April 23, 2012

A Vat of Karma. ~ Camella Nair

A Taste of the Yoga Sutras, Lesson 12.

As part of her work connecting yoga and food, Camella Nair has created a 12 week course that pairs Patanjali’s yoga sutras with the everyday life activity of feeding the body. In this series for elephant journal, Camella provides readers with a short version of what she addresses more deeply in her course

Photo: Dick Sijtsma


Klesa-mulah karmasayo drstadrsta-janma-vedaniyah

The vat of karma is rooted in the kleshas and brings varied experiences to this and future lifetimes.

It takes time to produce a good wine, from tilling the ground to pruning the vine, good weather conditions, preparation and storage. The end result depends on the past actions, and this is what we need to understand when we think about karma.

It is not about an angry God, or being punished by anyone else. All is causal and every thought, word and action we have is stored into a large vat known as sanchita karma. It contains the varied types of experiences that we create and that are harmonious or inharmonious.

It is important to remember this, because it helps us to understand which cycle we are in right now. Are things going well or are they interestingly challenging?

Photo: Paul Dunleavy

Think about what we are often taught is the original sin; the eating of an apple.

We speak of this as a mistake made, but the eating of the apple is vital in order to have experiences we can learn from in the earth realm. We are here to taste Life!

In lesson one, I discussed the way that the symbol of a lemon has a strong effect on the body, as we think about cutting it, juicing it, and the taste of the juice. We must walk in the garden of life to have our own set of experiences, based upon the horizon of awareness that we have.

Through our sets of life experience, in time, we become more and more balanced.

The problem with the desires and aversion we all have is that they become unstable, subconscious desires or aversions, until that is we develop greater self-awareness and have a technique to change the habits that have become part of our character.  This occurs through the cycle of causation and reincarnation.

In Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells us that we must gain knowledge through experience to remove our ignorance. So, our many mistakes become opportunities to learn and grow.

In this lesson, I link honey to this particular sutra’s main message and we cook a lovely stir fry with black beans and honey.  Honey is a perfect metaphor as it has no limiting earth shelf life and it is a great way to think about the soul or memory track we all have.

The ‘pantry’ of soul is filled with an endless amount of past experiences, prejudice and loyalties. If we don’t solve the problems we are facing in life this time around, they go back into the ‘pantry’ until the time is right to ‘cook up a new experience,’ in a new physical body. We siphon off what is known as prarabdha karma for each incarnation. When that life is over, that karma is done. It does not go back into the ‘pantry.’

The important thing to remember is that karma that can be neutralized should be neutralized. This is taking more control of what is subconscious within us.

In yoga asana, the back body is a symbol of the unconscious and something that we need to become more aware of. In a pose like warrior one, the back femur bone needs to be grounded in order to bring length to the belly and spine for example.  Getting consciously into the physical body is a great precursor to meditation, because the subtlety of bliss that is within all of us gets easily overpowered by the demands of everyday life. Through our earth experience via our sense organs, study and discernment, we have an opportunity to become wiser and not have to come back to revisit any inharmonious curiosity we may have attuned to in the past with our old unconscious mind set.

We will make mistakes, but our intention in what we do plays a large part in what experiences we face later on. We may not feel that we are doing all that much, but we just have to do the best we can knowing that we are making progress.

In addition, if life circumstances are not that favorable right now, attitude becomes vital. This attitudinal karma can deposit more favorable events in this and future lifetimes.  We literally can soften the inharmonious karma a great deal by changing our attitude to circumstances.

Intention to do good and a positive attitude are ways of building positive karma in this lifetime.

This is known as kriya-mana karma. Just like learning to become more aware of what we are eating and how we are preparing it on a daily basis, in time more harmonious karma will unfold in our lives.

Photo: Dino Giordano

Honey is very often associated with immortality, and the Promised Land it is said was filled with milk and honey. The kitchen can become your symbol of this Promised Land, with some consideration and awareness. It can change your life destiny in this and future incarnations, as you improve the foods that you eat.

Ignorance is the major hurdle that prevents us seeing what needs to be done and if we can just open up to the possibility of new things, including new types of foods and ingredients, we are making great progress on the spiritual path, because we are not limited by our culture.

The goal of Kriya Yoga is to remove the kleshas (obstacles) and to promote samadhi (divine consciousness). In this sutra, Patanjali states that karma has its roots in the kleshas. If we can grasp this, and use our life experience to improve the karma we are producing with every breath, we can become more balanced in this very life time and also contribute to our community and civilization in a positive way.



And an extra serving to wrap things up:


Camella Nair is an ordained Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition and has been practicing yoga since she was 17. She has written two books on yoga as well as an online course on the yoga sutras which is part philosophy and part cooking (http://www.cookingtheyogasutras.com/). She lives with her two teenage sons in Northern California. She can be reached via email at [email protected].


Editor: Lorin Arnold

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