Search & Read
Karma Yoga and Illness
MK: I have been studying it in as much detail as I could/can and still ongoing. So as things now are:
I am Self-realized, but still definitely not actualized. When things go reasonably well in the “outside world,” i.e. when things are okay physically, no heart issues, the mind is reasonably quiet and there in more or less continuous remembering of my nature being consciousness. This did happen for four or five months since I last wrote to you.
But for the last two or three weeks there have been health issues, which seem to consistently pull attention away from peaceful mental state to continued mid-level agitation of mind.
Sundari: Would that life gave us uninterrupted sattva. Unfortunately, it is the nature of mithya and the gunas to be constantly changing. What brings pleasure today is the cause of suffering tomorrow. There is no other way for the duality game to function other than for the gunas to have the propensity to move from one end of the spectrum of experience to the other.
I know that even with Self-knowledge it is very difficult to maintain peace of mind when the body is not functioning, and pain or ill health plague us. The only solution to physical pain, ill health and the fear-thoughts that arises because of it is the application of karma yoga and jnana yoga to every thought, word and deed. “Trying” to apply the knowledge is not sufficient; the doer, the one attached to results, is still there. The whole point of karma yoga is to negate the doer, not entrench it. For Self-knowledge and karma yoga to work, karma yoga must be our standard approach to life, no fine print. There is no other way to eliminate fear than by negating the doer and its identification with the body-mind.
Of course it takes extreme dispassion to deal with chronic illness or chronic physical pain. Taking appropriate action with the karma yoga attitude does not guarantee any result, because results of any action depend on two factors: (1) the nature of the action and NOT necessarily on the state of mind of the person taking the action; (2) the nature of the field, Isvara. It is possible to get a negative result from a positive action/state of mind and vice versa.
The important issue to consider is the type of thoughts which arise because of your health problems. A peaceful life is always about thought and emotion management, which is the same as saying guna management. If we do not manage the gunas and the thoughts they generate with Self-knowledge, they manage the mind. Every guna has typical thoughts that arise with it. Make sure you understand the teaching on the gunas, covered extensively in James’ book The Yoga of the Three Energies. I will soon be bringing out two books on this vital teaching. There is lots of free material available on this in the satsang section of our website. One can work with Isvara regarding illness and body pain by one’s attitude to the thoughts that give rise to illness/pain and to the thoughts which come because of illness/pain.
Coping with chronic pain (which is rajas) makes the mind dull, depressed and fearful (tamasic). Maintaining a sattvic mind when the body is in a lot of pain can be done with the right attitude the result of Self-knowledge. For most people, apart from the worry of being incapacitated, which is bad enough, the most common thought is of mortality. Fear of death is the biggest fear all of us must face and make peace with. Like all fears, it is completely gratuitous. However, unlike most fears, this is not because the fear of death has no basis in truth but the opposite: it is completely unavoidable.
No one gets out of life alive if you think you are the body-mind. For the majority, this fear is constantly present in the mind, always ready to pounce, but when it does so, it usually manifests in unconscious ways, particularly when the health of the body is threatened. Only Self-knowledge can eliminate this fear permanently with the certain identification with the Self as our true identity and the logic of our eternal existence as unborn and undying awareness, the knower of the body-mind.
MK: Going through James’ book, I realize: my mind is the instrument to be managed properly to live reasonable peaceful life. I own it as my primary instrument. I realize that my every experience is in my mind. But I seem to have no control over what thoughts arise. It appears that most of the time rajoguna is at work.
Sundari: As James points out, and we do in many books and satsangs, the mind has a major drawback: it is run by involuntary thoughts arising from the macrocosmic unconscious, or causal body. The drawback of the mind is that, without our permission, it generates these continuous involuntary thoughts we have no control over.
There is no way the mind can unravel this problem. Only Self-knowledge has the power to do this. We all have a range of thoughts available to us, from negative to positive. Thoughts appear in you, but actually have no effect on you, awareness. If you identify with them, however, they take over and control the mind. They neither belong to you nor originate from you, not as awareness or as the jiva. They “belong” to or arise from beginningless ignorance, Maya.
MK: Can you please walk me through an example? For example, when an abnormal heart problem starts (with doing all necessary medical measures, eating properly, exercise, no smoking/drinking, etc.). What should I be doing to change thought patterns? What I am not clearly understanding is now, how to do karma yoga properly? The mind is either resisting or refusing to understand! Please walk me through an example with some physical problem regarding health issues, thank you very much.
Sundari: I will take an example from my own life regarding karma yoga and thought management. I have had many procedures done to my neck to alleviate damage done to the bones in a car accident decades ago. Some have worked somewhat, some not at all. I suffer chronic pain a lot of the time, varying in intensity: rajas, which causes tamas, dullness, incapacitation. On a bad day, I will wake up with extreme neck and head pain, usually lower back pain too. It makes working or normal activities impossible. What are my choices?
Well, I can allow the pain to consume me and affect my life and the people in it or I can manage it and rise above it, aim for sattva. I always choose the latter, and some days it is easier than others. I don’t always manage to lift the mind into sattva, but I always manage to observe how the jiva relates to this situation and deals with it. I am sat, observing the absence of sattva in the mind and unaffected. I am always happy, grateful. Life is beautiful, a gift. The pain is what it is. Jiva-wise, I refuse to let it define me, or make a big story out of it, because I am the Self, not the jiva. I do what I do, always with karma yoga, as best I can, offering the pain and the results to Isvara. End of story.
The problem is you think karma yoga is a doing. It is not. Karma yoga is not about not action or inaction. Karma yoga is an attitude we take towards action. We never stop acting, but for peace of mind, we must act appropriately, in a timely way and in accordance with dharma.
Karma yoga is the only way to negate the doer and remove some of the pressure of binding likes and dislikes. Karma yoga never fails, because it is an attitude you take towards action, not the action itself. It means fully dedicating your every thought, word and action, before they are performed, on a moment-to-moment basis, to Isvara. It is performing one’s duty, cultivating the right attitude toward life, thus conforming to the pattern and harmony of Creation, and one becomes alive to the beauty of the cosmic order.
MK: I have quite reasonably resolved relationship, financial and other problems. Health seems to be main ongoing issue.
~ With total gratitude for all your help this far!
Sundari: You are blessed to have most mithya issues resolved, other than health. We all have our cross to bear in the world; nobody is exempt or lives without any challenge whatsoever. It just goes with the territory of being “human.” The answer is always in discrimination, the knowledge that “human” is just an idea appearing in you. It does not matter what is going on with the body. It will soon return to the elements, but you, the knower of the body, are unborn and undying. Accept what you cannot change, do your best and offer your suffering to Isvara as a gift, every moment of every day. It may not make the pain or illness magically disappear, but it will make the fear disappear. Be grateful that suffering has turned the mind inwards to the Self.
Much love, and God bless you too.