Beyond Living and Dying

Death plays a pivotal role in the history of yoga—the original objective of practice was ending rebirth. At some point between the earliest Vedas and the time of the Buddha a thousand years later, the doctrine of karma changed people’s priorities. Whatever one did produced karmic results, leaving mental impressions that led to more actions. Since this cycle spanned lifetimes, one was destined to suffer through an infinite process of reincarnation. The ultimate goal was to set oneself free, using spiritual wisdom to sever the chain of karmic consequences. 

Yoga developed as one such approach. Practitioners traded ideas, from ascetic extremes of self-mortification to subtler techniques based on meditative insight. Most of these methods yielded shifts in perception. If one ceased to identify oneself as an individual person—and instead saw the self as unfiltered consciousness—one might be libera

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