which become actions which become results). It may take some time to experience the results of arrows sent from a bow long ago, but those results will, indeed occur. It is only through yoga and meditation that we can somewhat mitigate the results of past decisions and if nothing more, soften the emotional blow when those actions come home to roost in our present experience.
The Bhagavad Gita is actually narrated by a Sanjaya, a practitioner who was given the power to see things from a very wide perspective by Sage Vyasa. He could see things in the far future, so that he could measure his thoughts, words and deeds carefully, in order not to cause future harm to himself and others. He was much like an archer with x-ray vision. Only the arrows that resulted in peace, love, joy and happiness where let from his bow. No matter what type of fear or anguish we are experiencing in our current situation, we can let go of those emotions and choose to learn different ones. Our current thoughts, after all, are shaping our future experiences, even if they are in response to past karma. It can be a herculean effort to change these thoughts sometimes, but the responsibility lies within us completely. In closing, I offer this verse (72-73) from the ancient yogic text, The Bhagavad Gita,
If one-pointedness of mind is not gained, we shall not understand or profit by even the word of God. There are many in this world who ask but will not hear! There are others who sit in front of the master, but only physically — their mind is elsewhere. There are still others who, while listening, mentally carry on an argument, accepting some ideas and rejecting others. This multi-activity only tires them, preventing them from grasping the real meaning of the lesson imparted.
If you are, even now, suffering from the results of past karma, and they are very difficult to overcome, you have an enormous opportunity to burn some very deep karmic patterns. Some samskaras can be overturned and laid dormant forever if you just choose your current thoughts wisely. Use the tools of asana, pranayama, meditation and silent communion with your God (whichever your religion) to help minimize your current karma and change your future karma. If you stay stuck in the negative emotions which accompany the experience of past arrows, then you will forever aim at the same, unpleasant experience. You owe it to yourself, and your spiritual development to choose more wisely.
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.
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