Friday, December 18, 2009

Karma, Causation, Liberation, and Love of the Source

Let me clarify a few more things about karma and reincarnation.

Spiritual traditions have created the notion of karma in order to fulfill some very human ideas about justice, based on the notion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, even within the realm of spirit, ethics, morality, and intention. These traditions have failed, for the most part, to understand the nature of this world, even in strictly spiritual terms. They don't understand that this world is something akin to a "virtual reality", rather than a real place. They don't understand that what goes on here has only limited repercssions spiritually, and does not carry over like some cosmic karmic reaction aking to Newton's second law of motion.

Actions within a virtual reality don't carry over from one "game" to the next. The only way in which that is true is the extent to which they have left an impression upon us, in establishing certain patterns of gameplay. Past mistakes, however, do not mean that we are bound to suffer equal compensating mistakes in future games. It only means that we become habituated to certain patterns, and certain kinds of mistakes, and thus become prone to repeat them, and to become trapped in those patterns repetitively. This may look at first glance like "karma", but it isn't the same thing at all.

It's important to recognize that reincarnation is a learning process, not bound by any particular laws of simplistic justice. The point of spirits being born in conjunction with physical bodies is to learn something, not to become trapped in a cycle of cause an effect. If we can recognize each lifetime as an exercize in learning, as a kind of test rather than a kind of criminal justice system, I think this becomes simpler to understand. When we take a test at school, the results of each test are independent of one another. We may do well on one test, and fail another. If we do well on one test, of course, we are more likely to do well on the next one, and if we do badly, that too is likely to be repeated. Lessons learned tend to build a body of skill and knowledge, and lessons failed tend to build a pattern of failure. However, none of that is strictly causal. If one does well on one test, it does not mean that one will do well on the next test automatically, one still has to actually study and improve and get things right.

Nor does it mean that if one passes a test, one will get easier questions to answer on the next test. The opposite is actually more likely. Doing well actually increases the likelihood that the next test will be even harder, since one has already mastered one level of learning and is thus more likely to get a harder test the next time on material one is less skilled at. So if karma is equated to a process of universal learning, rather than one of universal justice, the process of reincarnation is not going to be based on a system of rewards and punishments, but of increasing difficulty based on merit and performance. There is certainly some degree to which increasing skill and competence in the art of living a human life is its own reward, of course, but this is not do to some kind of karmic system of action and reaction, but to the conscious pattern of one's own learning process.

I hope it's clear then that the kind of "laws" which govern reincarnation are not akin to criminal laws based on rewards and punishments, but on a system of voluntary schooling. They are not meant to regulate behavior in some cosmic justice system of moral action and reaction, but to school us in a process of spiritual learning. At least, that analogy is a much more apt one than the justice system analogy that has been promoted by most religions.

For this reason, there is no genuine form of punishment for failing badly in any particular life. That failure is its own punishment, and has consequences to be sure in that we are "held back" and must repeat various lessons until we get them right, but there is no sense in which we are literally going to have to pay for having done something bad in a past life. That idea is an old misunderstanding that has become embedded in religious and spiritual thought because it perpetuates certain myths and patterns that humans have found comfort in, rather than because they are true. One can see how that illusion could seem logical to us, in that it simply creates a distortion of the spiritual process of reincarnation that makes some sense to many people who take this world to be the model for spiritual truth. They see the cause and effect patterns of the material world, and think the whole of spiritual reality operates in the same way. But it does not.

As I've said before, the more dimensions of reality one examines simultaneously, the less they are found to operate on the basis of cause and effect. Looking at the reincarnational model, therefore, involves looking at two major dimensions of reality and their interelationship,and in so doing, the strict causal model already begins to break down. One can see that it is not so rigid at all, but operates more like an educational system where causes and effects are moderated by one's own conscious learning, and not by some automated legal system of "laws". The laws which do operate in this relationship are more akin to the rules of a classroom, and not that of the halls of justice. One is not punished for getting things wrong, both literally and morally. Rather, that merely holds one back from growing and prospering. This is a lessening of the logic of cause and effect, but not its elimination altogether, which only occurs as one begins to see even this process from a more inclusive viewpoint that takes even more of the levels of existence into account. Of course, even then, the model of the school or a "learning process" remains valuable, The sense of what is fair changes more and more, but the basic concept of fairness itself remains intact, it merely shifts its context as one looks deeper and deeper into the karmic game.

Stepping out of the karmic viewpoint is thus even a part of the "plan", one could say. It's a form of graduation from the illusions of this world. However, it does not necessarily require full master of all karmic possibilities. One can begin to step out at time or place in the karmic wheel, which in itself never ends, but simply cycles us back and forth through all levels of learning and mastery, which can never become perfected in themselves. We can indeed repeat the same levels of learning over and over again if we wish, gaining deeper and deeper mastery of each level or place, and never actually graduate. Old souls are not necessarily more interested in graduating from the karmic round of appearances than younger, less capable souls. So the purpose of non-dual teachings is not about gaining greater mastery over the karmic process, but about gaining freedom from it. That too operates as a kind of school, but of a different nature than karmic learning. It involves stepping out of the karmic pattern entirely, which is done by looking at all dimensions of existence equally, and not concentrating one's attention or viewpooint only within one, or within a small range, but looking at the whole. This entails recognizing that the spiritual cosmos as a whole does not operate by cause and effect at all. Instead, it operates by synchronized patterns of consciousness that all emanate from the same source.

If we look around us at the objects in a room, we will see all kinds of shapes and colors. We might imagine that each object radiates a particular "energy", and that this is what makes them appear as they do. If we look closer, however, we will see that there is only one genuine source of light in the room, and that it merely reflects those objects depending on the nature of the light. If we have a very bright light on in the room, things will appear bright, with of course some variations. If the room is lit by a red light, everything will appear reddish in color. If the light is flickering, the objects will appear to flicker. These patterns are not caused by one object in the room affecting the next, in some chain of causation, but by changes in the source light itself. In a similar way, the patterns of this manifest universe are not actually caused by the apparent objects in the universe acting upon one another, but by the pattern of light and energy at the source shifting and changing. The process if infinitely more complex and occurs on many more levels than the analogy of the lighted room could convey, but the principle is similar. The ever-shifting pattern at the subjective, conscious source of this universe creates the changing patterns we see all about us, not the interactions of those patterns themselves. They are in synch with one another, but they do not create that synchronicity through a cause and effect process. Rather, their relationship is at the source, and the similarity in their patterns originates in the source. At each level of manifestation, that pattern exhibits its own character and apparent connectivity, such that it appears at that level as if causation and randomness were what connected each changing pattern, but neither is the case. The source-light is the only thing that changes, and it creates a natural harmony at all levels of manifestation. This synchronized harmony, however, is not visible if one's viewpoint is limited. Limited viewpoints make the mistake of seeing cause and effect as the ruling pattern of manifestation, when this is merely an illusion of perspective. In order to achieve true harmony and thus a true viewpoint on reality, one's viewpoint must include the source-light itself, otherwise one will always be fooled into thinking some causal, karmic process is at work. If one fails to see the source-light, one can't imagine how the objects in the room could possibly be connected other than by causation. But seeing the source-light clarifies the entire picture.

This is why the most important part of our learning is to become familiar with the source of our existence, and not merely to observe the process of appearance in and of itself. If we look to the source as much as possible, it will clarify the many optical illusions created by partial viewpoints. Karma is one of those illusions that seem sensible from a limited perspective, but which begins to evaporate once we look at a larger and larger picture. When our viewpoint begins to include the source-light itself, then everything begins to fall apart and simultaneous come together. We begin to see that cause and effect paths cannot possibly reveal to us the truth or reality, but will only perpetuate illusions in a perpetual cycle of seeming causes that never end up producing the ultimately desired effect of genuine happiness and freedom. The understanding of the world as a karmic cycle of caises and effects cannot possibly lead to liberation from that cycle, therefore, but only to its perpetuation.

We must come to understand the world as being uncaused, and uncreated, in order to find genuine liberation. We must recognize that the source-light "creates" the world in reality, and not through some process of cause and effect that trickles down from the source, but through a process of simultaneous synchronicity, at all levels and in all worlds. Knowing the source si therefore the key to liberation, not knowing how to create effects from the right set of causes. Therefore, there is no method of causation that brings about liberation, but only insight into the nature of the source and its relationship to manifestation.

I would also like to make it clear that this understanding is not some special form of esoteric knowledge only suited for special people. It's just the basic truth about this world and its source. There's no particular reason why anyone couldn't begin to understand it and operate from this understanding. It doesn't negate the basic practical knowledge achieved within any level of existence, or even between levels. It merely relates these levels properly to their source, and orients us to the unifying principle that actually does create this world we live in.

What is that unifying principle? It's nothing more or less than simple love. We can speak of love in many ways, but when understood in relationship to the source, we must recognize that love is at the very root of manifest existence, and it radiates to every part of it simultaneously, not as a process of cause and effect, but as instantaneous harmony. That harmony is not only evident from one aspect of existence to the next, but is most direct evident in relationship to the source. That relationship to the source is what is called love. That is why religion so often speaks of the source in devotional terms. Even non-dual teachings, which tend to use various impersonal abstractions in their language, are all based on the process of deepening love for the source. The experience of love, at any level, represents a basic freedom from cause and effect, and an immediate relationship to the acausal source. That is why love is so precious to us. It instantly penetrates the veils of karma, and relieves us of the heartless burdens of our past actions. Love transforms us at the heart of our existence, by revealing to us the source from which all of manifestation flows. The more deeply we love, the more deeply we are liberated from the karmic cycle, therefore. The process of learning non-dualism, therefore, is entirely about love.

Love does not operate by causes and effects, but by a spontaneous, synchronized harmony with the source of creation, which is not causal in nature at all. The uncreated "buddh", the unborn, is not something that is far away and disassociated from the manifest worlds, it is merely outside the illusion of cause and effect. It is the very heart of the reality of manifestation, which is love, and not some disassociated "emptiness". It is empty of causes and effects, and entities which see themselves as part of that chain of causes and effects, but it is not empty of love of the source-light.This love of our source is all that it realizes and understands, and by understanding the source, all understanding appears in synchronicity with it. We need not accumulate knowledge, therefore, or methods which can produce effects, but we need only love our mutual source and they will manifest themselves spontaneously in the natural course of things. This may take the appearance of causes and effects to those not including the source in their viewpoint, but that is not evidence that causation is the process of how existence works. Love is how existence "works", and by loving we are able to live in harmony with the source, and thus to experience the nature of the source in the midst of its mysteriously manifesting process, which is not properly understood by causal logic.

The best non-dual practice, therefore, is to put loving attention  upon the source of our own existence. Self-enquiry is about love, therefore, and not merely some disassociated process of self -inspection. There is no genuine self-enquiry apart from love of the source, and thus love of all others as manifestations of the same source. This is what it means to love all others as one's very Self. It's important to understand such teachings in an acausal manner, however, because looked at by the logic of causation they would make little sense, and even be false. Following the chain of causation, one only finds oneself trapped in endless loops of effects. By stepping outside of causation, and looking to the source-light that illuminates the world, one is able to drive directly to the source. This is far more effective than any method aimed at producing effects themselves, paradoxically, because it bypasses the time necessary for an effect to be produced. It goes to the source of time, and makes use of the process by which time itself is synchronized to all appearances.

Therefore, it is said that love takes no time at all. And for the same reason, enlightenment takes no time either. This is because it isn't the effect of some cause. It steps entirely outside the time-frame of causes and their effects. It may appear to occur within time, but it does not. The source-light is not visible as an object in the room, it is the light which makes all things appear. It does not appear in time, therefore, but is the source of time. It synchronizes all forms of time, such that all things appear in harmony with one another. Even causes and their effects are harmonized naturally by this process. Even when enlightenment appears to be synchronized with some effect, some teaching incident or the grace of a Guru, it is not caused by any of these - any more than loving someone is caused by anything they did. One loves spontaneously, through recognition of the source, and this allows us our greatest moments of freedom and happiness. The love which is the real nature of enlightenment similarly manifests spontaneously, and not by any method or cause, other than the method of not resorting to any cause.

This is why living by grace is the key to spiritual practice. Genuine spiritual life is uncaused, is spontaneous, is free of any method, is a manifestation of the source. To live by grace, however, does not mean being dependent on some causal source who will make things happen for us by responding to our prayers. It means recognizing that no causes actually exist, and that everything happens by grace, not just "miracles". It means stepping out of the "world as we know it", because what we know is causes and effects, karma, and the source is not a part of that world, because it's an illusion, not the real world at all. In the real world, there are no causes and effects, only a spontaneously synchronized harmony with the source-light. To live in that world requires only that we understand and surrender to our own source.


Losing M. Mind said...

What you said made sense to me about it not being a criminal justice system. But I'm not so sure about a certain aspect of what you said. It seems like the best way to gain mastery over this life is to disidentify from it. That's why people do yoga and meditation to relax and be more present. Is that it actually seems to help them master this life when they aren't looking for something. In my own life, it has played out somewhat akin to not running before I catch the ball. Desires are sort of a mental imaginary game that seems to actually hinder functioning. Whereas you mentioned in a previous article the sanity and maturity of Papaji. One of hte reasons I'm so intent on Self-inquiry, is that i was not able to master this life, and it's relationships from the standpoint of egoic consciousness.

Broken Yogi said...

The mastery of someone like Papaji, achieved through self-enquiry and transcendence of the ego, is of a different order than the mastery of someone working within the egoic structure. The ego strives for mastery over the process of cause and effect, whereas the non-dual practitioner surrenders by aligning himself to the synchronous nature of reality, not trying to control reality through the mastery of cause and effect. Penetrating the ego-illusion through self-enquiry is the most direct way to do that. The jnani who has fully done this can be said to have fully mastered himself, but this does not mean he exhibits any particular control over it, or any particular skills.

Of course, even the ordinary path of spiritual growth involves ego transcendence, not merely gaining skill at control over the cause and effect mechanisms of nature. For most of us, we try a bit of both. I'd simply suggest that we'd learn better and faster if we recognize that the mastery of cause and effect is illusory, because that's not really how the world works. One can seem to have great mastery of various cause and effect paths of development, without actually grasping the principle of reality and surrender to it.

Losing M. Mind said...

good point. I think that makes sense to me. I was just saying, I don't think I can ever really acheive any kind of mastery in this life without ego transcendence. There was an actual quote by Papaji in one of the satsang vids where he said, "With ego, I don't think a person can accomplish anything". Also, while it is true that a jnani would not (necessarily) have any special mastery in the world, I could also imagine, I'm not sure if htis is correct, that the Jnani can be intensely powerful in teh world and successful of course not in the usual, more common selfish, self-aggrandizing way. But extremely talented in the service of the divine. Because the divine is the source, what a jnani manifests in the world by abiding in reality is potentially far more abiding then any little ego. Maybe it's Asperger's. But the more I question my ego and start abiding in contentment which is far less selfish, certain bad habits and tendencies may fall off, certain life paths that are not compatable with the divine may fall off, but for instance an ego can never love another ego, but abiding in the Self is abiding in pure Love, love for everything and everyone without conditions, so of course if relationships occur in the manifest life, they woul be much more loving relationships. So yes, if I'm a torturer, I probably would not still be a torturer by the time I Realize the Self, or if I was a successful and slezy politician, I probably wouldd have to give up that position of power to the degree it forces me to act in an evil way. But this isn't to say that a jnani could not be a successful statesman or powerful figure. i.e. Ramana said King janaka was a jnani. By abiding in the Self, it seems like the highest form of mastery of this life. For instance, I think I could be far more successful in the world by surrendering myself fully. Ramana said "one who truly surrenders will become famous all over the world" in Talks I remember. He also said, Nome quoted this in a letter, "our greatest glory is where we cease to exist". Also if you go back further in time what is remembered more and more, is it the people who were immersed in their ego? The buddha, christ, The beginningless Vedas. On the other hand, that may not happen, but by surrendering the important part is they abide in contentment peace bliss and because of htat am no longer behaving in a self-centered way in teh world.

Losing M. Mind said...

"The jnani who has fully done this can be said to have fully mastered himself, but this does not mean he exhibits any particular control over it, or any particular skills."

I might question this from my understanding in that, the jnani is not an individual, but is Brahman, is the Self. There is no individual. Yes, the individual has completely relinquished into non-existence him/herself. But since the jnani is Brahman and only Brahman, the Jnani is omnipresent and omniscient. So, I would guess the jnani has the skills that are necessary to carry out the will of the divine that is being carried out at that particular time. and is supremely good at those skills. The apparent person that is the jnani that is. But yeah unlike us mortal ajnanis, to the degee we are invvested in our ego, we use our skills often for self-interest. A jnani could never do that, for a self-interested entity does not exist, an entity that counts itself seperate from creation, wanting to carve out a niche for him/herself. It becomes clear though sometimes, though often I'm deluded that those self-interested desires on the part of the false individual I take myself to be have no value to them, and it is inherently delusional. Sometimes, those few moments where I start to see the light.

Losing M. Mind said...

"I'd simply suggest that we'd learn better and faster if we recognize that the mastery of cause and effect is illusory, because that's not really how the world works."

I'm not sure it's so either/or. Because it depends on whether it is in service of self or not. I mentioned, for instance, in Self-inquiry, I learn that by acting on desires, it comes back to me. By acting in a self-interested way it comes back to me. So then slowly through self-inquiry I learn that (mental) desires (the body may still do things like have sex) are incompatable with the inquiry and for the inquiry to be deep or successful I have to wean myself from bad habits. Because to access or go in the direction of those desire I have to leave peace and bliss. So in that sense, in the realm of cause and effect there is a change in behavior. I learn that laziness and avoiding responsibility is also contrary to the direction of Self-inquiry which immerses me deeper in natural illumination. So in these ways even the outer behavior starts moving in a direction of mastering cause and effect. Mastering cause and effect to fulfill desires as mentioned seems to be in conflict with Self-inquiry. But through Self-inquiry, certain aspects of cause and effect start going better. i.e. relationships because I'm no longer acting as selfish as I did previously even if it wasn't overt.

Anonymous said...

"To live in that world requires only that we understand and surrender to our own source."

What's the difference between a source and a cause? The two ideas are closely related and you seem to want to split hairs over this.

If there is no such thing as cause and effect in a cosmic sense, then we're all absolved of our responsibility, aren't we? My sense is that this is what really appeals to you, rather than any compelling evidence that the idea of causation is misleading.

Love is an affect that is caused by the feeling of separation that the ego expereinces. Only the ego can feel love. The unified consciousness can only be love, it cannot feel it.

Broken Yogi said...

"What's the difference between a source and a cause? The two ideas are closely related and you seem to want to split hairs over this."

In using the word "source", I am trying to differentiate between the cause of an effect, and the origin of a harmonic relationship.

Think of an analogy of orchestral music. The various instruments play a complex symphony, but none of those instruments cause any of the other instruments to play their part. Instead, they each play their music according to the composition, written by the composer. The composer does not "cause" the musicians to play their music, they do so simply by reading the music. They play in harmony with one another because that is the nature of the composition. So the music which is played is not the result of any series of causes, but through fidelity to the source, the composer.

If you can see each dimension of existence as an instrument in the symphonic performance of the entire cosmos, you can see that none of the dimensions resonate with one another in a causal manner, but in a harmonious relationship to the source. Even the source does not cause any of the parts to harmnonize, it just occurs naturally, because the entire cosmos is a living system, in which none of the parts are actually separate from one another or the source.

"If there is no such thing as cause and effect in a cosmic sense, then we're all absolved of our responsibility, aren't we?"

To the contrary. Responsibility is merely raised to a higher order of fidelity to the source, rather than assuming that we are actually the creator of the music we play. A musician, for example, has a great responsibility to play in harmony with the source and with all the other members of the orchestra. He is not responsible for the composition, to be sure, but he is responsible for playing in harmony with everyone else, or he makes very poor music. So just because we are not the source of our actions, does not mean we are not responsible for the quality of living we bring to them, the loving attention to detail and the surrender of our own ego in the midst of the difficult requirements of playing our role.

"My sense is that this is what really appeals to you, rather than any compelling evidence that the idea of causation is misleading."

No, not really. One cannot avoid responsibility for one's participation in life, regardless of whether one sees it as a series of causes and effects or an acausal, synchronous relationship.

"Love is an affect that is caused by the feeling of separation that the ego expereinces. Only the ego can feel love. The unified consciousness can only be love, it cannot feel it."

You make the mistake of assuming that consciousness is something other than feeling itself, as if it is somehow "unconscious" or "unaware" of itself. Feeling is not, at root, about feeling an object. Feeling is the very nature of consciousness, regardless of any object being felt. When consciousness transcends objects, it does not abandon the primal feeling of being itself, which is where love is truly found. It merely recognizes whatever arises as a modification of itself. Consciousness feels its own loving being naturally, without any intermediary.

Helene said...

I am a newcomer to this blog, thank you for creating it. I wouldn't be here if I weren't interested and amazed by the writing, and so my apologies if one of my first comments sounds like a criticism.

You say things like this:

"The apparent person that is the jnani that is. But yeah unlike us mortal ajnanis,"...

By "you", I am not referring to the blog owner, I mean everyone who gets involved in religion, and the study of mind and self, as influenced by the east.

Why don't you just use language that is indigenous to the culture you were brought up in? I am quite sure, that if these ideas are real, then one does not need to adopt foreign terminology to say them.

This habit is not just true of westerners who get involved in Hindu sects, but also of Americans of any ethnic origin who convert to Islam. They soon peppper their language with Arabic expressions. Islam, views itself as an international religion. If it is, then why do practioners not use their native tongue to express deep ideas, and thus force themselves to connect these ideas to their daily lives?

I have the impression that the depth is conveyed by using a tongue that is not one's own. But this makes it look to me as if one is playing scrabble with religion, rather than just facing reality.

That is the best I can do. I have never been involved in any of these religious sects. Maybe if I had been, I would understand better.

Broken Yogi said...


Glad you enjoy the blog and thanks for the kind words.

As for using "foreign" words, I don't see thet there's any viable alternative, in that English doesn't have comparable terms that convey the same meaning as "jnani" or "samadhi", for example. English is just one of many languages in this world, and it evolved within a culture with many limits on its breadth and depth of experience and religious philosophy. The same is true of all languages and cultures, which is why languages are constantly adapting and incorporating new words, usually from other languages.

Every language in the world adopts foreign words which have no native equivalents. Most foreign languages have adopted English words, and I see no reason why English shouldn't do the same with foreign contributions. The meanings of Hindu terminology have been worked out over thousands of years of religious tradition, and we can't just pretend to have invented their ideas on our own. It not only makes practical sense to use their terms, since there is no similar tradition in the English-speaking world, and it also pays respect to the traditions which actually did bother to create these concepts, and which understand something about their meaning and relationships.

There's no point in re-inventing the wheel every time we build a new car, and there's no point in re-inventing new language every time we talk about the non-dual traditions. It's of course best to use ordinary English when it fits, but when we try to be exact and precise it's often helpful to use exactly defined words that reflect a real tradition.

I just don't regard Hinduism or Buddhism as "foreign" influences to me, but just two of many cultures that have made valuable contributions to our understanding of religion. If you're not familiar with some of the words used here, I can only ask that you be patient. If the west had spiritual traditions comparable to the east, I don't think eastern religion would be as popular to westerners as it is. It's precisely because it fills in some important missing gaps that it attracts so many people looking for a deeper and fuller understanding of religion. If I had found the culture in which I grew up to be complete and not in need of anything, I would not have been drawn to eastern religion in the first place.

Helene said...

Broken Yogi,
I understand. Thank you for your response. I use French words from time to time, not because French conveys certain perceptions better than English, because those perceptions can't be expressed at all in English; they don't exist.