Thursday, 11 July 2013

Why are we here?

In response to my previous post, someone asked me a question via a comment:

Dharma. Can you help me with this question? Incarnation. Why are we incarnated and what does this have to do with karma? Karon x

Gee Karon, ask me a tricky one next time why don't you!!!  :)

So anyway, my response ended up being too long for Blogger to take in a comment, so I thought I'd make it a full new entry. Haven't had one in a while...

So here we go...

Hi Karon. Not sure about 'help you out with a question'... I'm no authority ... but I can give you my opinion...

We are incarnated precisely because of karma. The physical plane is the plane of action, it's where karma plays out. Or at least where it is easiest to play out karma. 

You're probably not into football much, and neither am I, but this is what springs to mind: You can spend as much time as you like on the training ground, or in the dressing room talking about strategy, but you'll never get any results there. You have get on the pitch on a Saturday afternoon and take on your opponents, because that’s the way rules are written, You have to get in there and take part.

That's how it is with the universe. We can hover around between incarnations making plans, but unless we actually dive in and swim in it, it means nothing. I don't know why, other than to say that them's the rules! That's the way the universe is put together.

In fact, according to Hinduism, there are exceptions, and there are actually more efficient places for working off excesses of 'good' or 'bad' karma - heavens and hells. In yoga, heaven is place to avoid, because if you find yourself there, it means you have become to massively imbalanced with certain samskaras (karmic impressions), and you need to manifest in one of the heavens to work yourself back into a position of relative balance. From there, you can continue to work on your longer term karma (sanchita karma), back on the good old physical.

We touched on a point there...There are three types of karma: sanchita, prarabdha, and kriyamana.

Sanchita karma is all of your karma. It is the total net baggage of all unresolved karmic impressions that your own individual atman (soul for the sake of argument) has accrued since the beginning of time. No offence, but there's probably quite a lot of that :)

Prarabdha karma is that portion of sanchita karma that will have an impact on you in this lifetime. The rest of your sanchita karma is buried so deep, it will not, on its own and unprompted, be close enough to the surface of the lake to cause any noticeable ripples this time round. But prarabdha karma helps determine your lot in this life. If your favourite colour is blue, thats prarabdha karma. If you are female, that's prarabdha karma. If you are naturally active, lazy, creative, dour etc... that’s prarabdha karma. Also, if you get injured, ill, win the lottery and so on...

Kriyamana karma is the karma you create in this incarnation. Every time you act, speak or think, you are sending out ripples, and as we well know, every action etc... so the ripples you send outwards, also have an inwards effect. They add to your baggage...they become kriyamana karma in this life.

If you resolve kriyamana karma in the same incarnation you create it, then it has no lasting effect. New Agers call this 'instant karma'. If you don't, though, it will become prarabdha karma in your next life. If you keep doggedly refusing to act to resolve this new karma, it will eventually become sanchita karma, and just add to the heavy bags you carry from life to life.

So, we have all this karma, and are usually making more all the time. And the way the world works is that the only place you can smooth out these wrinkles is to incarnate here in the physical. So, the very fact that your atman is a writhing vortex of karmic knots and threads is what causes the atman to be physically incarnated. Because, just as if you release a gas into a space, it naturally expands to fill the space with a smooth, even distribution, so Nature wants to unwind all these knots that are making a mess of Her nice smooth karmic field.

What's special about human incarnation is that the equipment into which we are incarnated (brains and bodies) is highly enough developed to allow the atman to express a sense of its own existence, and to choose to act in ways other than those simply determined by karma.

Animal brains don't permit this (in the large - personally I believe there are exceptions). Animals incarnate in brains and bodies that are suited to expressing prarabdha karma. Human brains can do two extra things: they can learn to access sanchita karma, and they can learn to prevent the build up of kriyamana karma.

Yoga is a great way of achieving both of these things.

To access sanchita karma, we need to become very, very still and quiet. Once we have a great level of silence, we find all kinds of things arising from our 'subconscious' - sanchita karmas. And we then (hopefully) have the tools, through yoga, of dealing with these. Some of the most popular tools are models that give us a way of thinking about these things systematically. With systematic thought, we can think 'Oh, XYZ is happening, and this system tells me that this means ABC'. The Chakras, for example, are one such system. When we are working into the chakras, we are working into our sanchita karma, and the chakra system, developed by people who have been there and done it, gives us a way of dealing with what comes up.

As you know, there are may such systems.

The second thing a human incarnation gives us is the opportunity to avoid generating kriyamana karma.

There is great misunderstanding in this area in my view. Yes, it definitely means the yamas and the niyamas. And to some extent it means being a good 'citizen of the material plane'. But the green thing, and the slightly disturbing is-it-real-is-it-fake 'niceness' of a lot of yoga and New Age people isn't it.

'It', as in the way to avoid kriyamana karma, is karma and bhakti yoga.

It is performing your actions without hope, expectation, or desire of the fruits of the action. These desires and expectations are the 'equal and opposite action' of the action, and they are the force that cause the knots and ripples in your karma. Without attachment to these fruits, the kriyamana karma passes over and through you, and dissipates into none-existence.

Alternatively, if you can't be so abstract, perform your actions for the sake of God. Bhakti yoga. God can take as much karma as you care to throw at her/him/it. Redirect those 'equal and opposite' reactions towards God. That's the next best thing.

If you can do both, you are onto a winner. If you can perform actions actions whilst fully mindful of the divine, with no attachment to the results, you will be generating no kriyamana karma, and will probably also be making great inroads into your sanchita karma, if you have learned to access that by yogic practice.

There are two schools of thought regarding prarabdha karma. One says you are you stuck with it. Once it gets skimmed off the top of your sanchita karma, and manifests in this life as prarabdha, theres nothing you can do. If you prarabdha karma says you are going to be hit by a truck, then you are going to be hit by a truck. If it says you are going to prefer redheads, then you get no choice. Manchester City fan? Bad Karma Dude!!! Of course, you are still free to carry out actions of your own volition, but you are somewhat constrained by the prarabdha karma.

That's basically as close as yoga gets to fatalism.

The other view is that the prarabdha karma just gives you nudges, but you can either listen to them, or not, depending on how hefty the nudges are.

So there you go. My two penneth :)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Karma as Gravity

I'm on a gravity theme. I like gravity, because it provides a good analogy for many things. So after talking about Guru as gravity (below), I now want to talk about karma as gravity.

In the West, we often talk about 'good karma' and 'bad karma'. But really, the distinction does not exist.

A great many of us are brought up in the West with at least some influence of Christianity. Even if we were not brought up as church-goers, many of those around us will have been church-goers, or will themselves have been raised by church-goers. In Christianity there is a clear dichotomy of good and evil. God and the Devil, two opposed forces.

This runs so deep within our society, that many people have a very, very deep rooted impression that Good and Evil are absolute forces. Even if we don't think it consciously, it's a mindset that filters through into our thought patterns, and colours the way we see the world, to a greater or lesser extent.

This dichotomy of absolute good and evil is not present in other cultures, and specifically not in Hindu/yogic culture. In Yoga, there is no devil. Even beings such as Ravana, the demon who kidnapped Sita, is not ultimately evil. He was just a being, like you or I, who had an incarnation as a demon. His ultimate true nature was of Sat Chit Ananda, just as for every other being in the universe.

So there is no ultimate good and evil. And also there is no good karma and bad karma. Karma is karma, and karma does what karma does. Karma is really just cause and effect. We all operate within the field of maya, and karma is one of the laws of nature within maya. Karma makes no decisions, and makes no judgements. Karma is not a conscious entity watching your actions and giving you 'what you deserve'.

Here comes the gravity. Gravity is a law of nature, just like karma. Everywhere I go, and everything I do, I'm doing it within the field of gravity. So, right now, I'm sitting in a chair and typing. Gravity is acting on me, and so I remain in the chair, and I don't have to worry about floating around the room like an astronaut! I don't have to wear magnetic boots so I can stay on the floor, and I don't have to put padding over all my walls, and be scared of every sharp corner. All thanks to gravity. So that's good gravity.

On the other hand, if I'm walking along not paying attention, and I happen to walk off the edge of a cliff, that same gravity would take hold of me and smash me into the rocks two hundred feet below. Bad gravity?

It's quite clear to see that in these cases, there was no 'good gravity' and 'bad gravity'. Gravity made no judgements about my actions. Gravity had no conscious decisions to make about the outcome of my actions. I acted, and gravity was just gravity, doing what gravity does.

Karma is the same. You act, and karma does what karma does. The consequences are rarely as immediate, which tends to make it seem more mysterious, but the principle is the same. There is no 'good karma' or 'bad karma', there is just karma doing what it does.

Of course, there may be karma we 'like', and karma we 'dislike', but that's far from the same as good and bad karma. Saying good karma makes it sound like something desirable. But it isn't. We need to be free from all karma. Trying to build up good karma is every bit as useless as trying to build up bad karma.


Because if you are trying to build up good karma, this means you are carrying out your actions with the desire and expectation of result. And any result, any karmic consequence, only binds us further into maya. Carrying a suitcase full of good karma into our next incarnation, is still carrying a suitcase full of karma.

We need to try to operate in such a way that we incur no karma. In terms of gravity, we need to become weightless. We need to operate in such a manner as we are not creating more waves, not interacting with the ebb and flow of karmic existence.


Karma yoga. We have to do as Krishna exhorted, and carry out our actions without expectation of, or desire for, the fruit. And good karma is the sweetest and tastiest fruit of all! Acting as Krishna (and Swami-ji!) tells us allows us to gently express the samskaras of our past karmas, without creating any further karmic baggage.

So, I don't like to think of good and bad karma. It's just karma, doing what it does.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Mans Greatest Challenge

If I win £300,000,000 on the lottery, I will plough the vast majority of that vast fortune into solving the last great technological challenge faced by mankind.

I will buy a small island, so that the people I hire to work on the problem can remain completely focussed and in isolation.

I will provide them with every comfort, and their families can join them, but the goal is so important, they have to be kept from other worldly distractions.

I will build a magnificent scientific and technological institute on the island, with all of the very best facilities for research and experimentation.

I will hire Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Brian Cox and Sheldon Cooper, and I will put their minds to work on the greatest task faced by our our modern society.

It's a tricky task, and I won't expect immediate results. I'll give them the space they need to accomplish their goal.

And then maybe, just maybe, after a decade or so of intense effort, they might, just might, finally provide mankind with a toaster that actually works.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Guru as Gravity (sort of)

In Harrogate Swami Satsangi said something that has been turning over at the back of my mind ever since. She said that the role of initiator had now been passed to her, as Swami Niranjan would be staying in India, and she explained by saying that Guru is a tattwa, and that the tattwa had been passed to her by Paramahamsa-ji.

Tattwas are often thought of as the figures that represent them. A red triangle for air, a silver crescent for water. But those are not the tattwas, those are symbols representing the tattwa, and which provide a focus that allows access to the tattwa itself. A tattwa is actually an all pervasive field. The tattwa 'Tejas' (fire), for example, is present everywhere in the universe. It is more prevalent in some areas than it is in others. The same with the other tattwas that we are familiar with: pritthivi (earth), vayu (air), apas (water) and akasha (spirit). These extend through all space time, in various levels of intensity.

This is how gravity works.

Gravity is everywhere in the entire universe. And just as there is only one vayu, and only one tejas etc, there is only one gravity.

The gravity that the earth 'has' that holds us to its surface is the same gravity that the sun has that holds the earth in orbit round the sun, and is the same gravity that holds the galaxies together across the vastness of space. There are not separate gravities that each of these has.

The way it works is that gravity exists as 'field' throughout all of space. In the sense of a 'magnetic field'. It' sone field, but in some places it is more intense, and in others it is less intense. With gravity, what determines the intensity is the presence of matter. So, Poornamurti (my wife) is small, and has very little gravity. I'm a bigger, and have a little more. The earth is much, much bigger, and it causes a significant increase in intensity of the gravity field. The sun is a million times bigger than earth, and causes an intensity a million times stronger. In between the stars and galaxies, gravity is stretched very thin. It's still there. It's everywhere, but its so small, its hard to even detect.

It's one gravity, but the presence of something (matter) makes it stronger in some places than it is in others.

Guru is the same.

There is one Guru, spread throughout the whole of creation, and wherever you go, Guru is there. But in some places it's more intense than others. And it is the presence of something that determines the intensity of the 'Guru-field'. It's the presence of 'spiritual aptitude' for want of a better word. So, someone such as Paramahamsa-ji is an intense ball of 'spiritual aptitude', and in His presence, the Guru field is incredibly strong.

So, there is only one Guru, and that Guru is always there wherever you are, and with the right equipment can always be detected and 'tuned in to', but in some places, it's easier to feel, such as in the presence of the people we call 'Guru'.

It's interesting that one of the meaning of the word 'guru' is 'heavy'!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Hello again!

That was a bit of a mad period!
The last practice session I completed was in Madrid in May!

Ever since coming back, work has been crazy. I've been working absolutely insane hours, and I haven't completed a single practice session.

It's difficult to get up at 5AM to practice when you've been working until 2AM, and are expected back in the office (an hours drive away) by 8AM!

However, fingers crossed, it seems that things have calmed down a little, so I'm going to try starting again.

And I do mean starting again. In the two months I've had away from practice, I have regained about one of the three stones in weight that I had lost, and have lost a lot of the flexibility I was painstakingly building up.

So, starting 'soon', maybe tomorrow morning, it's back to Lesson 1 in the Systematic Course. I'm going to do Lesson 1 at least until Sunday, at which point I will decide whether I can fast track to Lesson 2, or whether I need to stay on Lesson 1. To be honest, I think  I'll need to stay with Lesson 1 for at least another week whilst I also get my diet back on track. The reason I think this is that several of the postures in Lesson 1 are concerned with the digestive system, and I recall that I didn't start to feel the full benefit of them until I was practicing with a fairly clear system in the morning, and this didn't happen until I'd been eating a lot less for a few weeks. So I think I need to reduce my food intake considerably right away, and that will take at least a week or two to work through my system, to the point where things are in much better balance.

You know, although I've been working a lot, and it really would have been very difficult to practice on the vast majority of days, I think there's also an element of the fact that stuff was starting to come out. I was starting to remember stuff from childhood. Some if it good, some of it - well, what a lot of people might consider odd - some of it really awful. It didn't come to me during my meditation practice. In fact, most of it came in my drives home from work - a time that I find oddly reflective.

I think maybe I fell for the 'somethings happening, it's scary, make it stop' story that a lot of people who really delve into themselves come across. I'm really surprised, and a little disappointed at this. I mean, I've been seriously pursuing self investigation since I was a teenager, and some of the stuff I did in my youth was incredibly powerful, stirring up a lot more than this recent stuff. Maybe I thought I'd got it all out, and that I was now going to sail into sainthood without any further ado. Probably. One of the things I'm most proud of is having no ego...get it?

Of course, when you think you have no ego, it just means it's grown so large you can't see the edges anymore.

Anyway, in case you are interested, here's one of the strange things I recall from childhood. This is a good one, because it definitely feeds my ego, and makes me think I'm special, so beter get it out there.

It's something I'd forgotten, and just came back to me on one drive home.

I used to sit at my parents feet at night, after my younger sister had gone to bed, waiting for them to tell me. You know, tell me all that stuff that they must know: the purpose of life, the real meaning of God and religion, the secret rituals that grown-ups do. No not sex. I don't remember being aware of sex. I was about 8, and this was nearly 40 years ago. 8 year olds really didn't have any clue about sex in the seventies.

I have no idea how long this carried on. They sat where they still sit today, although there was no coffee table then. 40 years ago, coffee wasn't invented. Not in our house anyway. So I used to sit on the floor, between the settee with my mum on it, and the armchair with my dad on it, by their feet, waiting. They were watching telly, but I was actively waiting. 'When are they going to tell me?', 'Why are they not telling me?'.

Eventually, I clearly remember one night, and I must have been about twelve by now, so this must have gone on some time, I was going to bed, and I left the living room, pulling the door shut behind me, and as I stood there in the dark, it finally hit me. It wasn't a gradual realisation, a slow dawning of acceptance. It was a thunderbolt out of nowhere: They don't know!

How can they not know?

How can any grown up not know the answers? Not know the secrets? I was really shaken to the core. If they don't know, then how on earth am I ever going to find out?! No point asking teachers. They are the dumbest of grown ups. The church won't help. They threw me out of Sunday school years before for 'being disruptive'...aka 'asking questions'.

I don't recall anything further. I can't say it sparked my search for truth. That search was already going on. That's why I wanted the answers from them. I can't say it left me devastated for days. Maybe it did. I don't remember. I just remember standing with my right hand on the living room doorknob, my left shoulder leaning against the louvre door to the kitchen, forhead against the doorframe, in the darkness, aghast, hollow and slightly dizzy, thinking, "They don't know."

Perhaps that's why I get so emotional about my Guru. And about Neem Karoli Baba, and those few others: They know. And their knowing fills the gap in me. Not the gap of my own knowingness, or lack thereof. That's a gap I can live with. But that awful, dreadful gap of shattering doubt: Maybe there is nothing to know!

At risk of sounding like Donald Rumsfeld: I may not know for myself, but at least I now know there is something to know!

By the way: that was a great quote by Don, and it was absolutely correct. The media lambasted it because it required about six seconds of thought to figure out what he was saying, and that's about 5.5 seconds more thought than your average journalist can manage in any one incarnation. If you want to know about known unknowns, look it up.

Anyway, that was one thing that came back to me in the days before going to Madrid. Here's another.

For one of my school essays for my CSE English (my school wouldn't enter people for GCE. I had to enter it myself), I wrote about an initiation ceremony.

I have no idea where it came from, and again, I had completely forgotten about it. It was quite Masonic in nature - and I wouldn't have known that until just a few years ago when my curiosity got the better of me. No, I didn't join, but a lot of the so called secrets are published by the Masons themselves, and if you want to know what happens in their ceremonies, you can go to their online bookshop and buy the scripts for the ceremonies.

Even when I bought a few of these books out of curiosity, and read them, I still didn't remember the essay I wrote at 14 years old. Again, that came back to me on one of my journeys home just a few weeks ago. I can't remember any great details about the essay, just that it was an initiation ceremony. I don't think I used the word initiation. Maybe 'induction', because I think the cubs had an induction? But the ceremony, whilst I'm sure it wasn't in any way an accurate description of a Lodge Working, I definitely remember now that it had that feel. I also remember Mr. Croft being very puzzled and slightly disturbed. But he did give me an 'A'.

So, that's a couple of the weird things that came back to me. Very few nice things have come back, but then I suppose they don't have any power. Nice things don't tend to build neuroses, so there's no point having them resurface.

One day I might tell you some of the awful things.

But I doubt it.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Swami Satsangi in Madrid

We were fortunate to be able to attend the Satyananda gathering in Madrid last week, which was graced by the presence of Swami Satsangi.

I have to say it was quite a remarkable experience. They managed to squeeze an lot in during a short time - Friday Afternoon to Sunday morning.

We had several Satsangs with Swami-ji, where she spoke on the topics that were the title of the event - Gyana, Bhakti and Karma yogas. She talked with her usual clarity and charm, and made the relationship between the three seem somehow obvious and natural.

The two morning hatha sessions were both absolutely amazing. Both were very, very simple, but were incredibly profound, with the usual Satyananda emphasis on awareness, rather than gymnastics. The second day, in particular was almost a full hour spent doing just TTK - bracketed with mantra and pranayama - with absolute focus, lead by Acharya Swami Anandananda, and was one of the most profound experiences I've ever had!

Overall, an excellent weekend.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Confused about OM

So how does this work... Brahman is the one non-dualistic basis of all existence. It is timeless, featureless and unchanging. Om is called Shabda Brahman - the representation of Brahman in sound. But OM is O-M, or even A-U-M. How can something with two, or even three parts represent the single Brahman?