Karma and Your Soul

April Saunders
Karma and Your Soul

II.34. Vitarka Himsadayah Krata-Karitanumodita Logha-Krodha-Moha-Purvaka Mrdu-Madhyadhimatra Dukhajnanananta-Phala Iti Pratipaksa-Bhavanam.

'Negative thoughts and emotions, such as violence, whether committed, abetted, or caused through greed, anger or delusion, and whether present in mind, medium or great intensity, result in endless pain and ignorance. Thus there is the necessity for pondering over the opposites.'

The Afterlife

Some people believe their soul will either go to heaven or hell when they die. Most Western religions believe and preach this story.

What if, when we die, our souls continue on in a circle? Instead of being damned to hell or welcomed into the gates of heaven, or, God forbid, lost to wander the Earth forever a ghost, there is another option.

Karma and Reincarnation

The yogis believe in this thing called karma. We often hear it depicted as “what goes around comes around.” When someone laughs at you for tripping over your feet, and then turns around and steps in dog poo, we say “that’s karma.” Well, this isn’t exactly true.

Karma is the endless circle of life that acts like a proverbial bank account. When we say, think, or act in a positive way, a deposit is made favoring us in our next reincarnation. In contrast, a withdrawal is made from your future karma as you curse the driver in front of you for going too slow.

Whatever negative balance you have when your time is up carries over into the next life. You are reborn according to what lessons you still have to learn, until you become a realized individual, ready to unite with Brahman, God, Purusha, Allah, or the great I AM.

Shining Examples of Goodness

They say that certain individuals become realized when they stop incurring negative karma.

All thoughts, words, and actions are focused on the higher power until their physical self becomes obsolete. The physical body still requires its basic needs—food, water, sleep—but beyond that, their purpose is for the greater good.

Jesus and Buddha are popular examples of this level of purity. Buddha was even said to have sent thoughts of love to his murderer as he was dying.

Yoga and Ethics

Yoga follows some pretty simple rules: the yamas and niyamas, which instruct us on how to act, and how not to act.

The yamas or “don’ts” warn us: don’t be violent or hurtful, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be promiscuous, and don’t want what is not yours. The niyamas or “dos” remind us to be clean in body and mind, content, disciplined, studious, and devoted.

All thoughts, emotions, and actions that are in opposition to the basic tenets of the yamas and niyamas bring about the karma of further pain, making withdrawals from your karma account. This happens whether the action is carried out, or remains in thought form.

Good Karma through Yoga

By this logic, does this mean that when I merely think about how much I hate my ex, a karma withdrawal is being made, even if I don’t tell him I hate him? Yes, this does, because thoughts produce energy, and energy produces actions.

This is why, as yogis, we substitute positive and sublime thoughts the moment negative ones are caught arising in the mind.

After all, yoga is all about mind-control: controlling prana or life force through breath, recognizing the difference between discomfort and pain in asana practice, and learning to sit with the discomforts.

Like the oft-quoted passage in the Sutras of Patanjali says, “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”—yoga disciplines the natural chaos of the mind.

Whether or not you believe in heaven, hell, demons, zombies, ghosts, or a soul-eating Halloween dog with green eyes, having a well-grounded eternal karmic outlook helps give meaning to your day-to-day practice of the yogic dos and don’ts.