What does Yoga have to say about Cause and Effect, and how is this significant for us as spiritual aspirants?
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the practitioner of yoga, or the follower of any spiritual tradition, path, or system, is the letting go of a far reaching belief that is fundamental to the modern mind—the belief in cause and effect. Specifically the notion that within the world of form there is cause and effect playing out independently of the unseen or formless. The subsequent behaviours based on this belief in cause and effect can make it even more challenging to transcend this belief because modern man feels so justified within these behaviours.
To ordinary man, the whole phenomenal world appears to be a multiplicity of causes and effects, playing out in organised succession and, when not rationally explainable, in some kind of chaos. Perhaps one of the most significant presuppositions of our entire scientific method is that of cause and effect. There are so many other reasons why it so challenging to relinquish the belief in cause and effect, that I won’t digress to explore them all. My invitation is that you meditate on what you perceive to be the nature of cause and effect.
Even these words and statements utilise language of cause and effect and therefore are likely be to read as an expression of such. Our whole linguistic system is based on the apparent cause and effect relationships between the objects of multiplicity acting on one another. Phenomena combined with a desire to communicate, appear to cause man to create sounds (words) which represent those phenomena. Reading the words in this book, for instance, appears to cause the verbalisation of these words in your mind. Hearing these internal verbalisations appears to bring your attention into contact with the subject now being elucidated by what you are reading.
Yet consider this. The emergence of these words as I write them; the production of the book you are reading; the emergence of this book into your field of attention; the emergence of a felt-sense of intention to read this book; the reading of this book; the emergence of these words in your mind as you read; the realisations and perhaps even certain confusions, misunderstandings, or insights; etc., it appears these phenomena are a succession of worldly cause and effect. Yet what if all these phenomena are the unfolding or emerging of that which is beyond the level at which you perceive, recognise, and rationalise within your perception of linear time? What if this moment of you reading and comprehending these words is more akin to a blossom, say a beautiful rose, for instance?
Is the rose caused by the branch on which it arose, implying the rose is an effect of the plant? Is the plant the effect of a seed, and that seeds is therefore its cause? The Yogi recognises that the blossom already exists within the seed. The blossom is a highly probable potential held within the self-arising nature of the seed. Whilst this potential is still in the form we recognise as a seed, the blossom is yet to emerge. The possibility of the blossom pervades all that is. The seed represents a greatly heightened probability of the blossom emerging into manifest form, relative say to the stone on the ground next to the rose bush. In the same way, your body and all that it is composed of represents a greatly heightened probability of self-realising pure undivided consciousness emerging into manifest form. The blossom may or may not arise from the rose seed. Pure self-realised, self-aware, undivided consciousness may or may not arise from your body. Yet the possibility of each pervades all that is.
The so-called practice of yoga for any kind of effect or benefit is an illusion from this perspective. It implies that my doing certain yoga asana may cause certain benefits and results within my body, mind, and spirit. Some people practice yoga for various physiological benefits. It is presupposed that engaging in certain physical exercises will cause a certain beneficial effect at a physiological level. Awareness bound within linear time gives rise to the perception that the aforementioned cause and effect relationship between yoga and physical health is in fact reality, reaffirming the belief in cause and effect.
What if there is only one primal all pervading cause? What if you, and all you have ever perceived, is the effect of that one cause?
A certain kind of seed proceeds the possible emergence of a certain kind of flower. This you already know. Similarly the so-called practice of yoga proceeds the possible emergence of certain physiological phenomena, meditative states, and even liberating states of consciousness.
All possible states of consciousness are pre-existent within your true nature. Every possible state is already there as an aspect of your true nature. From complete insanity to absolute genius, from total ignorance to total wisdom, and all states between. Pervading all such states is your enlightened nature. The vast array of states ordinary man experiences are akin to light shimmering on the surface of a lake. The underlying nature of the lake is still calm water.
What if there is one primal all pervading cause? What if you, and all you have ever perceived, is the effect of that one cause?
Spiritual practice for the attainment of something—anything—is, from this perspective, a false perception. Investing energy and attention into false perceptions is the result of a certain underlying ignorance. In this case, ignorance of our true and fundamental nature. How can you attain that which you already are? How can you acquire that which is already yours? How can you become that which is already your nature? Simply put, you can’t, at least not through effort based on cause and effect. Perhaps, not through effort of any kind. If the exploration of yoga asana is to proceed liberation it is best approached without even a trace of investment in the illusion of cause and effect—without any investment in the idea of outcomes, results, and effects. Immediately one is likely to ask, “But why then would I bother to practice yoga at all?”
Consider this. Why does the true artist paint? Why does the poet bring forth poems? Why does the lone bird in a tree sing it’s merry song? Why does the moon wax and wane with such splendor; why does she revolve around the earth? Why does the musician compose music? Why did Beethoven compose the 9th Symphony, and from where did his many symphonies and other musical compositions emerge?
The poet writes poetry simply because she can, and must. For the poet poems arise, and in a strange kind of way they exert an influence within the heart and mind of the poet. The poem that is not self-arising can only be contrived and pretentious. The painter paints because in some given moment she is moved by the spontaneous self-arising painting. It’s as though the painting already exists, in some unseen realm, and as it emerges it is as if for the painter there is no choice but to put brush and paint to the canvas. It is almost as though he is used by the painting, as though the painting took advantage of the poor fellow for its own benefit. Of course this is not how it is, because there is a reciprocity involved. The artists experiences the joy, the stillness, the pain of being a conduit for creation and being the moment-to-moment witness of the self-arising created. Just as a mother giving birth is not used by the baby being born, although it could appear that way. The pain, the joy, even the orgasmic bliss—as is the experience for some mothers of suitable disposition (either the preparation or predilection)—is perhaps one of the most powerful experiences a woman might have. To be a conduit of creation.
In the same way, when it comes to yoga the Yogi has little choice in the matter. Yoga arises; it emerges. Based on this own particular karma, he will either resist it or actively participate in it. Just as today many woman resist childbirth because of fear and because of unresolved karma, certain of which is stored at a level of cellular memory within the tissues of the groin, sex organs, and lower chakras. When a woman is harbouring life-taking memories in this region of the body-mind it is a great challenge to be absolutely welcoming to the use this bodily channel for the act of creation. There is a destructive memory there and this is in opposition to creation. Hence some woman resist and fear child birth, and often find it is a painful and anything but enjoyable experience. And yet some woman have a complexity different experience. Child birth for some is orgasmic, blissful, and even enters into the realms of being a religious or yogic experience. Mother, child, birthing, dying, living, it all becomes one undefinable state of being, even if just for a moment.
So the Yogi, like the pregnant mother, has no choice. He or she is already impregnated with the seed and ovum of Yoga, pregnant with yogic consciousness. The masculine and feminine polarities of awareness—the sun and the moon—have already copulated within his or her consciousness. The child of this copulation—this co-joining—is already emerging within him, forming, and developing. Due to past karma the seed of yoga was already planted in the womb of the Yogi’s heart and mind, so to speak. After a certain period of gestation yoga will emerge. At certain point after that, meditation will emerge. At a certain point after that, self-realised consciousness will emerge. Such certainty is known only to the Supreme Source of All, yet by no means is it certain to ordinary man. For him or her it is a mystery. Even for some time after it arises it will remain a mystery. Just as the mother might never feel she understands—at least not with her rational mind—what took place during her moment of ecstatic birthing, similarly the Yogi also is never really able to understand with the rational mind what happened, even when it keeps happening. Because in reality Yoga is beyond concepts, it is beyond our thinking mind, beyond our rationalisations. This is why such a person is referred to as a mystic. Not because they understand the mystery, or even do a particularly good job of describing it. Rather then mystic is known as such because he has surrendered to living in the mystery. Mysterium ad infinitum.