We are familiar with the phrase one should be the change one wishes to see in the world. In reality, that is the only change there is, as what you see is actually you.
Change is always and constant, the question or practice is to understand patterns, timing and responsibility. We are always situated among cause and effect, and we are both the recipient as well as the generator of anything sensible in life.
If we apply external criteria to aim towards a desired outcome we might only manipulate outer trimmings. The roots though are always esoteric, and that’s where change should come from and aim to return to, eventually.
The yogin does specific practices to work towards the transformation of worldly tendencies to spiritual experience (tejas to ojas). Master Patañjali teaches about the importance of the right sequence for that change and gives many examples of those sequences: the Ashtanga Yoga sequence, the Yamas, Niyamas, and (within that) the Kriya Yoga. The sequence of enlightenment is not random and if we change the sequence the outcome changes accordingly.
Sutra III.15 कर्मान्यत्वं पěरणामान्यत्वेहेतुः ॥१५ ॥ kramānyatvaṁ pariṇāmānyateve hetuḥ
The variation in transformation is caused by the variety in the underlying processes.
In the quest to experience oneness, one general rule could be applied: When changes happen from within, we respect the dharmic or natural order; if the change is forced by external applications or rules, it usually is motivated through identification with those external factors – and subsequently brings more suffering.
But what is that natural, divine or dharmic order?
In the Vedas, it is stated that the One (Brahman), out of desire to experience itself, became many. Equally, Plato says: We are a “zoon politikon” – one life-form consisting of multitudes of individuals.
Every part of the experience we call our life is bound to the law of cause and effect, eternally. This law implies that nothing stands alone, all is related, everything has a variable reason and destination. On a level of mere logic, we don’t really know where we come from or what our destination will be. We can get a feeling or an intuitive connection with a greater plan than our personal agenda, but we can’t foresee how the future may unfold in all possible ways. The calculus of all possible outcomes bears too many variables, which are all in infinite interference with each other. There is nothing completely definite and all is subject to change. But we can join the ride and have a great time only when we are free from the idea that we have to be the navigator who knows the promised land already.
Unfortunately, we can’t aim towards a one-dimensional, “good”, future as reality is always changing: as Greek Philosophy would state “panta rhei”. Instability is the nature of everything and balance is a quite fragile, impermanent state. What we can do is to learn about intention, proportionality, relationship, and sequence. This at least can give us a feeling about what is Klishta/Aklishta (supportive/antagonistic) to Yoga, or not.
The sensual experience of life teaches us naturally about choices. There is nothing random in the sequence of learning empathy, for instance. We are part of an amazing, complete, and intelligent system of life. Everything that we call body or mind is an expression of this intelligence. The double curve of our spine is the very manifestation of “neti neti” (not this, not that) – the Vedic conclusion of philosophy. Each vertebra is part of a greater whole, a prototypic chain of connections between seemingly individual entities. The breath is another example of that integrity, as there is no inhalation without the exhalation, or mentally there is no thought without its root. Everything is linked and everything is in divine order, and we are the embodiment of this order.
This order is the basis of everything, including our thoughts, emotions, aims and aspirations. Sometimes we are stuck in a personal, political, social, religious or other interpretations of that order. Those agendas, based on “raga/dveṣa” desire and aversion, must inevitably cause suffering, according to Patañjali. Usually. we are stuck in a short sighted or biased perspective of how wide (time- and space-wise) we want to understand reality.
We have great references in our Mythologies to teach us about origin, development, consistency, the understanding of sequence, and the temptations of being misled by “āvidya” – illusion. Odysseus, Homer’s great hero is an analogy of the mental perambulations and inflictions of such kind. Like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, Odysseus is stuck in a specific mindset or belief that binds him to illusion. His is the story of attachment and bondage to karma and the journey to union and liberation. He is the victim of his own emotional attachment and delusion: the nymph Kalypso seduces him with her offering of lustful joys, eternal youth and immortality he is unable to leave this illusion for 7 years. Stuck in this “Māyā” he is unable to consciously continue his path that would lead him to union (with his wife Penelope, which can be translated as the final goal, the union of the polarities). Sometimes we are bound to specific energies that keep us in a mood or topos, which doesn’t allow awareness of our true residency within all existence, which resulting in the imbalance of our physical, mental or pranic body.
Karma often is understood as something that already happened and we mainly surf that wave… but Karma simply means action and is the law of cause and effect. We are not only the effect of something previous. We are very much able to direct or redirect any path if we consciously choose so. That choice should be guided by clarity about the motive and nature of duality: There is no action that is free of reaction, and often the reaction is the reason for the action. The roots of the tree don’t grow into the soil just for fun — ok, maybe it is a little fun — but rather, because of an intrinsic, natural motive for life to unfold in all directions. Our practice should contribute to that experience and clear us from any biased motives that color our actions. Usually, those motives are personally or culturally imposed.
Feeling connected is knowing about this sacred alignment, where everything has its right place and time and necessity within creation. Everything comes to go and goes to come. There is nothing one-dimensional, similarly, one can’t have safety without compromising freedom and vice versa. Some awareness of who you associate with is very helpful, as we certainly need good friends on this quest. Satsang is one of the easiest ways to establish an integrated awareness of our shared consciousness.
The yogin strives for union, liberation. It may not be a final destination or telos but rather a very delicate, eternal phase of balance, which is the original dynamic edition of existence. As we practice, we eventually but inevitably overcome being stuck in one way of feeling, knowing or processing, our island of identity, so we can participate in the given equilibrium. In that balance our past and future is always changing. Knowing this, one transcends the bondage of time and personal identification within this universal sequence.
We are amidst a great cosmic sequence that teaches and guides us in all circumstances. We can learn to trust the great movements of the cosmos and to refrain from individual manipulation of the external world for personal gain allowing the awareness of our interconnectedness with all.