What then is Heredity?
Heredity involves three things. First, there is the physical heredity that is passed on through the seed of the parent. It endows us with certain vulnerabilities as well as certain strengths. It lays the foundation of our physical body, the hardware, so to speak. Then, there is the psychological heredity which is more like a learning or a transmission of certain parental and other influences from the psychological environment and the socio-cultural milieu. It is like the software that has programmed us. But apart from this there is a third factor, not yet recognised by mainstream science but is known by spiritual teachers as the law of karma. This is the inheritance of our past bonds – the skinware. That is to say, we start from the curve where we left the thread of our previous life. While the first is easier to study, the second is too complex and not at all simple to study or understand in all its aspects that relate to each other. The last is of course still the privilege of the few who have risen to great inner heights and plumbed their own depths.
In the hierarchical order the first or the physical heredity still exercises a strong hold upon the person since it is the basis of our physical existence that develops out of the seed. This process of reproducing faithfully the design encrypted within the seed has been going on for millions of years since life first entered the womb of matter. That is why it has such a strong hold on the physical constitution. But overriding it is the psychological inheritance, again for better or for worse. This is not only in degrees of tolerance, especially of pain, but also in matters of endurance and even attitudes that are healthy or unhealthy, habits that help or hinder the health, beliefs that are helpful or harmful, that condition our minds to react and respond in one way or the other. Needless to say a good psychological constitution can override a bad physical heredity and the reverse may also be true. The mind and its attitudes have a great effect upon the body and like many other things, these attitudes are often unconsciously picked up from the environment and accepted unquestioningly when one is yet a child. Later, it may take decades to surmount one such attitude and sometimes one is never quite able to overcome it.
But finally, and overriding all this, is the experience that the soul has chosen to undergo based upon its past learning curve. Not only that, the soul is creating fresh karmas and thereby bringing into play new forces and dimensions of consciousness whose importance is immense since it is this alone that can be really controlled in a certain measure at least. One can do little about one’s physical heredity or the passive learning and other forms of childhood influences. One can also do little about one’s past. But one can always do something about the present. In fact changing one’s present is the best way of changing one’s future and the results and consequences arising out of the past.
But one can work upon the present in two ways. One method is to change outwardly, that is to say our lifestyle, habits, etc. The other, and more enduring way is to change inwardly, that is to say one’s attitudes, to cultivate in oneself certain higher elements of Nature that can call the play of a higher consciousness through faith, aspiration, surrender, peace, purification of nature from certain animal propensities or lower basal elements such as greed, anger etc. It is best to combine the two—inner and outer—for ideal results.
Is Illness a Punishment, the Result of Bad Karma?
The theory of karma is often invoked like a trump card to explain the moral nature of the universe. Moral or amoral, the main business of universe seems to be change and an evolutionary progress rather than justice. What then is this much talked about karma? It is a machinery for evolutionary growth through constant learning and integrating what we have thus learnt into the very inmost stuff our being. Any energy let forth into this world is a karma. This involves not only our outwardly demonstrable actions but also our inner thoughts and feelings and will. Each is an energy set into motion at its appropriate plane and goes out to produce a certain result depending upon its strength, intensity, persistence, formation, power, and the inherent motive that is propelling it from behind and in a certain direction. These energies, once released, go out into the world towards their goals, touch whatever it can and through each other the entire universe. Yet, in the end, they have the tendency to return towards their parent source. We are thus like dynamos all the time receiving and transmitting, attracting and repelling by a law of affinity. What we have released comes back to us grown manifold or distorted and twisted or blunted and changed or perhaps even canceled and annulled. While normally this energy moves along its own plane, creating results through the simple law of cause and effect, sometimes its course can be completely modified by the intervention of a higher determinism. In other words, the higher Law only works to protect us against the effects of karma and not to punish us. But usually we are not open to this higher Law and therefore have to pass through the normal and natural consequence appropriate to that plane where the energy is released into motion or wherever it is interlinked to a nearby plane. Thus, for example, a bad thought can produce ill-effects not only upon our own bodies but also upon other bodies. The same is true of a positive thought and a positive feeling. It does not matter whether the thought or the feeling is conscious or unconscious but being conscious of it, especially when it is emotionally charged, does lend a greater power to the formation and doing it with the sense of being the doer additionally attaches the tag of responsibility and keeps one tied to consequences.
Practically, it means that one can create formations consciously to help the healing process. Much of guided imagery is about that – a conscious use of thought and will and imagination to produce a certain result. And if one can free oneself from the sense of being the doer, then one avoids many unpleasant consequences, but that of course is much more difficult and requires a sincere Yoga that not all can or are even willing to undertake. Finally, by invoking a Force from the Beyond, one can completely modify the karmic consequence and if it be by some rare fortune the intervention of the Supreme Grace, it has the power even to completely annul the karma. But again this is neither easy nor common. What is much more common is the natural change in the karmic consequences when the individual has realised what he had to learn from it and has therefore changed his inner poise or the station of consciousness. Thus learning and evolving, he sets in motion a new force (new to him) that nevertheless has the effect of canceling some of the energies that he has released in the past or at least modifying its effects. To take a very commonplace example, smoking is a karma that brings us closer to diseases and death. But if one stops smoking then with the passage of time some or many of the ill-effects and possible consequences begin to recede and become less and less probable! Much of lifestyle change is about that. But what applies at the most outer and physical level applies as much to the inner fields. That is why all spiritual disciplines insist that we must have our hearts and minds full of goodwill and positive thoughts and feelings for others, we must consciously cultivate it. In the end this benefits not only others but even our own self! A change of action, a change of lifestyle, a change of attitudes and orientation, a change of the very goal and station of our inner self are some of the ways and means to thwart the ill-effects of previous adverse karmas, and the reverse is also as much true. All the same, karma is not some primitive law of reward and punishment, though sometimes it may seem to take this extreme form when a strong karma creates an equally severe repercussion. But this repercussion, whether from the environment or the cosmic forces (often one using the other), is upon the inner being and not so much in terms of what happens outside. The inner being learns in the process and grows one way or the other.