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Monday, February 16, 2009

Karma Yoga – CREDO XLVII

Jung’s coincidentia oppositorum is a Western expression of a profound universal truth: the manifest world consists of opposites and so does every human psyche. Whether it’s reality and its meaning or ego and Self, the yearning to unite them needs a third (the Transcendent Function is the tab to every zipper!) If you turn the letter Y upside down, you have the idea in its essence. But that’s just the beginning. The word “yoke” comes from the Sanskrit for yoga, which implies this same process of uniting expressed by Hindus for centuries in various ways. The basic purpose of yoga is to reunite each of us from the distress of separation from the atman or Spirit. In the West, we would say God, Christ Within, Jung’s “Self” or, as I call it, our Divine Guest. The etymological roots of our word “religion” are the Lat. re-ligare, to bind back, which is another way of putting it.

For centuries, Hindus perfected various processes to enable this, and they realized “different strokes for different folks.” Here are a few briefly defined:

1) Hatha Yoga – perfecting the physical body as an instrument through postures and movements to reach higher consciousness. This is the best known yoga in the West because it also results in good health.

2) Raja Yoga – the monastic vocation of monk or nun, considered the royal road to this union.

3) Jnana Yoga (pronounced gnana) – the most difficult path of the intellect. Thomas Aquinas is an example in the West.

4) Bhatki Yoga – the path of loving devotion expressed through all the arts devoted to personal praise of God and gratitude. This was popular for us in the ’70s with chanting of “Hari, hari Krishna!” and the first popular introduction of Hinduism through the Beatles. For many it led to a deep commitment to its spiritual goal and an exposure to the others mentioned above. I find it helpful to remember that the polytheism of Hinduism was to help discern the various aspects of the ineffable One, Brahman. This gives choice for individual needs. Gods and goddesses in all faiths represent the personification of archetypal processes and go by different names in different cultures. To realize this can deepen our understanding of so-called pagan religions. When some of us pray to St. Anthony to find something or St. Jude to help a hopeless case, it is much the same concept. We are, after all, human beings and it helps to have Spirit come to us through a human being as a shining instrument. We are blessed in the great ones who have come to us through the Ages in different times and different cultures. They surely all deserve appreciation rather than selective rejection.

And then there is 5) Karma Yoga – the humble layman’s path. Years ago, I read the definition:

To practice Karma Yoga is to live a life in the world and give all of the fruits of your actions to God.

“Aha!” said I to myself, “that’s for me! I can do that.” So, fervently I began to review my day every night and to try most sincerely to find anything I deemed worthy to offer up. About ten days later, I found myself getting more and more depressed! I despaired. What was I doing so wrong? I carefully reread the definition several times, and I suggest that you, the reader, do likewise. What word had I missed?

It was the little word ‘all’. What does that word imply? The whole Schmier! That would mean one’s failures, as well! Oh dear!

By unconsciously sorting so carefully, the you-know-what was piling up behind my door! No wonder, I was depressed. This yoga was intended to make one conscious of both success and failure, and the necessity for honestly saying “I blew it!” yet be willing to keep trying. Karma means cause and effect.

Now as an old lady, I realize that I am unable to break most of the Ten Commandments and so am resigned to sinning on the installment plan! The Sufis have a word for this, so I’m not off the hook. They call it the nafs – those nasty little things one does or thinks or says. They even have a wise proverb:

Before you speak let your words pass through three sieves:
    Is it true?
    Is it kind?
    Is it necessary?

Were we to follow this counsel, think how many of the printed and spoken words we could eliminate with one mental delete!

Needless to say, all three great Western religions have various ways of dealing with guilt-relieving confessions, but the Episcopalian one I grew up with has the ghastliest one of all. It goes like this:

Dear Lord forgive me for all those things I have done that I ought not to have done and for all those things that I have not done that I ought to have done!

For me, that second one is a psychological abyss! Beware of falling into it.
It is as bad as defining yourself by what you are not!!


Out to the garden with my ego to eat worms!


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