Despite understanding all the negative health implications of oral contraceptives, I believe in a woman’s right to choose her method of birth control – and her right to enjoy sex for the sake of sex (rather than as a means of procreation). And despite last Monday’s new legislation, a woman does still have the right to choose. It’s going to cost her a lot more, however.
The problem is the fact that companies are now allowed, as a result of this legislation, to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. Some companies are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.
This is an infringement on a woman’s right to believe when a fertilized egg becomes a human being with a life force, prana, spirit. Instead, company CEOs and owners will be able to impose their religious and philosophical beliefs on women who may not feel the same. Because to exclude contraceptive methods that work after the egg has been fertilized is to communicate that you insist that at the moment of conception a soul is attached to that egg.
Now, let me be clear. I am pro choice. I do, however, believe that a fertilized egg does contain the soul of a Divine being. The Vedas (our most influential ancient yogic scripture) say that the soul comes into the woman’s body in the form of the man’s sperm: “Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.” –Bhagavad Purana (Shrimad Bhagavatam). This wisdom was known to the people of the Vedic periods 2 million years ago.
Which brings me to yoga and spirituality.
In the yogic tradition, we understand that everything in the Universe is inherently perfect because it is all contained in the infinite balance of Shiva and Shakti. This is tantra. That love brings up the opposite of itself in order for us to heal the dark places in us has been understood in the yogic tradition for some time.
Inherent in the yogic tradition is the idea that we were placed on Earth in order to evolve spiritually. To realize ourselves, our true nature, is our purpose. Shayam Das, a beloved kirtan artist who died in India not too long ago, reminded us that the most valuable thing we can have is the understanding of who we truly are. We are the blue sky, the infinite Brahman, Shiva, the Supreme Self.
As an extension, we cycle through lives in different bodies, trying to liberate ourselves. Our karmas and sankaras stay with us. Sankaras (Pali) are (or samskaras in Sanskrit) the mental habits and grooves we react to over and over again. Vipassana practitioners are especially familiar with this. When we understand that our true nature is infinite joy, peace and love, we realize that our sankaras are not us but the result of a lack of awareness for lifetimes of being on earth in different bodies.
An excerpt from Zen Master Guishan’s poem “Encouraging Words” :
Lying on your sick bed about to breathe your last, you will be assailed by every kind of pain,
Your mind will be filled with fears and anxieties and you will not know where to go or what to do,
Only then you will realize you have not practiced well.
The skandhas/aggregates (matter, sensations, conceptions, impulses and consciousness)
and the four elements in you will quickly disintegrate, and your consciousness will be pulled wherever your ancient, twisted karma leads it.
Impermanence does not hesitate.
Death will not wait.
You will not be able to extend your life by even a second.
How many thousand times more will you have to pass through the gates of birth and death…”
So when a woman conceives, it is because a soul either needs to be manifested through her or to be in a human, cellular form for a brief moment to affect that woman’s consciousness. For example, if a woman gets pregnant and miscarries, the process and pain of miscarriage may have occurred in order for the mother to evolve spiritually, assuming she has the awareness to do so.
Again, love brings up the opposite of itself so that we can become more aware of our true nature. Pain brings us to our knees and helps us clarify our lives. On the other hand, if she delivers that baby, she has manifested that being, but she has less control over the trajectory of that small person’s life than she thinks. There is no true ownership. Again, that baby came into the world with all of its karmas and sankaras and will have to deal with them itself as it grows and evolves.
So when a woman conceives, it is clear, in the yogic perspective, that there is a soul connected to that being. Life begets life. A child is manifested through her mother and father.
So we cannot know the karmic causes and effects of conception or the prevention of conception. It takes a very advanced sadakh, or seeker, to have that level of insight into their own karma. But we have a right to choose our own path in life and if that means oral contraception for some women then they should be able to choose that.
Yoga is about the middle path and non-judgement. Allowing others to experience and work through their karmas is crucial. We cannot do it for them and no one can do it for us. It is not our place to judge another for their choice of contraception or not. Righteousness is the brother of ego. While we all get caught up in the humanness of righteousness, awareness is required in order for us to move beyond that habit. To pass a law that allows businesses to impose their beliefs and therefore righteousness on its employees is inherently patriarchal and small minded.
So what are your thoughts around embryology and conception with regards to the yogic perspective?