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Questions and Answers About Meditation, Yoga, the Spiritual Life, and More

Category: Karma, Reincarnation

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Millions of Lifetimes
August 21, 2015

Niraj
India

Question

Why does a human being keep getting born again? Unfuliflled desire is one thing which may be the reason but what about animals they would not have much desire other than food. What happens to reincarnation due to evil nature. does human become animal again

Nayaswami Parvati

Nayaswami Parvati

Ananda Village

Answer

According to the yogic teachings, souls reincarnate repeatedly due to their desires. As long as these desires can only be fulfilled on the material plane of existence, such as the desire for good food, then the soul needs to come back into a material body. And since there are so many desires possible on this material plane, this repeated coming back happens many, many times. In the Indian scriptures it is said, and Paramhansa Yogananda corroborated this as well, that it takes five to eight million lifetimes to reach the human level, and then millions of lifetimes more in a human body to become free and realize our oneness with God.

The physical plane of existence provides such an entertaining show, that it’s difficult to want to leave it! But, after millions of lifetimes spent not only on the material plane, but living in the duality that accompanies it, we begin to realize that something is very wrong. Living within duality we realize that we can never be completely satisfied or fulfilled. Every pleasure we experience must be balanced by a pain, for this is the law of duality. For every fulfillment, we must experience a disappointment, for every joy, a sorrow — and so on and on it goes.

Yogananda said that the soul comes to the point in its evolution when it experiences “an anguishing sense of monotony.” It is anguishing because our soul can only find its fulfillment in union with the Divine, which in duality will never be possible. The monotony comes because we know that things we always be balanced by their opposite, and will never be completely satisfying.

The soul, which is that spark of the Divine within us, will never be satisfied until we begin our journey home to our oneness in God. It is this longing for union with the Divine that keeps us ever moving forward during our many lifetimes. It keeps us constantly looking for what will be truly fulfilling, searching for it in many bypaths of experience. We never find this fulfillment until we realize that it is our longing for reuniting with God that is the answer we have been looking for. It is at this point that we become interested in the spiritual path and begin our journey back to our oneness in God.

Animals and other creatures, being on lower levels in the evolution of consciousness, evolve more automatically, and therefore, more slowly. (According to Yogananda, it is very rare for a soul that has finally reached the human level to reincarnate once again in an animal body, but it can happen due to lower material desires and evil actions.) It is only when the soul finally reaches the human level, after millions of lifetimes, that it has the potential to evolve in consciousness more quickly. But it remains only a potential for many, many lifetimes, because we have to choose to do this. The material plane for most souls is very entertaining and seems in the beginning to be fulfilling. But we find material fulfillment is like a carrot on a stick, with its promised fulfillments being always just a little out of reach.

This is why, even in human incarnations, it takes many lifetimes to come to the point where you want something more. That something more is complete soul fulfillment. This is a fulfillment that we gradually realize is not possible through fulfilling our material desires.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Parvati

Geetika
India

Question

It is a law of all civilized countries, that when a prisoner is convicted or executed, he is told the reason why he is being punished. Our higher reasoning and justice call for this. This higher reasoning has been given to us by God. If that is so, then when we get divine punishment, we are very conveniently told all these are a result of past life bad karma. Isn’t it weird that God and his Law of karma punishes us for the sins we have committed in past lives which we don’t even know. Shouldn’t God punish us in the same life itself so that at least we know why we are suffering. At times,when good people suffer for sins they have committed in distant lifetimes, they may end up losing faith in God. So could you explain how the law of karma being carried forward to many lifetimes is not defective and faulty.

Nayaswami Hriman

Nayaswami Hriman

Ananda Seattle

Answer

Dear Geetika,

I find your question fascinating! (Are you a lawyer?)

Well, let’s examine an underlying assumption: that of punishment! Who, exactly, is punishing whom? If I hurt someone and I receive the same in return, is it God punishing me, or is it ME initiating my "just desserts"? If I kill someone, he doesn’t have the opportunity (at that time) to kill me in return. We both have to wait until another lifetime. Whose problem is THAT? If there is to be justice in this world, then there MUST be a law of karma. If there’s to be justice, there MUST be the opportunity to reincarnate!

Let’s look at this "law of karma"! In science we have the law of action and reaction: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Without the law of cause and effect, human life and the cosmos would be uninhabitable, chaotic, and not worth living. We, as humans, are firmly committed to the proposition that we can improve or change our circumstances by taking the right actions. When that is not part of our belief, we sink into despair and passivity.

So, you see: this isn’t about God punishing us. It is about us receiving back what we give. As the Christian Bible puts it, "Be not deceived, for God is not mocked: as you sow, so shall you reap." The law of karma and reincarnation are inextricably linked as is justice and mercy. If we could remember our past misdeeds from prior lifetimes we would be so burdened that we could barely breath and live. Mercy comes in the form of getting a fresh start, just as each night we forget our troubles in sleep. Mercy comes by the fact that the consequences are postponed to the future when we are perhaps stronger. Paramhansa Yogananda also added that the consequences are often postponed owing to the "thwarting cross-currents" of competing egos and complicated karmic patterns.

There is a way out, however: God. As we reach up to the transcendent joy of inner stillness (wherein resides the Spirit), we are refreshed and enlightened step by step. As we dissolve the hard shell of ego with the power of self-effort and redeeming grace (combined), we cut the cord that links us to our past karma. Our past karma is then at least partially mitigated because the ego principle which initiated that karma has been erased. When it does come and we have little or no ego, we don’t react as we accept all that comes as our own. In that very fact (of not reacting) we end the repeating cycle of karma, of action and reaction.

I recommend you read the book by Paramhansa Yogananda: The Essence of Self-Realization (available in India).  There are chapters in that book on karma and reincarnation. There’s another book by him, also, called, simply: Karma and Reincarnation (also available in India).

Blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman

Daniel
Argentina

Question

Which is the sign by we can tell that a certain karma has been definitely burned?

Nayaswami Parvati

Nayaswami Parvati

Ananda Village

Answer

You know this when that particular karmic action is no longer in your awareness. You simply don’t find yourself thinking about it anymore, and you don’t feel caught by the energy of it when you do think about it. In addition, you can simply not be aware of that karma as something that bothers you. In other words, the energy around that karmic action has been dissipated – usually by your own efforts as well as by the guru’s grace.

As an example, if you were bothered by a particular habit, you might find yourself waking up one day and thinking, “I haven’t acted in that way (or had that thought) in a long time!” It simply seems to be gone. There can also be a feeling of lightness and freedom around that thought or action if it does come into your awareness.

Karma means action, and a karmic action consists, in essence, of a vortex of energy revolving around a certain thought and action. Some actions and thoughts involve a lot of energy, while others are smaller. Dissolve that energy vortex, and you are dissolving the karma. Of course, the opposite is also true. If you engage again in that particular action that was finished, then you are creating a new karmic action and a new vortex of energy.

For further information I would recommend reading the Karma and Reincarnation book, from the Wisdom of Yogananda series.

I hope this will be helpful.

In joy,

Nayaswami Parvati

Padma
USA

Question

Hello, I believed in God all my life, until my mother died recently. On her deathbed, she said, "Lord Rama is standing with His big bow, but He cant kill my cancer cells." Now, I have suddenly begun to think this whole religion, karma and rebirth was created by a few wise souls who wanted righteousness to prevail on this earth. Birth/death/disease is completely random and part of human evolution, basically the survival of the fittest and God is merely faith. Any advise?

Nayaswami Hriman

Nayaswami Hriman

Ananda Seattle

Answer

Dear Padma,

I am sorry for your loss and your feelings are completely understandable.

Life on earth would be unbearable if we did not believe we could improve our health and our circumstances by self-effort. The truth of the law of action and the consequences of action is "hard-wired" and proven by the laws of nature and the usefulness of science and medicine. Why, then, do we doubt this law of karma when it comes to the world of the unseen? Why doubt prayer, faith, reincarnation, and past lives?

If you mother truly perceived Lord Rama on her deathbed, that alone would be cause for hope. Every human body must die sometime. Do not lose faith over that which is inevitable to all of us but the causes for which we cannot yet see. When Arjuna grieved at the upcoming death of kinsmen in the battle of Kurukshetra (in the Mahabharata/Bhagavad Gita), Krishna gently chided him for his shortsightedness in forgetting that the soul is eternal and can never die.

Righteousness does NOT prevail on this earth in one lifetime but in "heaven": meaning in and through the law of karma, whether in this life or future lives. Think of the billions of galaxies, billions of human beings, thousands of years of human existence on this one planet alone! Just as there is a thread of continuity in nature through birth and death of succeeding generations of species, so why not can there be continuity in the thread of our individuality through multiple lives? Since time immemorial in East and West, it has been taught that the soul survives the death of the physical body!

Be hopeful. Be grateful for the love and the life of your mother. She is with you now, in your heart, your mind, and your thoughts. You simply can’t see her in the same way now.

"Survival of the fittest" doesn’t apply to the physical form which dies eventually, but to those who live with faith, hope and charity in faith and the knowing that we, as souls, are immortal and are children of God. Pierce the veil of maya and see in your love for your mother not only her living presence but that of God, the Supreme Spirit who is LOVE and LIFE in all beings.

May the Light of Truth and the Sunshine of Divine Love guide your heart to its rest in Him!

Nayaswami Hriman

Friend
USA

Question

What is the difference energetically between very strong moods and post traumatic stress or emotional symptoms that arise from a traumatic experience? Using the techniques taught by Master, I can overcome any mood, but recently I find that waves of emotion associated with past experiences are resurfacing. Sometimes they are very difficult to overcome and control in the moment.

Nayaswami Pranaba

Nayaswami Pranaba

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Friend,

The differences are really a matter of degree. Strong moods, post-traumatic stress, or emotional symptoms all arise from the vrittis (vortices or whirlpools) of our past likes and dislikes (our desires and attachments) that are lodged in our astral spine. The differences are a result of how much energy has been invested in these past experiences, whether that is through attachment or revulsion.

The way to deal with vexing emotions is to shift the energy to something uplifting. An example of this is when you are caught in these negative emotions, try to immediately change the energy in your physical body. A good suggestion is to do a few of Yogananda’s Energization Exercises or some of Swami Kriyananda’s Superconscious Living Exercises. Once we are able to shift the actual energy, then those emotions and stresses no longer have their same grasp on us.

Another suggestion is to use a phrase, or even a word, that immediately brings your awareness to a higher level. Personally I’ve found using “Aum Guru” helps me shift quickly into a different frame of awareness. But even using a word such as “love” can have the same effect.

On another level, having consistency in our meditations, i.e. a daily practice, has a very real and profound effect on releasing all past karma, including the challenges that you describe. Sometimes this effect from meditation doesn’t always seem apparent to our conscious mind, but have trust that that inner transformation is indeed taking place.

Blessings on your spiritual journey,

Nayaswami Pranaba

Narayan
India

Question

I know some theory about Karma. As per my understanding, the fruits whether good are bad that we experience in this life are the results of the past lives.

Having said that, If somebody got murdered even if he is an innocent person and done no harm to anyone in this life, how to know whether this is a cause or effect? i.e. Is the murdered done some bad in his past life OR the murderer will experience the effects of this incident in his next life. Is it the beginning or the ending of Karma?

Nayaswami Gyandev

Nayaswami Gyandev

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Narayan,

What you’re asking is, “Do unpleasant things ever happen to us without our having caused them, with the result that our karmic bank account shows a positive balance?” I suspect we all would like it to be true, so that when unpleasantness happens to us, the blow would be softened by the knowledge of a balancing pleasant event in the future.

But the simple answer is no: Everything that happens to us — pleasant or unpleasant — is the result of our past actions. In your example, the murder victim will have done something in the past (this life or a previous life) that has brought this upon him/her in this life. And the murderer will have to suffer the consequences of his/her crime, either in this life or a future life. So the event is the completion (partial or full) of a karma for the victim, and the beginning of a karma for the criminal.

This is a simple answer, because karma is a highly complex issue. For example, some people who die in accidents don’t necessarily have the karma to die; rather, they don’t have strong enough karma to live, and their karma to live gets overwhelmed by others' karma to die in that accident.

Blessings,

Gyandev

srija
india

Question

Is marriage predestined? Is there any way to escape a marriage? Do we have the choice to choose our partner?

Nayaswami Gyandev

Nayaswami Gyandev

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Srija,

Paramhansa Yogananda once said, “It takes a master to understand karma.” The ordinary person would only tie his or her brain into knots, trying to figure it out.

So don’t worry about whether marriage (or anything else) is predestined. Simply try your best to align your will with God’s will, then act accordingly. That is the highest expression of free will: living in freedom from bondage to ego, to desires.

Whether the marriage is coming to you through your parents or through your own choice, you need to go inside and feel what is best, then do that best thing and leave the results in God’s hands. Yes, your decision may be karmically determined, but the real question is, Who is running your life: God or ego? If it’s God, then you’re on the right track.

Blessings,

Gyandev

Rush
USA

Question

I have read a lot cases this past year over stories of school shootings / rapes / pedophilia, and it saddens me because these are preventable things — but these ppl are afraid to admit their issues for fear of being judged. Society today just labels them 'monsters' and doesn’t have any sympathy to them. But unless we are open to hearing them, they will fester hidden in society. What can we do on a personal/social level to help? How can we get over the 'gut' urge to reject and scorn them?

Mary Kretzmann

Mary Kretzmann

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Rush,

Thank you for your letter and your compassion on behalf of erring humanity. Since you have an urge not only to help individuals who are within your sphere of influence, but also society in general, you may want to examine what would be the best use of your time and energy.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • When you hear a disturbing news item, pray for those involved. Pray for them NOW. Ask that the victims be comforted, but also that the perpetrator be healed of the dark tendencies that led to the act. Let your compassion flow both ways.
  • Paramhansa Yogananda said we can do more good if we ourselves are transformed. Embrace your divinity on a more profound level so that you are able to send out deeper prayers for those areas that concern you.
  • Find ways to help society in positive ways that bring upliftment to others.
  • Meditate and love God. Then help others to meditate and love God.
  • Pray for individuals, and pray for the upliftment of the planet.
  • Pray that saintly souls be born to our nation, and to other regions of the world.
  • Consider that you may be watching too much of the news and you are getting whipped around by it. Meditate deeply and then send rays of peace and blessing to all receptive souls. If you find that the news is disturbing your peace, then meditate more and watch the news less.

Also, in your compassion and non-judgement for those who have committed the crimes, be careful to not judge those who scorn said crimes. For they have their reasons, too. Perhaps they are afraid for what might happen to those they love. If you want to "listen" to the one, then you need to listen to the other, too. In the healing prayer ministry we have received many letters from families devastated by the crimes you mention.

The universe is Infinite. We are blessed that many children with good qualities are being born to this planet. Some people refer to these spiritually gifted ones as "indigo children." But the very crimes that you mention tell us that this planet is also drawing some very troubled souls who have fundamental lessons to learn in the Do unto others as you would have them do unto you department.

You are right that we should not scorn them, and that we should try to help them before they act — if they should choose to seek help.

But these dark tendencies are something that people hide, not so much from fear of judgment of others, but for fear of having to face themselves and change. People tend to justify their tendencies until life itself makes it clear they need to change their ways. That is why there are sometimes spiritual conversions in prisons.

Furthermore, Christ said on the cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. He didn't say that they know darn well what they are doing, but they don’t have anyone who understands them to talk to about it. They were blind to the karma they were creating by putting Him to death.

Over the year we have received many letters from prisoners who have committed very serious crimes. Some of them have since turned their lives to prayer and meditation. We help them in every way we can, often with free books, correspondence, and other spiritual aid. Some of our Ananda ministers have gone into the prisons to offer spiritual counsel.

One prisoner wrote me a letter saying, "I did not commit this crime, and yet I know I am guilty. In my heart of hearts I realize that I got away with a very similar crime in a previous life, and that is why I accept my prison sentence now. There is no escaping karma. Please pray for me, and allow me to pray for others..."

Another prisoner had committed one of the crimes you mentioned above, pedophilia. He knew he had broken a great taboo in society, but it was only after three years in prison that he finally realized he had hurt the other person, the victim. He realized it was not simply a taboo that he had broken, but it was truly an emotional and psychological injury to the younger person.

Help already exists for those who grasp that they indeed have a problem that needs to be healed. When a person merely grasps that something is wrong because it breaks a societal taboo, then hidden in the mind is the thought that society needs to loosen up. The underlying feeling is "I am fine — but society should change."

But once a soul had changed for the better they may seek to help others with the same issues, now or in a future life. They know what it is to suffer from the particular delusion that led to their crimes. Indeed, helping other souls in that way would serve to expiate some of their karma.

We are all on an upward journey, except that sometimes the soul gets sidetracked or even trapped in a ditch of error.

Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now. - Swami Sri Yukteswar

I hope these ideas are helpful to you.

God bless you,

Mary Kretzmann

Director, Ananda Healing Prayer Ministry

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