Monday, July 11, 2011

Blocking Out God: The Obstacles to Yoga

"The obstacles to yoga - such as acts of violence and untruth - may be directly created or indirectly caused or approved, they may be motivated by greed, anger or self-interest, they may be small moderate or great, but they never cease to result in pain and ignorance. One should overcome distracting thoughts by remembering this."
-- Patanjali, Yoga Aphorisim II:34 --
"Yoga," the word for religion in the East, is derived from the same Sanskrit word as the English word "yoke." It means to "tie" or "unite" - in this sense to unite or tie the inner Godhead with the Ultimate (which is God, Allah or Brahma) in consciousness - just as the yoke ties the oxen to a cart.

In "How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali," Swami Prabhavananda (along with Christopher Isherwood) observes that, "Everything we do, say, or think, or even indirectly cause or passively sanction, will inevitably produce consequences - good, bad, or composite - and these consequences will react in some measure upon ourselves. Our most secret ill-wishes towards others, our remotest permission of evil done to others, can only end by hurting us, by increasing our own ignorance and pain. This is an absolute law of Nature. If we could remember it, we should learn to control our tongues and our thoughts."
[Isherwood and Prabhavananda, "How to Know God," pp. 146-147.]

Thus, it is through our thoughts, actions and words, whether active or passive, which either connect us with the Godhead or sever our ties altogether. This is the nature of our karma - the law of cause and effect.  "As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is." (Proverbs 23:7)

"Every sin must be atoned for," writes Eric Butterworth, "(and) all karmic debt must be paid. "However," he notes, "the choice is ours whether we work it out in the cycle of retribution, through prolonged suffering "in the furnace of affliction," or whether our payment of debt is through the discipline of rising above the consciousness from which the act was committed into the freedom of spiritual understanding where we go forth and "sin no more."

"This," Butterworth notes, "is what Jesus called "forgiveness." It was the key to His tremendous ability to be instrumental in changing the lives of people. It is the key to healing and overcoming for us."

But, "(a)ll this notwithstanding," he observes, "we cannot overlook the underlying truth of the law of karma, the law of compensation. For it is basic in your life and mine. As we think, speak and act towards others, so will others think speak, and act toward us. As we give we receive. What we do to others comes back to us in some way at some time." (Emphasis added.)
[Eric Butterworth, "Discover the Power Within You," p.137.]

Thus, our inherent unity (or "yoking") with the Ultimate, the Ground of Being, Brahma, Allah or God, may either be severed by our wrong thoughts, speech and actions, or it may be renewed through the right thoughts, right words and right acts which raise our consciousness above the mundane to the divine. This is the reason behind the admonishment to "judge not, lest ye be judged," and the meaning of Jesus' observation that "my yoke is easy, and my burden light." His yoga, or religion, is "easy" in that all that is required is a shift in the focus of our consciousness, and the "burden" of such yoking is what the Buddhists call "the clear light of being," the Christians call "the mystic union," the Hindus call "moksha" and the rest of us simply call "enlightenment."

We are only separated from such clear light of consciousness by our thoughts, words and actions, but these are our karmic debts that must - and will - be repaid, in one form or another. Our task is to discharge such karmic debts, and thus unblock our pathway to such higher consciousness, by practicing right thoughts, right speech and right action.

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