Character, Habits, Samskaras – March 15 2021

Character, Habits, Samskaras – March 15 2021

Never say any man is hopeless, because he only represents a character: a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new and better ones. Character is repeated habits, and repeated habits alone can reform character.

Swami Vivekananda


The ancient teachings of Vedanta say the goal of all yoga is to find union with the Ultimate Ground, the transcendental place of truth deep within each of us. Jesus called it ‘the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Sri Krishna said it is ‘existing in all beings, in the heart of every being.’ Mohammed tells us, ‘The spirit of Allah is in all of us.’


And Vedanta calls it simply the I Am.


This Ultimate Ground is not something that must be discovered; rather it is a state that must be uncovered. It is what we find within ourselves when we have got past what Swami Vivekananda calls our ‘character’ — the bundle of habits and samskaras, or stresses, that have kept us from knowing it.


Samskara means something like ‘deep impressions.’ Marks, furrows, if you will, in the stuff of the mind. Grooves of habitual thought, reaction, behavior we seem to be at the mercy of. From samskara we derive our English word scar: a mark that has been left from an experience, from a wound.


Taken all together within each of us, these samskaras form an identity that we come to know as myself. An ego self. A surface identity that has been put together by our parents, society, culture–by every experience we’ve ever had. It has been built, piece by piece, day by day, throughout the whole of our life.


That which has been put together may be taken apart. To do so is to find the Truth that lies beneath. The Self, it is sometimes called, with a capital ‘S’. The source of all beauty, all truth. Pure, untouched, unsullied by anything that has ever happened to us, anything we’ve ever done.


To deconstruct this bundle of habits that stands in our way, we meditate. This is how we contact our deepest Self. And it loosens these stresses, or samskaras, that keep us stuck in habit, allowing them to unwind from us.


Then in our day to day life we remind ourselves that we are not our thinking. We get present to what is, rather than to our habitual thoughts about what is. We get present to each other, rather than to our thoughts about each other. And we remind ourselves that in every moment in everything and in everyone, ourselves included, this truth is below the surface, below the thinking, waiting only to be looked for; and as we look for it, it will show Itself to us.


Today I will be aware of myself in the world, and aware of my habitual reactivity in the world; and when I find myself being drawn into annoyance or anger, anxiety or fear, guilt or shame, I will feel the feelings that arise, but I will step out of the thinking that the feelings trigger in me. I will become present to the stillness within myself, beneath all these thoughts and feelings, and I will see if perhaps I can recognize some evidence of that stillness in the world and the people around me.

On Set, Prospect Studios, East Hollywood, CA