|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 358 ]
The topic of karma can rouse all manner of reactions, from heated debate, to righteous indignation, to sarcastic indifference or just plain scepticism. This is especially true in the West, where people have heard this word used in reference in so many different ways. The word karma has surfaced so often into popular culture -- from movies, music, endless magazine articles, etc. -- that by now most everyone has heard it.
But when the average person refers to karma, it is usually in reference to having done something wrong or bad, and as a result, some kind of 'cosmic retributive justice' will come back to get you in the future.
I often hear people whimsically blaming karma for the bad things that are happening to them or to others. These same people will say something like, "You must have done something terrible in a past life."
Of course, not in this life, right?
Well, this is a very superficial view of karma, a notion that results from spirituality that is watered down and packaged like a product to be sold to the masses.
The idea of karma should not only come forward in difficult times, but it should be understood as the fundamental backdrop of our entire existence. Cultural, religious and social attitudes have greatly shaped the notion of karma in the Western mind, and hence, the preconceptions and misconceptions around karma are unfortunately abundant.
Many aspects of the cosmic principle of karma can be acutely unsettling to the mind of one who is conditioned to modern rationalism and is bound tightly to the sensual, material world. Hence its unveiling sometimes causes an immediate, knee-jerk rejection -- a vehement criticism and outright denial, before a proper understanding even has a chance to enter.
As such, if one truly wants to understand the nature of karma, then one must be willing to suspend, at least in the opening examination of the subject, their preconceptions and any disbelief -- opening their mind to at least entertain two very important premises upon which the idea of karma exists. These are 'Unity' and 'Continuity'...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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