Samsaric Experience & Spontaneity

Everything has a season; every process is an epicycle in some larger cycle (probably just an epicycle of yet another cycle, etc.). This is all just a cliche, by now, but allowing it to seem obvious holds us back from seeing its importance. When we try to force things forward, we have as much of a chance of killing them as holding them back. Our three choices appear to be: asphyxiation, hyperventilation, or simply breathing. In the first two cases, there are safety mechanisms built-in by nature: we black out, and our breathing regularizes on its own so that, when we come to, we have the possibility of restarting from a position close to equilibrium. Only in the third case is it possible to remain calm and smile.

This is the experience of time, of memory, of mentation, and of what Buddhism calls “grasping”. This is the basic knowledge behind the mental alchemy of The Kybalion.

Karma Yoga is, according to Lord Kṛṣna in Bhagavad Gita, acting without lusting after the fruits of one’s action. To paraphrase Swami Vivekananda, we have the right to act, but no right to the results; our actions will be successful or not, and we only have so much say in the matter. This is not a philosophy of pessimism, however, but of absolute optimism. Our actions are themselves of supreme value and, when approached in this way, constitute spiritual exercise.

Śaivism redefines Karma Yoga slightly to selfless (i.e. egoless) action. This is not so much a different concept as it is an excavation of the heart of the matter. How can we act without demanding a reward? By, in some sense, becoming the actions themselves, or else constantly reminding ourselves that “it is not I who act, but God who acts in me.” When this attitude is taken in a spirit of humility, much of what interrupts our calm on a regular basis becomes merely trivial, and we begin to act in spontaneity and confidence. Our actions are not merely random, but are no longer semi-conscious reactions. Instead, we act in full awareness and without barriers, simply doing what needs to be done.

For most of us, this is a very gradual process, with periodic explosions of success and failure. We each have so many habitual tendencies which must be undermined. Unlike many forms of therapy or “self-help”, though, we needn’t think that either nothing needs to occur beyond “self-acceptance”, nor that we have to take each flaw or barrier apart piece by piece. Both are fairly unproductive and generally are not realistic anyway. The “I’m okay, you’re okay” approach leaves one feeling empty, in the long run, because never do we actually lose the sense that we could be behaving better, and the piecemeal method is a battle at an impossibly steep angle; the only solution is surrender. Then the real work can get underway.

This lesson applies to literally every area of life, from the most mundane to the deeply spiritual. But we must begin where we are. That is another part of the process of Karma Yoga. Just breathe, smile, and start right where you are sitting.

 

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