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Dharma Ocean Explains Karma and the Body

This article is adapted from Dharma Ocean Podcast 227: Karma and the Body – Part I, a talk by Dr. Reggie Ray given at the Blazing Mountain Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado. Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ray is the Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of the Practicing Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

In order to fully understand the purpose and the process of the Somatic Meditation with the body, we need to understand the principle of karma with some sophistication. Karma is the second noble truth, or if you like, the structures and processes by which we create suffering for ourselves and others.

According to Buddhism, there are two types of karma. There’s the karma of result, which describes the arising of experiences and situations in the inner and the outer world. These are called the karma of result because they arise based on causes and conditions that we have established in previous lifetimes or at earlier times in the present life.

And the other kind of karma is called the karma of cause. This points to the way in which whenever we act in a self-serving or ego-directed fashion, whenever we do not meet our life directly but seek to slide off to the side or manipulate or ignore, we create more karma toward the future that is later going to ripen and arise as the karma of result.

What do these have to do with Somatic Meditation? According to the yoga traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the basis of the second noble truth, the cause of our suffering, is that we approach our experience with a kind of thirst—what’s called “tanha” in Pali, which is one of the ancient languages of Buddhism.

By thirsting, or longing, we create karma. What is this thirst? It is really a thirst for a solid concept of ourselves. It is a kind of thirst that is in-grown, self-absorbed, and solipsistic. We thirst. We yearn to be something definite and continuous, something safe, secure, protected. We have a concept of ourselves that we have built up, and we thirst to perpetuate and aggrandize and defend and augment that idea we have of ourselves, that self that we think we are or want to think we are.

So our ego-mind is one-pointed in its desire, and it accepts and rejects experience in accordance with the idea of ourselves that we’re trying to defend and maintain. It actually blocks unwanted information completely from our awareness so that we can maintain our ego version of ourselves. However, our body is a much more neutral and, frankly, wise experiencer. When things arise for us as humans, they are known initially by the body, which knows in all kinds of ways and without judgment. Sometimes people think the body is defined only by the five senses, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and the body. Those certainly are gateways for the experience of the body, but the body knows in many other ways. The body has an intuitive sense of things. It knows directly and in an unmediated, unfiltered way. As recent book titles declare, “the Body Knows the Answer,” “the Body Knows the Truth.”

There are now machines, computers, and sensitive electromagnetic sensors that can measure the response of the body to anything that comes within its field of perception.

If we present an apple to a person who is allergic to apples, even if that person has no idea of their allergy, the body will tense up in a very subtle manner. On a more gross level, if someone is talking to us and we’re wanting to believe them, our body reads the situation in a very objective and unsentimental fashion and perhaps knows they’re lying. And at night, we may have a dream where that person is exposed as a liar. And when we think back, we notice that, in fact, we did have some kind of subliminal sense of that person’s non-truth but didn’t want to acknowledge it.

We could go through thousands of phenomena in the world of all kinds. And when the body meets those phenomena, there’s a kind of direct experience that arises, whether or not we are consciously aware or admit that knowledge into our consciousness. We may find out later what the body knows through dreams, through a sudden flash of insight, through a “gut feeling,” through our heart’s pain, through becoming ill, through becoming tense.

You could say that it’s only because the body knows first in a complete and objective sway that we can then react with ego attitudes of passion, aggression, or ignorance toward the experience that has arisen in the body. The natural state, the unborn mind, the unborn awareness, is actually the ultimate essence of what our body is. Within that open and empty realm, there’s all kinds of energy that circulates—it is the energy of the experience. When we strip down to the primordial body, that is what our awareness is like. That is what our experience is like, and the ego-mind is constantly reacting to that openness and energy with reactions to try to domesticate that primordial experience in such a way that it does not compromise or disconfirm our ego. So the body knows in a direct and unobstructed manner, and the ego is always trying to ignore, filter, and block out that knowledge.

About Dharma Ocean Foundation

Dharma Ocean is a non-profit global educational foundation that focuses on somatic meditation as the way to help students – of any secular or religious discipline, by teaching them the importance of embodiment in both meditation and their daily lives as taught in the “practicing lineage” of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The foundation was established in 2005 by scholar, author, and teacher Dr. Reggie Ray, and is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado.

Jeremy Spain
Jeremy Spain is originally from Southern California and is a graduate of Georgetown University. He covers top business and entrepreneur stories. He is also a reporter for other major online news outlets.

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