The Yoga Tutor

The Law of Cause and Effect

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 360 ]

At the heart of the yogic view of reality rests the implicit truth of the unity of all things. This was revealed so succinctly by Swami Gitananda when he said that yoga makes us realize that we cannot pluck a flower without disturbing a star. This seemingly innocuous little saying reflects what lies at the essence of our understanding of ourselves and the entirety of the Universe.

"The meaning of karma has been brought down from its original cosmic level to the human level where it has acquired a psychological sense. As long as our view of the world is fragmented, as long as we are under the spell of maya and think that we are separated from our environment and can think and act independently, we are bound by karma. Being free from the bond of karma means to realize the unity and harmony of all nature, including our selves, and to act accordingly."
~ Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

The second premise, though one may not immediately accept it, must at least be entertained. It is the continuity of life. This is what science itself has begun to recognize in their observations that matter (energy) can neither be created, nor destroyed -- but only transformed.

In spirit, this understanding reveals that life itself is eternal, though individual forms may come and go. We have also begun to explore this truth in our earlier discussions, whereby we have come to see that we are not bound by the worldly concepts of life or death. The individual jiva (soul) exists as a constant, luminous stream of consciousness, evolving through millions of stages.

In the GARUDA PURANA, this odyssey is described as one where the jiva moves through 8.4 million forms: 2.1 million incarnations in types produced by sweat and slime (microbial, germ, and insect); 2.1 million times from seed (plant form); 2.1 million recurrences born from eggs (birds and reptiles); and 2.1 million revolutions through life in bodies born of the womb (mammals and humans).

One need not even consider this in a strictly literal sense to derive the point -- that it is through a long and arduous journey that the jiva is propelled through the stages of evolution.

The propelling force for this evolutionary unfolding through the millions of forms and incarnations is that underlying cosmic principle of 'cause and effect' known as karma.

Karma itself is simply the fundamental law that every action necessitates a reaction. Simply put, any and all activity produces a result whether seen or unseen. Activity may be physical or mental, conscious or unconscious, but none the less it is bound by this natural law.

Karma exists without judgement on the merits or the unfavourable results of the action. Good, bad, indifferent -- everything that we do, think, or influence in anyway sets into motion a course of action, and through the fundamental principle of cause and effect, inherent results will occur.

The 18th century poet, Alexander Pope wrote in his poem, Essay on Man: "Whatever is, is right." Yet this attitude has mistakenly been taken to imply that everything one may choose to do is equally good, because there is no such thing as right or wrong, good or bad.

On the contrary, what Pope profoundly revealed here is the distinct law of karma, the basic 'Universal Order' -- that whatever 'is' is the 'right result' according to the law of cause and effect, even though that 'result' may not necessarily be what we, as individuals, might want.

"Be ye not deceived! As ye sow, so shall ye reap!"
~ Jesus

This 'Universal Order', the law of karma, exists for the evolutionary sake of life. As stated above, karma is the propelling force behind evolution. It is the teaching tool which prods us, often against our will, toward our evolution...


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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