Karma and karma-yoga

Karma and karma-yoga 01.11.2016

A lot of people might wonder what human karma and sanskaras are. Whether it is one’s nature or an offspring of karma.

Karma means a deed which leads to some result. Committing some action leaves an imprint (sanskara) in the soul, namely in the karana-sharira (the causal body). This imprint is carried through life and after some time it germinates.

Seeds of sanskaras behave like seeds of a tree: a seed falls on the ground and becomes a tree, it grows and creates new seeds, then the original tree ages while new ones grow and the same process happens again and again. Similar thing happens with us, with our karma: today we are not quite the same as five years ago, but the current state of our body, soul and world outlook is a reflection of our past deeds.

You may clean yourself from karmic “weeds” until you change your karma radically, otherwise your actions will always follow habitual but forgotten way. People tend to forget, so they do not know what they have already done, and repeat past mistakes.

There are various opinions on such issues. For example, followers of some religions do not believe in reincarnation, others do not believe in existence of Atman, but recognize incarnation, etc. These are just the outer side of doctrines, an attempt to provide a simple explanation for a great mystery that no any concept even outwardly the most religious ones can describe.

Indeed, if one of them somehow managed to expound in an exhaustively comprehensible manner the nature of the soul, the principles of the universe, it would mean that no one need anything anymore because everything would be already in hand. However, no one has yet relieved all living beings from rebirth in samsara (the continual birth and death in the material world). There are also some forms of faith that we can become or already are the God, despite living where we are, even in the most adverse conditions.

There is also a version that the world consists of various forms of suffering and happiness, and all of them are a God's creative game, so fundamentally they are not suffering but futile joy, decorations of one big ananda of the God. You can think the same way about the process of forming, manifestation and dissolving of karma, deifying these processes, treating them as the nature of Shiva and Shakti and their relations. Then such a tantric perception can transform your consciousness from sansaric into the spiritual one. As a result, all your wishes may turn from karmic into spiritual gradually depleting personal karma.

View on the nature of karma in the Nath Tradition

According to Nathas, karma like Shakti is twofold: on one hand it is positive, on the other - negative. Positive karma is being created when one follows dharma (principles of the universe, one's destiny), negative - when one follows adharma (infringe upon these principles).

Following dharma, you can achieve an appropriate purity to attain moksha. Yogi’s goal is to get rid of both types of karma, so yogi stops to demarcate them strictly, even though he realizes that duality is also reality. Anyone who touches ideas and religious experience of advaita realizes somewhere deep inside that there is someone who sees everything connected with the duality and non-duality. However, usually it is difficult for us to define that one who realizes it because that observer can actually never be limited by anything.

Most of the Indian and many other spiritual doctrines say that human true "Self" is divine. It cannot suffer due to its nature. All these worldview religious systems look at one reality from different points of view. Some of them describe intricately what the human and the world are, others provide simple explanations, whereas some even prefer to remain silent. They prefer not to define the Suprime. Natha Sampradaya basically does not deny any of these doctrines and accepts even atheists for example the followers of Lokayata. Nathas believe that beholding the principles of the universe, oneself, the God and all the interrelations with these tattvas (the categories of reality) is possible only by the way of true yogic realization.

Understanding the principles of karma means getting free from these principles. This is only possible when you have reached the highest liberation. Maharishi Patanjali says the same:

"When all anxiety of consciousness stops and you achieve peace, then you are the observer, residing at his essence."

In fact, they all talk about the same. Svechchhachara – "pursuance of one's own will" - is practically the same. Nathas consider the Patanjali's Sutras in accordance with the tantric principle of non-duality. While Patanjali treats identification of chitta with objects of the world as imperfection, Nathas, on the contrary, say that objects of the world are to be regarded as Atman.

For example, in "Gheranda Samhita" pratyahara is described not only as distancing from objects of sensorial perception, but also as awareness of oneself, the higher Self, in all those objects. This is not just dissociation from or involvement in the world because not everyone is able to be involved in the world without suffering or not to suffer being distanced from it. When a person dies he also passes through suffering and “detaches from the world”, his senses stop functioning properly, they lose vital activity, but this is not pratyahara.

So, all the manifested is karma. Wherever there are changes there is karma. An ordinary person has good and bad karma because his personality is limited. But yogi stays in connection with the universe. An ordinary person acts upon deconstructive programs and is guided by lower instincts because of lower ego and karma. Thus he is like a cancer cell in the body of the universe. By the way, such a person is not necessarily an atheist, he may be quite "religious". But this kind of religiosity is nothing but a trivial ego. Such person can found his own religion or focus more on the strategy of some religion but not sacrifice his ego sincerely.

Followers forgeting the main intended purpose of the tradition is a very big problem of all spiritual systems. Therefore, even being seemingly "religious" or "yogic" the person acquires karma, and the universe starts to break him down, activating its "immune system" against him. Even if a person strongly believes in methods, in asceticism, but continues to fight for his lower "self", the universe destroys him. That is why many nathas talked about sahaja, methods without methods. For this reason, they were able to talk about the futility of all doctrines because you are already absolute.

Your body is originally a body of the universe, your soul is the Paramatma. We can move from one guru to another, reflect which methods are better or worse, but Gorakshanath says in "Siddha-siddhanta paddhati" that everything is Guru and your Guru teaches you to learn from everything, not fragmentarily, but always learn, be able to hear everything, be able to perceive everything. When Nath-yogi does nadi-puja he does not see just the image of the Guru, he sees the entire universe behind him through this image. And it is this attitude that gives us a chance to perceive what makes us able coming into contact with objects and all the phenomena of the world see them as God.

Seeing the countless amount of micro-worlds in the God we realize that karma is neither white nor black. Taking shape of limited life forms the God plays various karmas. He can play a drama of suffering in any of such forms but He is always free. His freedom is indescribable. Even those jivas who suffer, chose their suffering by themselves. They do not know why they were incarnated because they separate their own will from the will of God or "Adesh". But every jiva in this world making an unconscious a choice actually follows not its own choice.

If one looks very closely, very attentively at all that he ever does, he may notice that he never does anything for himself. It is normal for a jiva to live not for itself, and, as soon as it understands this, it comes to peace because it lives for the God.

The thing is that while acting and creating karma there is no karma at all. This is not a technique, not a practice, not a tradition, not an anti-tradition, it is your true state. It does not need to be reached or achieved because it is already there. Everything we achieve only creates an aberration. People acquire ideas "this is mine", "it's not mine," "I have this", "I do not have that", through these ideas they amplify anger and greed, they take a lot of destructive actions, being at the material, religious, yogic and other obscurations.

They may think that they do yoga practice, but they do not understand yoga, may hate yama-niyama, argue about which asanas are correct and which are not, have a feud with competitors. Yama and niyama are not something artificial because living not for the sake of confrontation is the natural state, being out of duality, being a brahmachari is normal. We do not need to hate or hatch false ideas about women, women are what they are. There is nothing in this world that yogi could not treat as sadhana, so yogi handles all the vibrations of the world, he is invulnerable. He beholds all the contradictions of the world, and in his hands they are an effective weapon, such is the Nathas' worldview.

When Nathas teach you kaya-sadhana, they mean a body different from bodies of common people. There was a professional kick-boxer, very strong physically, but one day he just fell down from a tall building and died. Yogis who are concerned about development of their bodies do the same thing, they think that by doing asanas they will form a long-life-suitable body.

In "Yoga bija" Gorakshanath says that a yogi's body is thinner than the thinnest, rougher than the roughest. He means the cosmic body of Shiva (Para-pinda), this body and your body are originally the whole, and it is this state that is kaya-siddhi. The Para-pinda contains all the countless bodies, all karmas. When you contact a person who has heavy karma you adopt his karmic reactions, but when you commune with a pure person you feel much better. But how do you feel when you contact with both at the same time? You have a mixed state making it not possible to identify because these objects are very different. Certain things seem incompatible for someone but not for a yogi as he is aware of everything and detached from everything. Nathas attitude any karma in this way.

Transfer of karma between incarnations.

Where does karma reside at when a person dies? In consciousness. Everything manifests out of consciousness, which is, in essence, Shiva himself, and everything returns into him. The ancient Nath's treatise 'Siddha-Siddhanta paddhati" describes the process of Shiva's body manifestation through expansion of his Shakti, and further describes manifestation of many living creatures' bodies inside the Shiva's body. These multiple bodies, whether subtle or coarse, always remain within Shiva, they are Shiva himself.

Despite the fact that Gorakshanath considers the states such as sushupti, turiya, turyatita, as inherent to the individual human body, they are nevertheless not different from Shiva's body. Being at turya or turyatita state an individual consciousness has more opportunities for awareness of identity of macro- and microcosms.

A being who stays generally in a wakeful state, in a sleep and deep sleep, is also fragmentary aware of his identity with something superior but this awareness does not allow him to choose his parents, place of incarnation, any area of life, it does not allow to be detached from many areas of the universe.

All karma, which is taken into the next life, is situated in consciousness. It exists for everyone, but for some it is in the form of suffering, while for others becomes a tool that can be used as it is right on their own sight. There is a great difference between you living in karma and karma living in you, and it is also important in what kind of "you" it lives. There are people who divide karma into good and bad but karma can be good and bad at different levels, although all these levels are relative. This is because all of them are not really good from the viewpoint of someone who attained moksha or all of them they are good if they exist and coincidently you are their lord.

Leaving physical body an ordinary person who has not attained awareness of himself as of boundless consciousness takes different sanskaras into the subtle body and one finds an appropriate incarnation in a new body according to what his sanskaras are directed on and his aspirations.

The root of uncontrolled transmigrations is an unconsciousness of an individual, when unconscious energies persist in various states in a subtle body. This is why self-control gets lost. Evolution, expansion of consciousness and returning to its original absolute level occurs by awakening of Kundalini shakti, a criterion of this process is increase of maturity of one's consciousness in all aspects. Kundalini awakening is an ascent of consciousness, not necessarily in the form of energy increase, but rather as release, expansion of potential of subtle body, transformation of its contents.

Overcoming of karma


According to Nath Tradition, karma cannot be eliminated, but it is possible to raise your awareness to a level that is above all karmas, and to absorb all karmas with such a consciousness. Karmas do not cease to exist but no longer determine yogi, neither spiritually no physically. All your karmas and karmas of other beings will be seen as a game of energies of the Absolute, they are as spiritual as the Absolute itself. This state is achieved by the way of uttermost purification. Everything you have needs to be abandoned in order to get everything that exists, although it is not all that simple, it is an extensive process. Of course abandonment does not mean selling your apartment and giving money to sects or leaving outwardly all that you have. Abandonment must be internal, purification occurs through vairagya (renunciation) and tyaga (abandonment, sacrifice (above all, one’s ego)).

Karma may become eliminated partly over initiation when initiation is transmitted by a true Guru; depending on the transmission level different levels of karma may be overcome. When Guru transmits chira-diksha he affects places in the ear conchs called "yoga-danda", after that yogi is able to overcome many karmic impurities which determine ordinary people. After this diksha yogi meditates on himself as on Shiva svarupa and if he practices regularly, he will overcome all bandhanas (bonds, limitations of consciousness), and different karmas will affect his spiritual state only highly positive. He will be able to handle even negative energy properly using it also only for his benefit.

Questions to Guru Yogi Matsyendranath Maharaj:

Why does contamination happen when we contact someone who has a heavy karma? Do all the negative tendencies get accepted or only those that are not eradicated yet in ourselves, in other words, another person displays that already exists in us?

The person whom we have certain reaction to makes us understand which sanskaras exist in us and, perhaps, not exhausted yet; something in us may be not displayed on a conscious level and this uncontrolled energy makes us, often unconsciously, do things that we might not want to do. Then we get involved in it and unconsciously start to get accreted with karma in accordance with a particular involvement. When we get involved in games of Maya forgetting the main goal - God-realization and realization of our soul identical to God in this world - it becomes a weight of karma, for this main goal we should always hold to vairagya no matter the odds. There are both negative and positive things in the world, we should take them internally in equal measures and no matter what we meditated upon - our problems or desires - we should always keep inner detachment from them and be aware of what is happening at the moment within us.

Is it possible to "burn" the karmic result of negative actions?

There is a ritual to atone sins, it is called "prayashchita". When one has so heavy karma that there is almost no gleam in it, and no effort is made to become cleaner, then negative situations may happen which will be also a form of cleaning for his karma. "Karma bricks" realize itself only under favorable conditions: the right time, place, environment, and some merits, which, actually have generated a spiritual impulse. But merits manifest themselves as dominant energy very rarely, they are built-in into the "body of karma" and interact continuously with other structural elements.

It is true that merits may be built into the "body of karma", moreover, such a situation not always change one’s overall condition towards evolution. What one takes as a basis is important, because one can feed the good with the bad and vice versa. All the more, the world cannot be only negative or only positive. There is everything for everyone in this world, any choice. What really matters is what exactly one chooses and for which route. Small merits and small sins are nothing unusual but what one is aimed at in total is quite another matter and that it is of the most significance. Someone is oriented to advance somehow in this world but he is determined by this world; while another one may be focused on what is otherworldly, which means this "otherworldly" includes all evenly. This idea seems to be attractive but like all the attractive ideas still need to be realized.

In books of the Bihar School of Yoga human karma is considered as mental impressions. How this view relates to experience of Nathas?

Nathas consider karma not simply as mental impressions. Of course, that is true for a due being but if you are one with the whole world, any and all mental impressions are yours. At the same time, you are free from them and are able to manage on your own not identifying with mental impressions. You instantly take control of what you renunciate from. If you only renunciate from some of your experiences, there is still a space for "yours" and "not yours", and a sort of conflict occurs. But Nath takes all and renunciate from all, he does not just say “this is true, and that is not”, everything is true, and there cannot be anything that would not be true.о, он не просто говорит, что вот это – истина, а это – нет: всё есть истина, и не может быть чего-то, что не было бы истиной.

For that reason, Nath is aware of everything, not just what he would like but what exist in fact, and because of such awareness he remains in reality overcoming all illusive limitations. In fact, there is only one dharma, it includes all dharmas, so we transform gradually our personal dharma into the Supreme Dharma in which all contradictions disappear and our actions become highly equitable. We do not even think over in advance how to act but all our actions are naturally committed exactly the way it would happen in the most perfect form.

Can Guru take upon himself karma of his disciples?

It is difficult for us to understand even what karma of disciples is, what it means to take it, and who takes it at all. A person simply identifies with different destructive or positive energies, and not everyone is able to see his source. Usually people judge through the prism of stereotypes: "This one is a good man and that one is aggressive."

But in fact, it is not qualities of a person, it may be influence of planets, spirits, past interrelations and sanskaras generated by them. Human being does not know who he is, and why he creates various actions. The primary objective of Guru is to show the way to his disciple, not to fix him on his seeming personality but exactly to give an opportunity for such conditions in which the disciple may become cleaner spiritually. The best such opportunity is to provide a link with Tradition which is already verified by thousands of practitioners. Therefore, Guru manifests the Tradition and its strength, he must strengthen in it and get realization. This is necessary because it is not he, who deals with disciple’s karma and with Maya, but the essence of Tradition itself.

On such spiritual path disciple is tested not once or twice, but times without number as Mahamaya has a very various toolkit how to put even advanced yogi into illusion. Therefore, Guru undertakes multitude of sins; methods of Maya are ingenious, and the way in which Guru teaches to stand against Maya may be beyond our minds. Of course, Guru can undertake karma of his disciple but there are different levels of disciple initiations.

Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is very important. Someone may consider it as a practice for people with low level of evolution, shudras (lowest cast), and discern nothing of note in it but it's a great mistake. It is karma-yoga that can give a good basis for further practice to about eighty percent of those who proceeds to sadhana. There were many cases when people had very serious physical illness healed because they were engaged in the most "ordinary" karma yoga. And, in course of time, they even became superior in knowledge and realization to "mystics and esoterics."

Karma-yoga examines if a person really needs spiritual practice. It must be understood that sadhana is not a week-long «yoga-seminar». Sadhana is what you have entirely dedicated yourself to. It cannot be judged even by amount of efforts made, ego is very flexible and may, on the contrary, grow up due to "karma yoga". That is why it is so important to follow what your Guru says.

Based on materials

Tags:  Karma Yoga Sampradaya Forum
Author: Nathaji

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