Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Burning away Karma, Feasting on Samskaras, Devouring Time

Burning away Karma, Feasting on Samskaras, Devouring Time
Lessons from Yoga and admonitions from Yoda

Yoga teaches that samskaras, past imprints, or impressions from the past, continue to shape the individual, as long as the egoic sense of the self, as separate and fixed, is not softened. Because the past becomes so easily lodged in identity, in the rigid definitition of self known in yoga as ahamkar, or "i-sense", an individual can easily, unwittingly, sculpt their future into a
replica of the past. Despite holding resentment towards one's past, one may grow up to recreate it. In this way, all the old traumas have to be re-lived on into the future. However painful or irritating that may be, there is a certain sense of continuity that is maintained. The sense of self that was established as a child gets re-affirmed continually. The individual gets to munch on the same brain chemical flavors as they did in childhood, re-experiencing all the
old, familiar emotions, and processing them in the same way. Alternately, one may do the opposite: create a future that is a direct reaction to the past- sculpting a set of realities that negate the past or attempt to obliterate it. But in so doing, certain elements of the core self may be rejected, sent underground, in order that the individual not have to confront the difficult feelings lodged in their memory from early experience. A whole self may be twisted or contorted in order to avoid re-living anything from the past. This could be the motivation
beneath the defense mechanism known as reaction formation, which is defined as "Adopting a position and mode of conduct that defy personally unacceptable thoughts or impulses by expressing diametrically opposed sentiments and convictions."

The yogi takes a radically different approach. Little by little the yogi, simply by turning attention to the body and the breath, undergoes a chiseling away of the mental constructs that support the rigidity of the ego. The yogi practices confronting mental states and then allowing them to fall away via direct apprehension of the truth as it is expressed in the body, in the breath, in the void of the present moment. Nothing is left as the yogi enters into the great emptiness of this void. The yogi experiences utter acceptance of the inevitability of karma and samskaras. How can this be so? That which most plagues us, enters into the realm of the utterly acceptable? Through direct confrontation. We recognize our fear, our dread, of the reckless repetitions of karmic patterns, the tyranny of time. We allow the fear to rise to the surface. We chew upon it as if cud, we ruminate on it. We call it fear, labeling it. Neither accepting, nor rejecting, simply directly apprehending, or labeling. As Yoda so graciously taught: "Named must your fear be before banish it you can."

Like Shiva, as nilakantha, the blue-throated one, we hold our demons in our throats, as Shiva held the samskara-halla-halla, the toxins of samskara. I refer to the myth around the early beginnings of Yoga- when the devas and demons churned the Ocean of Milk, with the practice of yoga. First, 14 jewels floated to the surface. But amongst the jewels a poison arose; the toxicity of unconscious, samskara-driven existence. No demon nor deva would take the poison. "Not in my backyard," they each, in turn, exclaimed. Finally Shiva came forward, and took the poison into his mouth. He did not swallow. Neither did he spit it out. He held it, neither attached to it, nor rejecting it.

In this way, in perfect equanimity, the yogi is thus released from the tyranny of time, the endless iterations of the same patterns. The yogi then enters into spanda, the pulse, the reality of the universe, the endless vibration. The following is from Dyczkowski, The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir (1987) p. 120

"When all supports have fallen away, the yogi experiences the Void of the primal vibration (spanda) of the absolute as a single, undivided mass of consciousness (cidekaghana).
Merged in the incessant systole and diastole of the Heart of consciousness, the yogi is no longer a victim of time but its master. He is the conqueror of time, one 'who delights in the relish of devouring time' (kalagrasarasida) and assimilating it into his own eternal consciousness: [For the yogi] past and future are not different from the present; it is the present itself which becomes divided by the past and the future. When they no longer exist, the present also ceases to exist. The yogi, resting even for an instant in this ocean of consciousness, intent on devouring time, becomes instantly a 'Wanderer in the Sky' (khechara) and is liberated."