Samskaras – August 22 2020

Samskaras – August 22 2020

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.


The word samskara comes from a Sanskrit root that means ‘that which has been put together.’ And what has been put together is an identity, what I know as me. An ego self that has been put together by parents, society, culture – by every experience we’ve ever had. It has been built, piece by piece, day by day, throughout the entirety of our life.


That which has been put together may be taken apart. And by taking it apart, we find the Truth that lies beneath. This Ultimate Ground. The Self, with a capital ‘S’. The source of all beauty, all truth; pure, untouched by anything we have done or has been done to us.


To know ourselves as this Self is to know ourselves as at-one-with the All. When we know ourselves as the All, fear vanishes, bliss is the whole of our experience and we can feel ourselves in the presence of God, basking in ‘the sunshine of the spirit.’ We can become again what the Bible says we were created as: in the image and likeness of God. 


Meditation is the means by which we contact this deepest Self. It is also the way we soften these samskaras, allowing them to unwind from us.


Then in our day to day life 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. We get present to the world, and we remind ourselves that in every moment, in everything and everyone, ourselves included, there is this truth below the surface, waiting only to be recognized.


Today I will be aware of myself reacting to 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. 

Orange Tree and Prayer Flags, 7×7 tintype, Studio City CA