The autumn time of year is a delight for witnessing change. Down here in Surrey, the chestnuts are opening up for the taking; fungi of all shapes and color dot the trees and mossy landscape. As the jays and squirrels duke it out for their share of fallen acorns, the song birds queue up at the feeders and are eager to put on weight for the long winter ahead. Even as many leaves firecracker their way into brilliance, just as many have already browned, crumbled, and taken their final descent. There is a tension between life and death that is undeniable.
Watching nature is a reminder that we are all gardeners through the lens of yoga. We plant seeds in the form of actions. The word karma means action. Actions can be physical and manifest, but they come in smaller forms as well, through our words and language, and even more microscopically, through our thoughts. All of these actions manifest through vibration – a reason to chant more and speak less!
Each action taken, big or small, creates a ripple of motion, each with their own potency. The strong currents develop into a seed that when watered, will grow roots. Like all seeds, there is a gestation period. As in nature, when watered, seeds tend to grow bigger, and when left under nourished, they diminish. There are many types of seeds, but for the sake of karma, there are three categories: those that are positive (sukarma), those that are negative (vikarma) and those that are karma-neutral, called akarma. Our understanding of positive and negative, however, is worth reflecting on, because we have been conditioned to believe that taking positive action is positive, and generally do not delve into the intention behind it. The philosophy of yoga dares us to look further, into the intention beyond the action.
Let’s face it, most of us do many positive things throughout our day, but often times these things are done because we expect something in return. Some of us also do things that are negative in intent, and try to cover it up. These things are usually done to feed our ego, or to place some short-term, self-ish need as a priority over the greater good. Let’s look at an example. Say I bring my teacher a gift, because I’m hoping that she will give me a little more attention or give me a good grade. Bringing the gift is a nice gesture, but there is a desire behind it – a desire for personal gain. Similarly, if this teacher takes my gift, but still gives me a bad grade, I might say something negative about them, or at least, think negative thoughts. In each case, whether positive or negative,my actions have small minded personal interests in their intent rather than doing good simply for the sake of doing good.
These two types of actions are not differentiated by the laws of karma. So long as seeds are planted with an intention of selfish gain they create a projection of reality governed by the ego, and hence, contribute to mental fluctuations and the cycle of suffering known as samsara.
Yoga teaches us to plant positive seeds that are self-less, called a-karma, which we could consider as color-less. These actions ripen and bear fruit beyond what we could ever imagine or witness in the realm of the sensory world, which is bound. Rather, these akarmic seeds are sewn into the matrix of something beyond the manifest world as we know it. They are unbound, and yet, very much a part of each and every one of us, but often times out of reach for our imagination, for they are not of the sensory world. We could call these seeds pure Love.
Each new season is an invitation to reflect upon the garden we create. This harvest season sees the bearing of fruit, even as new seeds are in their infancy. May we all move through change gracefully, with the highest intention of letting go of selfish ideas to establish strong roots that may bear the fruits of love, truth, honesty and joy for the generations to come.