You are on page 1of 5

Karma Yoga And The Rajasic Blowback

Isaiah,
I wonder if I may tell you about a recent happening in case you can throw some light on
it.
I was given a tremendously difficult objective (to prepare a project plan involving a lot
of people in many different locations) on a very tight timeframe. with the help of many
people we succeeded. The experience was very stressful indeed for me (as have similar
assignments in the last few years) - it seems "I" am terrified of failure (to an
unreasonable extent). I applied karma yoga as much as I could (I set a popup every hour
to remind me) and it helped a lot I would say. After the plan was issued, I took a day off
& since then have had an easy workload.
As I wrote to you at that time - I recognized that my life has been very rajasic indeed,
and I have committed to create a sattvic life (not working extra hours for instance)
However I felt progressively worse, in a way similar to past experiences, so despite
feeling I was going to die, have a stroke etc based on my physical symptoms - I believe it
is just stress "my nerves are shot" - I felt like I might burst into tears!
Mentally my experience is quite clear - I feel that I'm not Jack, but I really want this life
to work out as well as possible (I feel I'm a doer obviously, though I understand
intellectually I'm not) - it's just these physical symptoms.
Clearly it's possible that some medical or psychological actions might be beneficial - I'm
not asking about that (I'll take of that if it seems called for) - just I wonder if you have
any Vedanta-based viewpoint on this. e.g. could there be some rajasic "blowback"
caused by my renunciation of rushing, agitation etc.?
By the way my manager told me to take some time off & I'm feeling much better today.
Thanks Isaiah

Hi Jack,
I'm glad to hear that things have calmed down at work and that you are feeling better.
Applying karma yoga to your life can cause a 'blowback' insofar as the ego may resist it.
Why? Because karma yoga exposes the ego, meaning it exposes your likes and dislikes.
Also, it gets the ego acting for the self, instead of just for it's own selfish purposes. This
pushes the ego out of it's position of primacy and that too can cause resistance. The
resistance caused by the ego in response to karma yoga will lessen over time.
That being said, I really think the 'blowback' that you are experiencing is just the effect
of excessive rajas. Rajas, in large amounts, can be very hard on the body because it
overloads your physiological system with agitating energy. Rajas causes pain.
Additionally, rajas keeps the mind from resting properly, which can be a big problem.
This can lead to you feeling like your nerves are shot. When rajas is constantly
working in the mind, it is unable to properly assimilate experience on the spot, leading
to a case of 'constipation' in the causal body. Then, an inability to process new
experience arises, and a feeling of being overwhelmed (wanting to burst into tears)
occurs, which is the inevitable outcome of rajas: it's best friend tamas. These two
gunas always work together, one feeding into the other. Rajas creates tamas, then
rajas is needed to get rid of the tamas, which leads to, you guessed it, more tamas.
Feeling like you are depressed is tamas. If you are having serious physical symptoms
but you do not address them, this is fear or denial, which is also tamas. Resistance to
change, or thinking your way is always right is another sign of tamas.
Your apparent self, Jack, is caught in the rajas/tamas cycle right now. It will take great
dedication, diligence, and integrity to change this situation. As you re-assess your
lifestyle, make peace of mind your number one priority, not for peace of mind itself, but
because it is the proper platform for inquiry. Inquiry, in turn, will show you that you are
permanently free, even from the gunas.
As for your fear of failure, keep applying karma yoga to it. Really, there isn't any choice.
Why? Because your only choice is in the particular actions you perform, as well as how
and when you do them. If you carefully examine your experience, you will see clearly
that the results are never up to you. They are always from the field of action they are
performed in: Isvara. So, if the results are not up to you, in other words, if success and
failure are not under your control, you can relax because there is no reason to worry.
Just do your best and accept what comes with gratitude, good or bad. The results
themselves aren't important anyway. The peace of mind that comes from using karma
yoga to manage your likes/dislikes/fears/desires is what is important, because it

facilitates inquiry. Inquiry in turn leads to the knowledge, I am free from all
likes/dislikes/fears/desires. Sounds good right?
Lastly, there is nothing wrong with wanting your life to run smoothly i.e. have your
physical needs of food, shelter etc. met. Having these things is perfectly fine and can
be an aid to proper inquiry. However, your desire to have life work out in a particular
way is worthy of intense scrutiny. First of all, as I have pointed out, how life works out
isn't up to you. You do choose your actions, but Isvara gives the result. Therefore
concern is unnecessary. Second, and most importantly, for inquiry to progress, it must
be completely clear that you cannot get what you want out of life (your self). All you
are seeking through your worldly pursuits is simply freedom from your desires and
fears, but freedom is really just a description of your true nature. Since you are already
freedom itself (limitless awareness), of what use is chasing objects in the world? You
simply need to make understanding who you really are your number one priority. It is
the direct path to freedom. Worldly pursuits are only indirect paths to freedom i.e.
temporary freedom. Temporary freedom isn't acceptable to anyone, and the proof is
that when people get what they want, and feel temporarily free, they immediately
chase freedom again when the feeling goes away. Freedom that depends upon
whether you get what you want or not isn't freedom at all. When you see this clearly,
dispassion will develop and you will not be so concerned about what happens in your
life. Your former desires for worldly pursuits will be re-directed towards the pursuit of
self knowledge (even if you continue performing certain worldly duties).
Take care,
Isaiah

Thanks Isaiah,
I agree, intellectually at least, with what you say. Also I have determined that I will work
on assimilating experience daily - as you say, the undigested experience was most or all
of the problem. I'm feeling fine, and quite optimistic now!

Hi Jack,
No, the problem is rajas and tamas, which is the root cause of being unable to
assimilate experience properly in the first place. You can't just decide to assimilate

experience, it doesn't work that way. You must get rid of rajas / tamas because
assimilating experience requires a sattvic mind.
It's good that you feel better. But this only means that your mind has temporarily
shifted to sattva. Or it's shifted back to rajas, which may feel good to you because it
feels more normal than tamas. But without making adjustments toward a sattvic
lifestyle, you will crash again. I really can't stress this enough.
Sincerely,
Isaiah

Hi Isaiah,
What beyond karma yoga would you suggest?

Hi Jack,
Karma yoga should be the basis of your spiritual practice. But it should be practiced
along with bhakti, the yoga of the three gunas, and meditation. These are broad topics
so I recommend you review them in the book and then we can discuss them. Bhakti is
covered in the Love chapter of Jamess book. The yoga of the three gunas is discussed
in chapters 10 and 11. Meditation is discussed in the Meditation chapter. I highly
recommend that you utilize each of these techniques.
Since karma yoga is a must, and it should be your foremost priority, lets review it.
Ideally, get to the point where you are offering each and every action you undertake to
Isvara; accept the result of each action with gratitude. Before performing an action,
even something mundane like taking a shower, mentally consecrate it. You may say to
yourself, "May this be for Isvara / the self / the lord," however you wish to phrase it.
When the result of the action comes, thank Isvara for it's prasad (gift). There are no bad
results with karma yoga, because we are not after a particular result, except for a
relatively pure mind, suited to inquiry. Really, even if your mind doesn't become calm,
take that too as prasad because karma yoga is the understanding that even though it's
up to you to choose the appropriate action, the result is always determined by the field
of action (Isvara); everything is given by Isvara (even the body and mind with which you
perform actions) and gratitude is the only appropriate and reasonable response.
Performing actions with this attitude reduces the pressure of the vasanas (unconscious

tendencies / inclinations or your likes / dislikes). Why? Because karma yoga gets the
ego acting for the sake of the self, instead of according to its likes / dislikes, thereby
reducing the likelihood of recycling / reinforcing the vasanas that create them in the
first place.
The vasanas dictate your mind state, motivations, desires, fears, temperament, actions
etc. They are the seeds, stored in the causal body, that sprout as your thoughts. They
'run' the apparent person. The vasanas are stored in the causal body, which is
composed of the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas). So, if you are very rajasic it stands
to reason that you have a lot of rajasic vasanas. Reducing your overall vasanas with
karma yoga helps you to indirectly reduce the rajas. This can be a long, hard, process
and requires quite a bit of dedication, but will be glad to do it if your goal is moksha. It's
important to note that the vasanas themselves are not bad; everyone will always have
vasanas. Besides, you can have many vasanas that are helpful, such as a vasana for
karma yoga and self-inquiry. Knowing this, it is wise to cultivate vasanas that facilitate
inquiry while eschewing those that do not.
The gunas create and color the vasanas. Working with them directly to reduce rajas /
tamas in favor of sattva is the yoga of the three gunas, which I mentioned above. Since
you are in great need of reducing your rajas, it would be a good idea for you to pay
close attention to the chapters in the book that expound on this topic. Let me know if
you have any questions.
Sincerely,
Isaiah