iv. 7-11 The Dance of Karma
4.7 The Advanced Yogin is Free from all Karmic Obstructions; all others experience a mix- match of good and evil.
Book IV focuses on those Advanced Yogins who are now free from avidya, and hence no longer make ignorant choices that lead to dark karmic consequences. For those in whom avidya remains deeply ingrained, the karmic dance continues to be a variable one, all mixed with both pleasure and pain—the mad schizoid dance of the ordinary body consciousness. Patañjali nexts proceeds to highlight the effects of those who engage in the dance.
4.8 Karmic Actions sow the seeds of both conscious and unconscious tendencies that result in fruit born appropriate to one’s karmic-personality.
Jaganath Carrea provides a nice breakdown of this karmic phenomenon:
To understand this sutra, it will be useful to briefly discuss three principles:
Samskaras: subconscious impressions
Karmasaya: depository of karmic residue
Vasanas: subliminal personality traits, tendencies, and potentialities that form and help maintain patterns of habit.
Samskaras: Every thought, word, and deed (whether done consciously or unconsciously) becomes a samskara. Samskaras function as subliminal activators, constantly propelling the conscious mind into further thought and action.
Karmasaya: No action is without its reaction. All reactions are stored as subtle impressions in the subconscious mind. The receptacle for karma is called the karmasaya. There are three kinds of karma found in the karmasaya: those being expressed and exhausted in this birth (prarabdha karma); new karma created during this birth (agami karma); and latent karma waiting to be fulfilled in future births (sancita karma).
Vasanas: Vasanas are a subcategory of samskaras. They are subconscious impressions that come together, irrespective of their order of creation, to create a subset of impressions: a “family” of related impressions. Since vasanas induce a person to repeat actions, they are sometimes referred to as subtle desires.
Vasanas form individual personality traits and patterns of habit. They represent self-identity formed under the influence of ignorance (avidya). In other words, personality traits can exist only in an environment which supports the ego-sense and the mistaken belief that we are not the Purusha.
The coming-together of related vasanas is the process that brings forth the karma of this birth (prarabdha karma) from the karmasaya. The vasanas are, in effect, channels through which the evolutionary force of Prakriti manifests, expressing as the birth of the individual and the experiences that will be encountered in that life.
This explains why we don’t always face the results of our current actions in this birth. Karmas need the proper environment to come to fruition. Therefore some of the karmas we must face are kept in abeyance by the time (the point in history) of our birth and by our current environment, social status, and place. The time necessary for the fulfillment of these karmas could extend from minutes or hours to days, years, or lifetimes. Only when the circumstances are appropriate will a karma surface.
The practical teaching of this sutra is that environment is an extremely important factor in spiritual growth. Vasanas of gambling will find the surroundings of a monastery inhospitable. On the other hand, spiritual vasanas will have a difficult time germinating in Las Vegas casinos.
[Carrera, Jaganath (2012-06-22). Inside The Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (p. 208-210). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.]
4.9 Memory and the karmic impressions within the Alaya receptacle give rise to the automatic tendencies that afflict one’s life; all this occurs regardless of “time” factors, particular location, or by the string of endless lifetimes.
The shared-memories from all former past incarnations continue to make their influences known and will stop at nothing to guarantee that the karmic-seeds come to fruition, all based on past actions—no matter how far back within the memory-banks of the Alaya receptacle. Also, the fruition of these seeds does not necessarily fall in chronological order. The karmic consequences from a millennium past-age could come home to roost along any given point of that karmic spectrum. Indeed, as Jaganath Carrera expounded in the last commentary, these seeds will ripen given the appropriate life-circumstances.
4.10 The mad desire for fulfillment assures that these tendencies will be perpetual ones.
Insatiable desires can be likened to a genetic strain of DNA. They can come out of the blue at any given moment, provided that the right triggers within the environment take hold.
4.11 All of these desire-filled tendencies are perpetuated by Mind’s subjugation to the object of its affection.
In a nutshell, desires are hidden mechanisms that are determined by articles of affection within the objective environment that are maintained by the mechanics of cause and effect.