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Karma: Cause or Consequence? - Part 2

by M. Govindan Satchidananda


We have defined karma as that law or principle of nature which requires that every action, word or thought has an effect or consequence. We have discussed the various types of karma, and whether our lives are determined by fate or by free will.

In continuance of our previous discussion of questions which the term Karma elicits, we may also ask:

"What is grace?" "What does it have to do with karma?" and "How can Kriya Yoga neutralize karma?"

What is grace? The concept of grace is found throughout the teachings of the Siddhas, as well as in many world religions. It reflects the widespread recognition that our prayers are answered by a source of benevolence, independent of whether we are deserving. With karma, we get what we deserve. With grace we receive what is uplifting and edifying to our soul, in response to its call. Just as every action, word or thought has by the law of karma a necessary con-sequence or reaction, there is a higher law by which the enables the individual soul (the jiva) to communicate with the Supreme Soul of the universe (Ishvara).

The Siddha Tirumular refers to Grace as one of five acts of the Lord:

"Creation, Preservation, and Dissolution,
(that for Jivas grant rest from birth-and-death whirl)
Obfuscation and Grace
(that redeem Jiva after life below)
These, for Sakala souls He filled
All these acts five,
Beginningless His are."
-Tirumandiram verse 2418

(Sakala souls are those who are encumbered by all three impurities: ignorance, karma and delusion)

Furthermore he gives a form to this grace: Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance:

In the splendorous temple (of Chidambaram)
He danced,
For the two rishis (Patanjali and Vyagrapada to witness)
He danced,
Form, Formless and as Cosmic Form,
Within the Divine Grace of Sakti
He danced,
He the siddhas, the anandas,
As Form of Grace
He stood and danced."
-TM verse 2790

Thus Self-realization and God-realization is a Divine Grace, which descends upon the devotee who surrenders to the Lord. The purpose of the above mentioned five acts of the Lord is to help the souls get rid of their impurities, known as "pasa" or bindings.

The five acts are not amusement, but because of the Lord's love for the souls. This is clearly stated in the following verse:

It was His grace that led me into Pasa (bondage to impurities)
It was His grace that freed me from that Pasa
It was His grace that in divine love granted Mukti
It was His grace that granted me the love
For the state beyond Mukti.
-TM verse 1802

How can the Lord cause souls to be born into a life of suffering? Tirumular answers this question:

In His Grace was I born;
In His Grace I grew up;
In His Grace I rested in death;
In His Grace I was in obfuscation;
In His Grace I tasted of ambrosial bliss;
In His Grace, Nandi, my heart entered.
-TM verse 1800

So, the Lord gives souls a body to work out their karma; he supports them so that they can experience the results of their action, and so learn wisdom from them; he gives them rest through destruction of the body; he gives obscuration to veil their true nature as consciousness (cit) and eventually bliss, resulting from equanimity with regards to karma; finally he gives them release from the bondage of delusion that I am the body, I am the desires, in liberation. Thus all of His acts are expressions of His Grace.

Patanjali has made it clear that the Lord Himself is unaffected by karma or desire, therefore, his grace is not bound by these:

"Ishvara is the special Self untouched by any affliction, actions, fruits of action (karma) or by any inner impression of desire (samskaras)." -Yoga-Sutras 1.24

He also adds to Tirumular's statement of purpose by telling us that "The Seen exists only for the sake of the Self." -Yoga-Sutras II.21. That is, the world (the Seen) gives experience and by such experience we gradually wake up from the dream that we are the Seen, and realize that we are the Seer.

Is Divine Grace accessible to all? Yes, but only those who have prepared themselves know of its availability and aspire for it. The Mother has said: "The Grace is equally for all. But each one receives it according to his sincerity." This requires tapas, or intensive practice of Yoga, but even before this one must begin by cultivating non-attachment:

Sunder your desires and passions;
Having sundered,
The Lord's place easy be
-TM verse 2613
And
Sunder your desires, sunder your desires
Sunder your desires even like the Lord;
The more the desires, the more your sorrows;
The more you give up, the more your bliss shall be.
-TM verse 2615

Those souls which have reached a state of detachment (vairagya) are in a state of equanimity. They look upon the results of good actions and bad actions equally; they do not become excited or saddened by either. Consequently, Divine grace comes to them in the form of a spiritual guide, who shows them the path to liberation.

"When the Jiva attains the state of Neutrality
To deeds, good and evil,
Then does divine Grace in Guru form descend,
Removes attributes all,
Implants Jnana that is like a heavenly cool shad;
The Jiva thus rid of egoity,
And other Impurities Three,
Shall with Siva in union merge.
-TM verse 1527

So, the Divine Grace descends according to the degree of striving and blossoming of the souls. This descent is classified into four types, according to the speed: slowest, slow, quick and quicker. These are referred to as four paths to the feet of the Lord: dasa-marga, satputra-marga, saha-marga, and sanmarga.

Dasa-marga or carya is the path of the servant of the Lord, and involves service in the temple, cleaning, preparation of offerings, praising the Lord, lighting lamps and to the Lord, as a devotee.

Satputra-marga or kriya is the path of the son or daughter, wherein the relationship is more intimate. Various forms of worship are to be performed, including the use of chants, incense, light, flowers, mantras, and images.

Saha-marga or yoga is the path of friendship, and requires one to perform Kundalini Yoga to withdraw the senses and control of the breath, turning ones energy inwards through the sushumna nadi, internal worship of the chakras, contemplation of the inner light at the crown.

Sanmarga is the path of jnana, wherein one realizes ones true identity as the Self, and ultimately as Ishvara. The knower, the known and knowing become one in a state of transcendence. Grace manifests in four stages of release. All impurities dissolve in the fire of the consciousness of the Supreme Being within. All previous contradictions are resolved. They adore the Lord night and day in a state of intoxication, and mystical transcendence.

Aspiration

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother teach that the establishment of a divine life upon earth itself can only be achieved with the conjunction of two forces: a steadily mounting ardent aspiration from the side of the sadhak, and from the Divine's side, an answering Grace, descending from above in response to the sadhak's call. And whenever there is the flame of aspiration burning bright in the sadhak's heart, the Grace of the Divine Mother cannot but respond. Aspiration is an upward movement of our consciousness through the psychic part of our being toward all that is good, pure and beautiful; it is a thirst for spiritual knowledge, a steady and quiet seeking of the Divine, a spiritual enthusiasm of our soul towards perfection, contact with Divine Love, Harmony and Presence. It is an inner purifying flame, a need for the light of consciousness. An intense seeking to be absorbed in the Divine. "I want you lord, and nothing which you can give to me. It feels: "I want to live only for you, in you, without separation." One does so without impatience, but with faith, equanimity, concentration. Desire, in contrast, manifests the ego, which refuses to dissolve itself in the One Being. Aspiration is the opposite; one is intensely aware of the limitations of the ego bound existence, and one seeks to come out of its prison. One directs one's energies away from the ego-center. One rejects the ego's negative and contracting impulses.

How can Kriya Yoga neutralize karma?

Kriya means "action with awareness." It is derived from the word karma, which means "action with consequences," or "action with reaction." Awareness occurs whenever part of our consciousness separates itself from that which is involved in the five senses, thinking or other movements of the mind, and standing back, merely watches. Awareness occurs whenever we are fully present with whatever is occuring, and when we choose to be the Seer, or Witness to the drama of our lives. One practices various techniques or "kriyas" in order to cultivate such awareness in all five planes of existence: physically through the asanas, or physical postures, vitally through Kundalini pranayama breathing, mentally, through special meditation techniques, intellectually through Kriya mantra yoga, and spiritually, through the cultivation of Kriya bhakti yoga of love and devotion.

Kriya is therefore an antidote to karma, because when one can act with "awareness," one can reflect beforehand, and allow oneself to be guided by one's higher Self. Being fully present, centered and calm, one is not swept away by attachments or aversions. On the other hand, in the ordinary physical consciousness, one reacts to the forces of nature, acting through various karma, driven by habitual impulses or samskaras, which in their totality constitute our karma. One continues to create new karma as a result of attachments and desires and aversions. Such practice of "Kriya Yoga" enables one to integrate it into daily life, where the real practice of Yoga begins. One cultivates being "actively calm, and calmly active," reinforcing the presence in one's life of the sattva guna, of balance, equanimity, awareness, detachment, beingness, acceptance and love. This is the antidote to our karma, which acts through the other two major forces of Nature: rajas (activity, through attachment, with the feeling "I am the doer") and tamas (inertia, doubt, fear with the feeling: I can't, it's too hard, I am afraid). By practicing the, various Kriyas in Babaji's five fold path of Kriya Yoga: asanas, Kundalini pranayama meditation, mantras and bhakti yoga, one develops more and more the sattva guna, or balanced mode of Nature within, and one becomes a master of one's life. One ceases to perpetuate karma; one exhausts old karmic tendencies. One realizes that "I am not the doer" but merely an instrument, and that one is indeed, the Seer. This requires a systematic purification of the ego tendencies, and so Kriya also involves self-purification of the false identification with the body, mind, personality, and a detachment from the ego's negative and contracting impulses. As a result, one realizes unconditional joy, or ananda, which is independent of whether is getting or not getting what one desires, physically or emotionally. Sat chit ananda: Being, consciousness, and bliss, therefore becomes both the vehicle and destination of Kriya Yoga. It is the method, and the goal, because the Lord is Sat chid ananda, and the world is His self-manifestness. One realizes a higher law, which enables us to supersede the Law of Karma.

The systematic practice of Kriya Yoga thus becomes the masterkey to overcoming karma, and to realizing the ultimate goals of Dharma: Self-realization and God Realization.

Copyright: M. Govindan Satchidananda, March 2005

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