This came up in another non-spiritual forum. I was asked some questions about Yoga. This was the result.
You’re wise to focus on results rather than concepts. Too much of philosophy and religion is about concepts and beliefs and who’s right rather than how we’re actually living. The point is to support a better life.
I would suggest it’s not so much that we achieve understanding of the true nature of karma but rather that through transcendence/ samadhi, we detach our identification with our sense of personal “me” and experiences. This has the effect of us detaching from the flow of action (karma) and it’s fruits. And this allows karma to flow easily. Thus we cease resisting the process and creating new karma as an effect, and so forth. Understanding comes as a consequence also, but is not the source of the change.
Self Realization causes a key shift in our relationship with the me and it’s experiences and is thus key in this process.
It should be noted that the detachment I refer to is a stepping back into the observer or consciousness behind the experiences. It is not a mental detachment that some forms of mindfulness and such try to culture. Nor is it a disassociative state. Key to progress is an integration of body, emotions, and mind and not a division. Trying to avoid life is a denial and another form of resistance. This does not support untangling karma in the slightest.
Also, it is ego that seeks control. If the practice cultures control, it is misguided to me. However, if it cultures awareness and thus conscious choice in our response, then it is useful.
There is a section in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna describes this process. At first, we have a doh moment after the fact – we realize we’ve done it again. Then, with progress, we begin to notice our response during the action. We begin to have some choice, some awareness. Then, we notice the response as it is first arising. At that point we have real choice – do we want to engage the circumstance reactively or not? Further still, we dissolve the samskaras or impressions that trigger the reaction in the first place. That’s when the karmic dynamic truly ends.
The paths are not so black and white as is often portrayed. Most people find it useful to blend aspects to suit their temperament. The path of knowledge is sometimes described as a monks path, for example, but its clear I like most am a householder. I use a blend. I can also note that different paths can be key at different stages of development. But that’s a larger subject. Yoga itself took the approach of “Raja” or royal and blended them.
Yes, bliss functions distinctly from emotions but may show up subjectively as pleasure, etc or be experienced with other emotions. Eckhart Tolle uses the example of seeing someone kicking a dog. Naturally, there is anger. But once established, this doesn’t disturb the bliss. They co-exist. And the anger is not resisted so it expresses and completes and is done. As the old Buddhist story of the monks crossing the river goes, he put the woman down on the other side. His companion did not.
I would also suggest love is like this. There is love that is associated with pleasure and meeting needs. But there is a larger Love that simply flows and seeks a way to express through. It is unconditional. This arises prior to bliss and is often associated with forms of so-called religious experience. Rapturous experiences are often a blend of bliss and love.
Some practices have been quite heavily researched for many years, such as TM and mindfulness. The benefits are cumulative. But yes, there are other practices that try to culture special abilities and there are austerities people perform for this as well. But as in the karma discussion above, it rather depends on the motivation behind what we’re doing. If that’s driven by vasanas (unresolved desires), we’re just talking more karma again.
On the questions, there are those who are steeped in traditional study of the old texts that they feel explain the nature of the universe. But there is an old Vedic saying: knowledge in books remains in books. If it is not the direct experience, then it’s just concepts and beliefs of the mind. However, there are some seers and yogis who do have the direct experience. The question is then – how complete is the experience?
The Vedas are full of the recording of those direct experiences of various qualities. For example, the Srimad Bhagavatum is not as developed an understanding as the Yog Vasishtha. Yoga is more basic than Vedanta. But each can have their place.
The yogis described planets that were not discovered by physical means until the last century. And a lot has been lost in the long periods of time. But yes, subjective means can be less reliable than objective means. But I’ve found a great deal of value in the study of these various philosophies over the years. It has suited my path but it’s not for everybody.
Not sure which astronomical cycles you’re referring to but yes, there are some errors that crept into that. Yogananda’s master Yukteswar tried to correct some of that.
But yes, I agree. Follow what brings you a better quality of life.