Human Spiritual Structure: Samskara
Notes in progress © 1998-2002 Alan McAllister  

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Ananda Murti has said that samkaras are distortions of the mind. These distortions are more apparent in the lower levels of the mind. When we act, or contemplate action the mental momentum behind this are the vrttis seeking expression. The expression of the vrttis produces changes in the mental ectoplasm, the citta. The changes are distortions of the mind from its pure state, and must eventually be released or undone. The citta, as a medium, has a built in restoring force, which will have a strength equal and opposite to the original force that produced the distortion. The process by which these distortions relax is called the attainment of the fruits of actions. Thus it is that for every action there is a resulting reaction. However this relation may be immediate or delayed. When it is delayed, existing in a potential form, it is called samskara. In some cases it is delayed across lifetimes, in which case the samskaras determine a compatible body for the next birth.

The collection of samskaras that we carry with us is referred to as our basket of karma. Literally the actions that we must take in the future.

These are what might be said to be self-created samskaras. Also self created are the reactions we have to others actions. These are perhaps the hardest to control, as we may often react without thinking. While our reactions may include actions, they may often be purely mental. These mental reactions may focus on the other person, or they may be of the nature of self definition. We may in this way incorporate others views of ourselves as our own.

These processes are bound up as well with the formation and definition of our egos, our small self, which serve to limit and constrain our full potential, our pure higher self. In part this is natural as we rapidly lose consciousness of the higher self after birth and in seeking to define ourselves from scratch the base layers of our new self are laid down mostly through absorption of others vision. And yet, much of our own essence, although can come through, in spite of its being unconscious at the time.

It is said that we select our birth so that the combination of internal and external conditioning will produce circumstances that we need to work on stored samskaras. How do the past-life samskaras, stored in the atimanas kosa, relate to the new life experiences?

While in rebrithing circles there is the idea that most of our stored stuff involves things that we have judged to he `wrong' or `bad' and thus have failed to integrate, is this the model for all samskaras? Any action in body or mind requires a reaction, and thus forms a samskara, thus this may include `good' things as well as `bad'. Perhaps it is the judgement, either way, leading to either attachment to or rejection of patterns or events etc. that prevents us from completion. In either case we are putting energy into holding onto or controlling those pictures.

Is one reason for "holding" onto samskaras, that we need to wait until we have expanded our consciousness enough that we can integrate them, rather than simply reliving them? Until we can go through the experiences with detachment, they will not be released and we will have to repeat them again? This reduces to the question of how much our own attachment to, or suppression of, a samskara, memory, or psychic picture, etc., is the real reason that we hold onto it, or keep renewing it, and how much it is simply a matter of a cosmic record keeper, or scorecard? [AHM]

Types of Samskara

This is a classification of samskaras by the types of actions that creat or store them. It is also, implicitly, a catalogue of most types actions of actions we take. Not included are original actions (see below). The three basic categories are inborn, acquired, and imposed samskaras.

In animals the instincts dominate all action, and all desires are essentially instinctual. In the higher animals there is also some learned habitual behavior, and limited scope for choice. In humans all types are present, though in most people actions are still dominated by the various imposed samskaras, and we act and react on the basis of habit, desire, and occasionally instinct.

In many of these classes there can be both `good' and `bad' actions, and therefore both `pleasurable' and `painful' reactions. These reactions are necessary to clear the mind, but also as lessons to teach us the consequences of moving towards or away from God. This is because He desires all to come to him.

In original action we have choice to perform it or not, but with reactions there is no choice but to experience it. The timing and form of the reaction may be altered but the magnitude cannot. The degree of the reaction depends on the nature of the action. Psychic actions incur an equal and opposite reaction. Ill thoughts against someone will result in similar energy directed back at you, though not necessarily from the same person. Psycho-physical actions may distort the mind or they may not. The unconscious motion of the body does not affect the mind and produces no reaction. However, when physical action has been added to mental, then the momentum is increased and so is the reaction. Actions take with the ideation of the Supreme also incur no reaction. When the action is service, an offering to Cosmic Consciousness, so that it is not preformed by the ego, then the reactions also go to the Supreme. This is the secret to breaking the cycle of action and reaction.

It is not possible to erase samskaras by good deeds or prayers etc. In fact this may simply create new samskaras. It is possible for great gurus to assume the samskaras of their disciples.

subconscious mind is controlled and no longer driven here and there by instinct and desire for various objects and actions, then a state of peace is obtained. There are also methods for reducing the agitation of the mind by external vibrations, by reducing the identification of the mind with the external world.

Is there a difference between pictures, that we insert in the perception chain, so that we are `looking through them' at the world, and samskaras which might tend to have more to do with setting up life situations. Of course if we have pictures, then we set up situations in which we can blow them. Is this the same thing?

In describing the lokas P.R.Sakar indicates that both svarloka and maharloka ( manomaya and atimanas kosas are involved with the samskaras [SS I, 47]. The samskaras are created and experienced in the manomaya kosa, but are stored and first expressed (as they ripen) in the atimanas kosa.

The paramount importance of the human body, both the physical and crude and subtle mental layers, is that without these a soul cannot work through its samskaras. They remain stored in the causal mind, but to manifest and experience these reactions the lower levels are necessary.

The main difference between individuals is their samskaras. If two people come to have the same samskaras, they will be irresistibly drawn together, as they now have the same consciousness. This same consciousness cannot stay long in two bodies.

In the movie projector analogy, the atman is the light, the mahat is the lens, and the film is the aham containing millions of pictures. The external world is then the movie screen.

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Created January, 1998.
Last updated April 5, 1998.
© Alan McAllister

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