Yoga, as it is defined by function and purpose, is simply the practice and process of using a proven system of self-discovery to attain the highest state of consciousness that you (and all other human beings) are capable of attaining during the one life that you are manifested into your unique and personal human expression throughout all of time and history.
And this is important to note because your focus on the “one” (from which all emerged, and the one expression that you are born into) should always be at the center of your practice although your current atoms are repurposed from the atoms of decayed “others” from the past, and your body is created using passed on and rearranged DNA that connects you to common human ancestors (and also to all related species from the past, present, and future, to all living things going back to the first unicellular organism, and even back to the very first elements that formed cells and all materials that exist within the whole of creation).
Yoga operates on the premise that everything that has happened up until this point in your (individual historical) expression (if one observes the world from your perspective that is) has led up to this moment in which you exist based on the collective Karma (WHICH SIMPLY–AND NEUTRALLY–MEANS ACTIONS THAT HAVE A CAUSE AND EFFECT IN THE WORLD).
Whether you are looking at the Karma of the Big Bang, the Karma of your cultural/historical context, or the Karma of something you did, said, or ate yesterday, Karma is not a judgment, or value, system. Karma is simply a word/process/phenomenon that explains the interconnectedness of all things.
Even though the word, Karma, can sometimes be used to generally explain why particular things occur when one seeks to find an answer to occurrences based on a need/desire to know, please always note that Karma is not some form of personal punishment from “God” or a Cosmic Justice System (as it is often perceived to be by laypeople and some new Yoga practitioners since if a Justice System exists for humans, it is always a human-created, human-defined, and human-maintained system for which we are responsible for determining what is actually “just” based on our level on conscious understanding, and hopefully, compassion); Karma is an observable system that encompasses the inextricable and complex interconnectedness of all things, and it reflects the simple fact that everything has a “Source” from which its manifestation can be explained and traced. This applies to all contexts of existence and is particularly notable within the sheer reality of all of creation itself, as well as to the existence of all of the suffering that we (both the more personal and broader collective “we”) know about, create, and co-create from the second noble truth, for example.
Everything that exists and occurs in the physical plane is a result of Karma because events and things (after emerging from the original Source) do not simply reproduce themselves out of thin air. Even your very personal existence, as mentioned above, is the result of a complex series of events that led up to this point, and “you” will constantly be changing based on new and old Karma (actions, thoughts, and words that have a cause and effect in the world) until you die and are repurposed into basic elements with the impact of time, or transcend unconscious Karma altogether through spiritual liberation.
Inevitably, even after death, whether your Karma is unconscious or divinely inspired while you were alive, “you” will leave behind Karma through your impact on the world that continues on without “you” based on everything that you “touched” on all levels, from how you impacted your environment, to how you impacted people closest to you and in your society, to everything that you did that will inevitably reverberate, and result, from your thoughts, words, actions, and creations, etc, which can generally be summarized as your Karma.
What Does This Mean In Reference To Your Understanding Of Yoga?
When practicing Yoga (which simply refers to a process supporting the union of your body, mind, and spirit that creates a connection with the divine Source and, therefore, connection with your True-Self while embodied in physical form), always be mindful not to let your ego convince you that you should feel responsible for everything that is going wrong, or right, in your life or in the world because no individual person or thing (except the Source of all things) could be responsible for all of the actions that lead to the innumerable effects of the past, present, future, or in the entire world on a larger scale (although certain personal and direct Karmic actions can sometimes be generally seen as causing a direct effect in your life).
Certain chains of events simply have a cause and effect that you are best served never going too deeply into understanding for your own sake if you are not prepared to see things neutrally, honestly, and fully because your mind is still colored with “worldly” distortions. Whether it be that someone got drunk (for reasons) and ran over your child (for reasons), or you woke up one day and won the lottery (because it exists where you live and you could afford to pay to play and had reasons upon reasons why you played) because you played the game that day (for reasons) and your selected lotto numbers, based on personal significance (for reasons) from living life, were selected from a random drawing (for reasons such as the numbers existed to be selected to begin with), etc…understanding Karma requires the ability to deeply and simply see without attachment (which often leads to a state of acceptance and empowerment based on a far greater Truth than can be known by the limitations of the mind).
Many conditions (natural occurrences and processes, thoughts, words, actions, etc) transpire to lead up to all points that exist (and may potentially exist in the future) and many things will unfold from any given point from the present moment into the future as well based on what occurs today. Only this explanation closely describes the cycle/system of Karma that is useful in everyday life.
Because “this” occurred, “that” occurred. All Karma is interconnected, and it is never clear cut unless you, again with clear and neutral seeing, wills and then manifests it to be so through intentional action. This is why a basic understanding of Karma is vital for success in Yoga practice since it is because of this simple fact that Karma also guides Yogis to the attainment of the Self-Realization that they seek.
Again, if you do “this,” then “that” will occur.
Yoga’s systematic process toward Self-Realization states that even as everything interacts and interfaces with the constant motion of Karmic ramifications (actions that have a cause and effect) simultaneously in the world, as you navigate through life, if you use this reality to follow the Eightfold Path successfully, you will not only attain your goal of Self-Realization after Samadhi (and, if you are diligent, Asamprajnata Samadhi and beyond) you will naturally transcend the Karmic cycle as well when you come into your True Self and merge back into the Truth of your oneness with the Source and all of creation.
A Yogi is, therefore, best served thinking of Karma as the interconnected ecosystem of all of life. Karma is the glue that binds and liberates. Once this knowledge is understood, then a Yogi can begin using his/her understanding of this principle to consciously shape desired outcomes in his/her life and practice (until he/she transcends beyond the karmic system of existence altogether when merged back into the Source/Self and the meaning of OM/AUM).
If you do “this” thing, then intended, or unintended, results will most likely occur based on certain realities and possibilities. This is Karma.
But to become your True Self is to become free from this cycle of Karma that fuels the Four Noble Truths altogether since at the highest level of awareness, you will then reside in the essence of your nature and simply just be pure potential, in its still tranquility beyond desire, shape, or form, itself (even while paradoxically existing in the Karmic vessel of a physical form on a very tangible plane of existence).
When a devoted Yoga practitioner begins to neutrally understand Karma from the grossest to the most subtle levels, he/she then gains control of his/her ego-self through thoughts, words, emotions, desires, and actions, and therefore frees him/herself from unconscious Karmic behaviors that can lead to suffering and harm.
Yoga is simply a tool/mechanism that gives humans the ability to fully wield this power of cause and effect through self-awareness on the deepest and purest possible levels. And it is specifically because of its function in and of itself that Yoga serves (being a roadmap of deliberate Karma to Self-Realization) as much more than just the sum of its parts and should never be confined to any limiting context or expression for understanding.
What To Do With This Understanding:
Taken in only historical or even geographical context, for example, Yoga often loses its true undistorted meaning as it gets colored and defined by outdated, or outdating, cultural norms, perspectives, and ideas that are subject to change with time, based on the temperament and understanding of its seeker and teachers (which unless purely understood, only stimulates and reinforces ego-based mental distortions around the practice).
This is why, when setting out on your own personal Eightfold Path and Yoga practice, it is important to, please, remember that the process of connecting with your True and higher self is beyond Karma, representing the pure undistorted existence of Truth that can not be owned, dictated, gatekept, and is most certainly not created by any human being. The concept of Karma is a Universal Truth, not an ideological value system (as stated before) that can be repurposed for moral, or ignorant, controlling, and judgmental behaviors and sentiments to justify and make sense of things in societies and relationships (although understanding cause and effect/Karma at a neutral level can create the space for more clear observation skills).
This process that we humans, from its introduction, call Yoga (Union), is simply a natural part of who we are as a species and as a creation because of what we are capable of knowing, seeing, and being. The process was encountered, explored, and mapped out by countless people through many years at varied experiential research levels, but, obviously, the Union of the mind, body, and spirit, and with the Source and True-Self, is a Universal Truth that we can all spontaneously, or intentionally, recognize.
It is for this reason that I invite you to wipe Yoga clean of any context of existence outside of the core Truth of existence in order to free it from worldly Karma altogether (based on history and so forth). Once you do this, you are left with a purer Truth that: It is only through our selected karma of walking the Eightfold (or any other path) that we can merge back to the Source that is liberated from the cycle of Karma altogether in its pure nature, flowing through OM/all that is to recognize that everything came from the initial Karma of creation and that this is what binds you and all that exists back to the Source.
Humans are fortunate enough to have systemized this capacity to connect back to the Truth in a Scientific way through thousands of books written by dedicated Teachers from all over the world starting as far back as thousands of years ago (discovering a Karmic roadmap that transcends Karma itself), but no one can take credit for (or own the Karma), of anything in reality.
Only the Creator itself, for bringing all into existence, can take credit for Karma, and our ability to use it to merge back into the purest form of it by transcending our densest form of Karma’s expression can take credit for the existence and perfection of the system of Karma itself and how it leads one to liberation. The Creator’s Karma of bringing creation into existence is what connects us all back to the Truth through our own conscious actions. No one has more rights than any other to this inbuilt birthright which is why all who seek can gain liberation within this system.
IMPORTANT STUDY TIP! As a devoted Yogi, developing discernment is an important aspect of your development, since you need to have the ability to sift through the noises of the world and clearly see Truth through direct experience in order to then understand and operate within it.
Even without any definitive structural context, all human beings can find their way back to the Source in the same way that anyone can connect to God without a formal religion. Yoga simply provides a clear roadmap to help those who need some reassurance, reinforcement, and guidance along the way, to search within themselves to find their way back to the True Self safely.
In the same way that you should never read religious texts without first understanding the contexts in which humans translated them (since I am sure that you know that the sacred can often be muddled and tainted by the desires, hatreds, and fantasies of humans, as is evident throughout human history), it is important that you never become overly attached to any “teachings” in Yoga that stray far from the ever-present/constant Truth of what binds us all together back to the Truth of our Source/Self and creation. This bond to the Source that begins with the first act of Karma of creation itself, bring us all the gift of life. Rising out of the silence of pure potential, Karma gives birth to all of Creation. From the Karma of pure “will” itself, existence was set into ecstatic motion, never separating (not even for a moment) from the Source from which it emerged. Each of us is connected to this Truth.
Free from the distortions of ego reality (Maya) that is steeped in social norms, ideology, opinions, belief systems, or cultist reverence for particular human beings or groups that is subject to change over time, is our True and purest connection to all that is through the Karmic reality of our existence.
The sage Patanjali (fortunately) has clearly (although even his clear teachings can sometimes be subject to numerous human distortions if not objectively and experientially interpreted without deformity) set the foundation for understanding the Truth of how Yoga, or anything else, can be misunderstood when he discusses the 5 Types of Mental Distortions that affect humans on their path to Self-Realization. We must always remember that the concept of Karma has not escaped the fate of distortion through a misunderstanding over historical time.
What To Remember As You Move Forward:
The most important thing to note here is that when things are translated through humans within different Karmic contexts due to cultural and other histories, it is critical to stick closely to the core Truth being expressed by using your inner discernment to prevent yourself from straying too far from unchanging Reality and getting caught up in the fantasies, delusions, and inaccuracies of hu”man” (s) within a historical and social context.
I invite you to, therefore, free your understanding of Karma from all distorted contexts of existence and to look at it for what it truly is: a sign that points you back to where you came from and who you truly are, not just in the world, but beyond it.
The Truth, the path, and the knowledge that allows you to see all that Yoga was structured for you to see are within you if you simply clear out everything that gets in the way, including the cloud of your ego’s and humanity’s Karma (and your understanding of it) that creates distance between you and the Source of all Creation.
If you choose to listen to another’s, or even my, interpretation of this Truth, be sure that you always question, neutrally observe, and verify these perspectives against your own knowledge obtained from walking your own inwardly focused path that draws knowledge from a pure and connected state of consciousness that sees beyond your ego-mind.
If you are not yet at a point on your Yoga journey where The Truth of your connection is indisputably clear to you, just keep working on removing the obstacles within you that prevent you from seeing and continue to take in all externally gathered information neutrally for now.
When looking through the texts and teaching of the past, or present, always aim to see where there is a commonality in only the neutral, unchanging, aspects of Truth presented that you can test and verify for yourself, and categorize every other distraction/distortion that you may encounter into the context of the author’s history and personal self-expression…making sure to also do the same thing for this article.
Never create too many barriers within, or outside of yourself, to the constant, and ever-present, Source of all knowledge that you possess. Look beyond the lower/and more minor forms of Karma in action in the world to see what greater understandings everything around you reflects.
Focus your attention on seeing/knowing The Truth, and the Truth of who you are (within you) and look at all stories and other expressions, experiences, and events as messengers, indirect reflections, but not the message itself, of the Truth that exists beneath form and can only be experienced.
Always remember that the Truth of Yoga, and Karma, and anything else for that matter, can only be found within you once all distortions have been removed. When you remove the distortions, then you will inevitably be able to see all things neutrally and clearly, and that all roads lead back to the Source, especially the roads that guide you inward and upward on the Eightfold Path.
Thank you for reading.
If you enjoyed this post or found it useful, please be sure to like, comment, and/or share it.