Samskaras What Are They?
Samskaras What Are They?
Psychology puts great influence on our past behaviour and patterns from our childhood and life experiences. Freud and others said that specific cultural, family and life orientations and patterns subconsciously guide our behavior. Ayurveda or more accurately the Vedas have known and understood this for centuries long before our western psychological education.
The word samskara
The word samskara derives from the Sanskrit word sam to mean complete or joined together and kara means action, cause, or doing.
A samskara starts as a vritti (whirlpool, thought-wave), a thought, emotion, or sensation that arises like a wave on the ocean of conscious awareness. In response to internal or external stimuli, the corresponding thoughts, emotions, and reactions settle into the subconscious mind (chitta), where they form sensory impressions or samskaras.
Such impressions are analogous to neural pathways, which form new connections upon repeated exposure to a given stimulus. As “neurons that fire together wire together,” vrttis and samskaras that are repeatedly deployed form more enduring samskaric pathways, or patterns.
Samskaras, much like the experiences they reflect, can be either positive or negative.
Positive samskaras enable us to be kind with actions that benefit not ourselves but also others, they bring us into the present moment of now which aligns us with divine truth.
Negative samskaras which could be considered to some as the negative ego that engenders craving, bullying, self-sabotage, delusion, and aversion, and according to ancient scriptures strengthening the bonds of karma and keeping us from freedom and liberation.
Mirrors to the world
According to Vedic philosophy, our memories, our sense of self-worth, indeed our self of who we really are, and our worldview, our actions and thinking mirror these sensory impressions, which derive from our current and some say our past lives.
In default consciousness, these impressions are hidden and represent action potentials, awaiting cyclical re-activation in the form of vrttis. Swami Sivananda posited that any conscious thought or action stems from our underlying samskara, although we typically believe our actions derive from conscious free will.
Such beliefs in absolute free will are a form of negative samskara, masking the reality that our actions and behaviors most frequently result from prior conditioning. From the perspective of Vedic philosophy, denying that our actions are impacted by samskara is delusory.
Crux of the matter
Samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions, and intents that an individual has ever experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.
This is probably the most important thing to remember about samskaras, they are not conscious, we believe that what we are doing is from our free will and that we have control over what we say, think and do, this is an illusion. Because our mind is made up of preconditioned thoughts, actions and thinking, we are never in control we are always being lived through our samskaras.
Awareness is the key
Through being in the present through simple awareness, it is possible to create new awareness and change our behaviour patterns. This can opmnly be achieved through understanding who we are at a truly fundamental level.
Yogapedia explains Samskara
It is said that a samskara is created after a vritti, or thought wave, arises in the mind. Once this thought wave has left normal consciousness, it sinks down into the subconscious or unconscious mind, where it remains in the form of a samskara. In this model, the samskaras also serve as memory stores that hold all past experiences in perfect detail. When memories are recalled, the samskaras come back to the level of the conscious mind in waves of recollection.
If we are willing to see the truth of who we truly are and understand that samskaras are a result of past conditioning and not who we are, we can become free from the beliefs and conditioning that binds us.
Samskaras will also be affected by our dosha type, and I will address this in the resources on each dosha type.
According to Hindu beliefs of reincarnation, every person is born with samskaras already, which are embedded and imprinted in their minds from past lives. During a person's lifetime, they will gain many more samskaras. In this way, samskaras are associated with karmic theory. The actions and karma that one accumulates in one lifetime will be passed on to one's future reincarnation through one's samskaras.
Whether we believe in past lives or reincarnation, this does not alter the truth that samskaras are unconscious, pre-conditioned patterns that we have no control of and no matter how hard we try we will always be governed and driven by them.
Our thinking and our speaking will always come from this place, its impossible not to, unless we are able to see from a pure awareness that this is not who we are and that we have no free will.