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 :)


  1. My head might explode! I need to consider. I'm sure there will be more questions. Thanks Dharma. You are ace! Karon x

  2. So there is no good or bad karma. Just karma. So it is irrelevant to 'hope' for good or bad, heaven or hell. It seems that we are here on the physical because this is the place where karma is. And we (on one level of existence...but not others?) Are full of it. How did we become full of it? What started it? We wouldn't have been full of it at the beginning. Or would we? Do we exist in other planes where there is no karma at all because there is no action? ...any thoughts welcome! Hari Om. Karon

  3. Flippin' 'eck... not letting me off the hook are you!
    Please remember, these are my opinions and thoughts only. Please don't think I'm trying to tell you 'how it is'...

    I'll take this in parts:

    "Irrelevant to hope for good/bad, heaven/hell"
    Yeah, kind of. The point is, any action carried out with attachment causes new karma. So you need to focus on loosing attachment rather than doing good deeds. However, things will be easier for you if you do good deeds, because the karma that is created by our actions is in kind with our actions. So do nice stuff, nice stuff comes back. Not necessarily now, but it goes in the bank. SO the ideal thing is to do good things without attachment. Because then you are making life better for other people, without acquiring any new karma. Mother Theresa is, as always, an astounding example of this.

    "W'ere here because its where karma is"
    Yes, it's where karma can be most effectively 'worked out'.

    "And we (on one level of existence...but not others?) Are full of it."
    Yes, in this plane, and on the 'astral'/pranic/energy. In fact, on the planes of all of the koshas except anandamaya kosha.

    "How did we become full of it?"
    Hah! Darned fine question!
    Adam bit the apple.
    The Universe went BANG!
    Brahma exhaled.

    What started it?
    See above!

    "We wouldn't have been full of it at the beginning. Or would we?"
    No, I don't think we would.
    I see this as analogous to one of the biggest issues faced in cosmology, until the last decade or so.
    When the bang went off (the big one), it went bang from a single point and so it had no variation anywhere, it couldn't, because if it had variation, you could say 'here it is x, and here it is y' - and that means two here's, two points - and there was only one point. And it went 'into' completely empty featureless space (actually, it was space that banged into nothingness, but that's splitting hairs), so, in theory, everything coming out of the Big Bang should have been absolutely perfectly smooth. No ripples, no little imperfections in that early expansion of matter.
    So, if it was perfectly smooth, how did it start to clump together into atoms, stars, galaxies? It shouldn't have. It should have expanded smoothly forever.
    And when scientists looked at the very early universe (we can see it quite clearly all around us in the the cosmic microwave background. Trust me, I don;t want to get too beed on this), it was, indeed, perfectly smooth, just as theory said it should be.
    So that was a problem: how are we here as lumpy stuff?
    Then, something remarkable happened: Someone unbelievably clever did some very hard sums and realised, actually, there would be tiny ripples in the early universe. That was good news, because it explained where the lumps come from (stars, galaxies etc).
    But it was bad, because the cosmic microwave background looked perfectly smooth.
    Then, finally, a very, very sensitive telescope sitting a long way out in space, finally detected these ripples in the early universe.
    And now it all makes sense!
    I think karma must have been something similar.
    When everything went pop, there were tiny, tiny ripples in the 'causal' field, and over time, they have lead to the first stirrings of karmic action. Then as soon as there was a bit of karmic action, that created a bit more, and it just snowballed from there.
    Hope that makes some kind of sense.

    "Do we exist in other planes where there is no karma at all because there is no action?"
    Yes, absolutely. This is the very definition of Brahman, or the ultimate state, God, whatever you want to call it.

    Hari Om!

  4. Thanks Dharma. Dont worry. I am simply enjoying the discussion. Not expecting answers per se. I am thinking.

    Hari Om


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Hari Om!