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 to begin with as well).
Yoga operates on the premise that everything that has happened up until this point in your (individual historical) expression (if we observe 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/phenomena 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, as well, 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 emerge 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. Inevitably, even after death, “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.
When practicing Yoga (which simply refers to a process supporting the union of your body, mind, and spirit that creates 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 and honestly 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 play 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).
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.
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 follow the Eightfold Path successfully, you will attain your goal of Self-Realization through Samadhi (and, if you are diligent, Asamprajnata Samadhi) after dedicating yourself to practice or surrendering yourself over to The Truth.
A Yogi is, therefore, best served, by thinking of Karma as the interconnected ecosystem of all of life, and then using his/her understanding of this principle to consciously shape desired outcomes in his/her life and practice.
If you do “this” thing, then intended results will most likely occur based on certain realities and possibilities. This is Karma.
When a devoted practitioner begins to neutrally understand Karma from the grossest to the most subtle levels, he/she then gains control of his/her 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/ability through self-awareness on the deepest and purest possible levels. And it is specifically because of this function in and of itself that Yoga serves (being a roadmap 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.
Taken into 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 by ideas that are subject to change with time based on the temperament and understanding of its teachers.
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 not owned, dictated, gatekept, and is most certainly not created by any human-being.
This process that we humans, from its introduction, call Yoga, is simply a natural part of who we are as a species 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 of varied experiential research, but, obviously, union of the mind, body, and spirit, and with the Source and True-Self, is a universal capacity that we can all spontaneously, or intentionally, achieve.
We are all fortunate enough to have systemized this capacity into a Science through thousands of books written by dedicated Teachers from all over the world starting as far back as thousands of years ago, but no one owns connection to “God/Source/The Creator/True Self” or has more right than others to its discovery. 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, find their way back to themselves safely and through a system that has proven results (if it is pursued correctly).
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 by moving mostly into social norms, ideology, opinions, belief systems, or cultist reverence for any particular human-being that is subject to change over time either.
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 in order to then understand and operate within it.
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 can be misunderstood when he discusses the 5 Types of Mental Distortions that affect humans on their path to Self-Realization. The most important thing to note, when sifting through any literature that was is never (directly) written by the Source of all creation itself, is that when things are translated through humans within different cultural contexts and histories, it becomes critical to stick even more closely to the Truth through inner discernment in order to prevent yourself from straying too far from The Truth entirely and getting caught up in the fantasies, delusions, and inaccuracies of “man” in historical and social context.
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 choose to listen to another’s interpretation of the Truth, be sure that you always understand, neutrally observe, and verify that other perspective against your own knowledge obtained from walking your own path (assuming that your knowing is drawn from a pure and connected state of consciousness that gives you access to all knowing and not from your ego-based mind).
If you are not yet at a point on your Yoga journey where The Truth is indisputably clear to you personally, just keep working on removing the obstacles within you that prevent you from seeing and take in all externally gathered information neutrally. When looking through the texts and teaching of the past, always aim to see where there is commonalty in only the neutral, unchanging, Truth presented, and categorize every other distraction/distortion that you may encounter into the context of the author’s history and personal self-expression. And be sure to do the same thing for this article.
Never create too many barriers within, or outside of yourself, to your constant, and ever-present, Source of all knowledge.
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, as messengers, indirect reflections, but not the message of the Truth that they are. Always remember that The Truth of Yoga can only be found within you (then you will inevitable be able to see it in all things as well).
Thank you for reading.
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