The journey of the spirit is the infinite consciousness seeking to realize itself once again. In another way, we can describe this journey as the journey towards enlightenment. A key aspect of this journey is that it may take many lifetimes to realize the true self.
All religions suggest that the present human condition is one of suffering or dissatisfaction. According to the yoga sutras, we are plagued by fear, ignorance, desire, aversion, and egoism and these seeds create habitual patterns within us (SAMSKARAS) that influence our trancelike behavior and keep us trapped in this individual cycle of suffering. Most religions and spiritual traditions will also suggest that there is a state that transcends suffering that accompanies being a human in this world and the sadness, grief, anger, etc. The path of yoga is said to end the cycle of suffering and awaken the self to a higher mental understanding and emotional depth.
When we are born, we are born into a physical body and we awaken to the senses and the sensory input of this world. Some of the sensory input that we are exposed to is very pleasurable like cuddling our mother and drinking sweet breast milk and sometimes there is pain associated with sensory input for example putting our hand on a hot stove and getting burnt. As we age, depending on what we are exposed to including actual physical experiences but also social cues and familial and cultural beliefs, we form desires whether for food, fame, companionship, sex, warmth, etc. In the pursuing of these desires, we then experience more pleasure or pain.
Sometimes we get frustrated in our desires and it’s painful. Sometimes we get what we want and it’s painful. Perhaps we are satisfied in the pursuit of our desires. We are hungry and we eat and feel satiated, or we are tired and we sleep and that desire is satiated. Because of these pleasurable or painful experiences, we begin to develop a sense of attachment and aversion. To things that add to our pleasurable experiences we get attached. To that which threatens us we develop aversions toward. The running towards our attachments and the running from our painful experiences become our habits.
It is said that when desire came to be in the human psyche, the seed of desire (RAKTA BIJA) won the boon that when it was satisfied, more seeds would be planted. Thus desire begets desire. Our desires multiply at a seemingly endlessly. Once we have achieved one thing it is on to the next. We have to eat and sleep and practice everyday, we must participate in the world and move forward everyday. The things that we do to achieve or pursue the objects of our desires are good or bad depending on whether they transgress on other beings. Sometimes we step on others including the earth due to ignorance. On the way to get what we want, do we unconsciously or accidentally hurt another? Do the actions we commit in pursuing our “happiness” or “bliss” cause issue in the world, or do they bring good fortune to the world around us? These actions we commit in moving towards spiritual realization, pursuing our desires, or running from pain, whether good, bad, or neutral accumulate and become our karma.
KARMA is the sum total of all our actions in this lifetime and the last and it is the determining factor in what life we are born into and what happens to us in that lifetime. All the traumas, all the joy, all the luck, all the challenges, all that we are meant to experience and have experienced are a result of our karma. This can be very difficult to wrap our minds around because it is a poor explanation for some of the suffering that we may have endured, but karma is objective. Regardless, the actions that we choose to take, especially after we wake up to the fact that we are on a spiritual journey, leave karmic seeds. For example if we murder someone to satisfy a desire or if we engage in selfless service, that is a seed that we now carry and we will reap the fruits of such an action later in this life, or in the next.
The ultimate and traditional goal of yoga as a science is not just to relieve the suffering of the experiential being that we were born into, but also to engage in the process of realizing that we are a piece of the infinite having a finite experience. In other words, the goal of yoga is to reach a state of enlightenment. The best explanation of realizing this phenomenon I have ever heard was: achieving a state of perfect union in which I was the universe and the universe was singing it’s praises.
The theory that yoga is built on states that whether or not you realize that you are god or the infinite searching for yourself, you are. To say that karma is good or bad is irrelevant since what we perceive as traumatic and negative experiences can actually be key experiences that wake an individual up to the spiritual journey, to the truth of the Self with a capital S navigating the manifest world and engaging in a way that brings us closer to god or further away. What does matter is not what happens to you but how you react to it. Do you commit action in a way that adds weight to your karmic load or to the lightness of your karmic load? Do you engage in the practices that might make you a better person or that lead to enlightenment?
Are you awake to your spiritual journey?