Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Sanskar? How it is Created?

The things we see, the words we hear, the words we speak, the things we touch, the things we smell—these leave an impression on our Antahkarana, the inner core. This impression, this tiny spot, this mark on our Antahkarana (inner core) is the seed of Sanskar. Whenever the same experience of seeing, speaking, listening, smelling and touching is repeated, the miniature spot, or the seed of Sanskar, expands to take the form of a minute line. Further repetition of the same experience transforms the minute line into a thick and heavy line. And this is known as Sanskar.

Let us talk briefly about Antahkarana. It was implied earlier that Sanskars are stored in Antahkarana. Swami Vivekananda defines Antahkarana as, “The organs (Indriyas), together with the mind (Manas), the discriminative faculty (Buddhi), and ego-sense (Ahamkara) form the group called Antahkarana (Inner Core). They are but various processes in the mind-stuff, called Chitta. The thought-waves in the Chitta are called Vrittis (literally ‘whirlpool’).” Manas as the recording faculty receive impressions gathered by the senses from the outside world. Buddhi as the discriminative faculty classifies these impressions and reacts to them. Ahamkara as the ego-sense claims these impressions for its own and stores them up as individual knowledge.

Now, coming back to Sanskars; the tiny spot, the impression gathered through senses on our inner core was the causal body of Sanskar. The minute line, which was formed by repetition of the impression gathered through sense organs on our inner core, becomes the subtle body of the Sanskars. And the thick and heavy one which is further repetitions of the experiences becomes the physical body of Sanskar. Since creation, going through the cycles of rebirths, we have created an infinite number of those thick and heavy lines. They are stored in our inner core. When the mind gets in contact with them, they liven up in front of the mind in their true forms. This way, the mind sees a creation inside and gets busy playing with them. As long as these lines, these Sanskars remain, success would remain a dream. These Sanskars must be destroyed, must be uprooted for success.

It is these Sanskars that maintain the cycle of rebirths – just as strongly rooted addiction drives a man to take a drug, over and over again, irrespective of his conscious disinclination and the efforts of his moral will. We may say and sincerely believe, that we are tired of the world with what Sankaracharya Ji called “pairs of opposites” – pleasures and pains – “the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree” – but, in fact, we are not. As long as these tendencies are present, our addiction to return and plunge again and again into sense-experience is a lot deeper than we comprehend. Except for brief moments of our physical and spiritual hangovers, transient and temporary fits of disgust and repentance, this recurring process of craving and aversion continues. The desire to postpone death and cling to life is one of the greatest obstacles of enlightenment. To cling to life is to cling to normal sense consciousness, thereby shunning the super consciousness within which the Atman is known, Self is realized. And this is our invitation to rebirths – warmly accepted and obliged by nature.

These Sanskars are the Mala and Avarana of the inner core. Because of these the Yogis have the Viksepa. Therefore, we must demolish these. They must be uprooted. Our inner core has light, has joy, has truth but the Self is hidden by these Sanskars. It is like a precious gem hidden underneath garbage and filth. Its sparkle is blocked by itself. If we are to look for that gem, if we want to find that gem, we will need to remove the heap of garbage; we will need to cleanse the place. Only then, we can have it. As the cleaning process progresses, we get closer to it, and we start getting glimpses of its radiance and joy. Guru Maharaj says that when all the filth has been removed, when no trace of impurity remains, you will become a Saint, a complete Yogi, a Mahatma; this is Self-realization, this is Nirvana; in fact this is everything.

Above, Sanskars were treated the same as impurities (Mala, Avarana and Viksepa). It was also implied that self realization is not possible in the presence of even a trace of impurity. It follows then, that removal of impurities and destruction of Sanskars will run concurrently. Actually, the tool for removal of impurities, destruction of Sanskars, and unwinding the wheel of Karma which leads to Self-realization is the same—Sadhana.

A few words about the doctrine of Karma: there are three types of Karma: 1. the Karma created in the past or in some previous life, which is bearing fruit at the present moment; 2. the Karma which has already been created and stored up, so that it will bear fruit in some future life, and 3. the Karma which we are now in the process of creating by our actions or thoughts. Of these, the already existing Karmas are beyond our control; we can only wait until they have worked themselves out, and accept their fruits with courage and patience. But the Karmas which we are now creating can be avoided. Not by ceasing to act – that would be impossible, even if it were desirable – but by ceasing to desire the fruit of action for oneself. If we dedicate the fruits of action to God, we shall gradually unwind the wheel of Karma. Non-attachment, dedicating the fruits of action to God is the only way to unwind the wheel of Karma.

Guru Maharaj in Ten Basic Principles of Sadhana puts us on the path to learn non-attachment by telling us, “Do all worldly work in a spirit of service – not to rule or own, and live in the world as a guest.” This will stop creation of new Sanskars. This will stop the wheel of Karma. Unwinding the wheel of Karma which also means the non-creation of Sanskars will depend on how well we master non-attachment and dedicating the fruits of actions to God.

Now, what about the other two kinds of Karma, the Karma which has already been created and stored up, so that it will bear fruit in some future life; the Karma created in the past or in some previous life, which is bearing fruit at the present moment? Are we condemned to suffer through cycles of rebirths? The answer comes from Guru Maharaj, “Absolutely not.” We do not have to go through cycles of rebirth; we can demolish the other two types of Karma, we can uproot stored Sanskars, and we must. It will be done through Guru Maharaj’s gift to us—Satsang and Sadhana.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Barriers in Concentration

The most consistent complaint about concentration (Dharana) is that the harder an aspirant tries to achieve it, the more difficult it becomes. This is justified to some extent, by an applicable law of physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The greater the force with which a ball is thrown in the air, the harder it falls. Similarly, the more pressure we exert on our mind for concentration, the opposite reaction takes place. However, when looked deeply into this assertion, lack of courage and lack of understanding turn out to be the main causes of encountering problems in concentration.

The nature of mind (Manas) is dynamic. It will not remain still. When an aspirant tries to change its behavior from dynamic to static, and wishes to see it stand still, a struggle erupts between the forces (determination to tame the mind) of aspirant and the forces (the dynamic nature) of mind. Working towards winning this struggle is termed practice (Abhyas). It is of paramount importance for the aspirant to keep a watch on the thought waves erupting in the mind during practice. There are two types of thought waves: the useful ones and the adverse ones that keep exploding into mind. The adverse ones should not be allowed to enter the mind, and if they do enter the mind, they must be forced out. There are certain techniques to get rid of these unwanted distracting thought waves. However, they may not be explained correctly in a written format and may be learned by asking in person. When good thoughts, such as meeting with the Guru, attending Satsang, thoughts about sages or scriptures and the like arise, do not try to stop them. These good thoughts will propel the aspirant on the road to progress because the good thoughts will force out the bad thoughts. The nature of the mind is such that it will not occupy two thoughts at the same time; therefore, opposite thoughts can never co-exist. In this way freedom from one (i.e. bad thoughts) is accomplished.

Slowly, the pacification of good thought waves

The idea that we ultimately need to overcome even those thought-waves which are “good”, “pure”, and “truthful” may at first seem shocking to a student who has been trained in the Western approach to morality. But a little reflection will show him that this must be so. The external world, even in its most beautiful appearances and noblest manifestations, is still superficial and transient. It is not the basic reality. We must look through it, not at it, in order to see the Atman. Surely, it is better to love than to hate, better to tell the truth than to lie, better to share than to hoard. But the thought-waves, which motivate the practice of these virtues, are nevertheless disturbances of the mind.”
Swami Prabhavananda in commenting on Patanjali Yoga Sutras

will also transpire, and we will go beyond the reaches of both thought waves. The nature of mind will transform to the extent that at the order of the aspirant it will become static from dynamic, and will be under the control of the aspirant. This will be the state of meditation. Our spiritual discipline practices so far have led us to the state of concentration. With the mind pacified and devoid of thought waves, we now enter the state of meditation, which would transform itself into the state of super consciousness.

The mind possesses a kind of magnetic power which attracts like sets of thought waves and repels the unlike sets of thought waves. If for some time, say a few days, we are on alert and do not let other than beneficial thoughts enter our mind, we do not let any other thoughts arise in our mind. This will result in molding our mind in such a way that it won’t like and hence, won’t allow the bad or harmful thoughts to enter. Furthermore, it will allow and therefore attract only beneficial or good thoughts. The environment or atmosphere is full of thought waves, and these waves are traveling all the time. The mind works like a receiver and accepts those thought waves for which it has tuned itself. So, a mind that is trained for pure and beneficial thought waves will allow and receive similar thought waves. A mind that is not trained will allow and receive filthy and harmful thought waves. The atmosphere is full of both kinds of thought waves ready to enter the willing mind. For that very reason, good people are always being reinforced with good thoughts, whereas the opposite happens with not so good people.

As it happens, some minds are very sensitive receivers. Their acceptance capabilities are far greater than others. Others readily influence these minds. They are always willing to follow the advice or copy the behaviors of others. This is a weakness of immense proportions as it reflects an inability to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong, and it amounts to following blindly. We have to become strong enough that thoughts of others do not affect us; rather, our willpower influences them. We have seen that the associations of great souls with masses have changed for better the lives of hundreds and thousands; however, the purity of these great souls remains untouched by the association with the masses. This state of remaining unaffected comes only after having acquired strength. We have to get that kind of strength; otherwise, there is no doubt of us falling flat on our faces. The practice of concentration delivers a matchless might to the mind. The aspirant armed with this might gains control of thought waves roaming around the universe. He allows and receives the good ones and leaves the rest for others.

The great sage Patanjali says, “To be free from the thoughts that distract one from yoga, thoughts of an opposite kind must be cultivated.” In this aphorism, he advises that when thought waves, whether internal or external, cause distraction in the practice of concentration, do not put up a fight. The fight would have an adverse reaction: The more you fight, the more vigorous the reaction — resulting in unnecessary waste of time and energy. When we get inundated with distracting, harmful thought waves, do not fight. Instead, invite thought waves of the opposite nature. Fill your mind with the right kind, opposite of the distracting and harmful thought waves, and have your full and undiluted attention to the invited thought waves. By doing so, the distracting thought waves give way to the right ones, and the aspirant develops a pure and clean mind.

For those who are not able to perform the above-described process, there is another technique that might work. Pay no attention to the distracting thought waves, internal or external. They are uninvited guests. Don’t welcome them. Ignore them. Keep doing your job. By not paying attention, by ignoring the intruding, unwanted, and distracting thought waves, they leave on their own just like uninvited guests. They get the message of being unwanted. By doing your job, it is meant to focus on your objective. By developing this attitude of ignoring all extraneous thoughts, in a relatively short time, the mind becomes such that it won’t allow and won't receive any distracting thoughts.

It is a matter of everyday experience that commonality provides pulling power. Whatever matters or thought waves you have created your mind of, they will attract the same type. The proper thing for you to do is to feed it, strengthen it with good matters (good thought waves), and deny it of bad matters (bad thought waves). The goodness will come to it naturally and life will become fruitful. The ocean of thought waves is around us. We should take the jewels and not touch the salty water. We should fill our glass with clean water so that there is no room for anything else to get in.

“Thoughts of an opposite kind must be cultivated.” This second half of the sentence of the Sutra must also be understood for daily activities in this manner. When we look at someone’s weaknesses, this generates bad thoughts in us, which in turn lead us to hatred. Right then and there, we should think of any good deed or any good quality about that person and continue thinking. If the mind is in turmoil over some worries or problems, think of the protector of all, think of the Supremacy of the Mother, surrender yourself to Her and don’t let go until your mind has been calmed. It applies to most other situations. The best medicine for distracting thought waves is to fill the mind with superior thought waves, joyful events, and association of persons of Peace. The first thing in the morning that you might do is immerse yourself in the thoughts of your Guru and feel, “My Guru is in front of me and looking at me, protecting me, knows all good and bad about me, knows all about my sorrows and joys. He surely will remove all my predicaments and quandaries.” If we do this, then the entire day will be filled with Peace and joy. A few things, which need to be completed, may get done through the Guru’s potency. But the Guru should also be absolute, whole, an illuminated soul. Maharshi Patanjali says about the Guru, “Or by meditating on the heart of an illuminated soul, that is free from passion.”

Guru Maharaj’s Message: Is It Still Relevant?

The Satsang and Sadhana, as presented to us, by Samarth Guru Dr. Chaturbhuj Sahay Ji date back to over three quarters of a century. Since that time, the world has gone through colossal physical changes. The sun’s energy has been harnessed in the form of nuclear energy. Man has set foot on the moon. Distance has become blurred. Travel which previously required weeks or months and sometimes even years, now takes only a few hours. Instant communication, unimaginable to the average person a mere 15 years ago, is widely available through mobile phones, instant messaging and email. And so the list of innovations goes on, some major, some minor, but what is undeniable to all—is that things have changed a lot. Cataloging even the major changes of the world could easily fill the pages of a book.

Amid all of these changes, certain things have not changed over the same time period. In fact, they have never changed. Those unchangeable were spoken by the Buddha more than twenty-five centuries ago when he spoke of Four Noble Truths:

I. The Noble Truth about Suffering,

II. The Noble Truth about the Cause of Suffering,

III. The Noble Truth about the Cessation of Suffering

IV. The Noble Truth about the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.

What is The Noble Truth about Suffering? “Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, sickness is suffering; death is suffering, likewise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Contact with the unpleasant is suffering, separation from the pleasant is suffering; unsatisfied desire is suffering. In a word, the five craving-producing aggregates of mind-and-body (corporeality, feeling, perception, predisposing mental formations, and discriminative consciousness) are suffering.”

In his monumental work, Sadhana Ke Anubhava Guru Maharaj states in the first few pages that, “Everyone has just one goal – Stay in Peace. Our entire efforts are directed towards that goal – to find peace and happiness. We spend our whole life spans, as far and as long as we can think, accumulating items of pleasure: wealth, homes, summer homes, designer clothes, luxury cars and sports cars--to name just a few. We spend our entire lives looking for comfort. We go through cycles of rebirths without satisfying this incessant craving for comfort. In fact, the more we try to gratify the wishes of these senses, the more violent their demands become. We never seem to figure out that what we are looking for is not where we are searching; it is somewhere else. We are moving like the blind that cannot see the road, and that have no sense of direction. Through ignorance and idiocy, we keep looking for happiness in those objects which have failed to provide more than fleeting pleasures in the past. Because they are fleeting, we keep getting sorrows in place of happiness. We are always in a state of stress. At times, we get the briefest glimpse of happiness, but that is like lightning in the darkness of night, it is transient, momentary. This way, we, the residents of Physical Sheaths, keep floating aimlessly through misery, gloom and despair. We keep falling on our face, but do not wake up. This is where we are.”

In this one simple paragraph, Guru Maharaj has addressed the Buddha’s first two noble truths; The Noble Truth about Suffering, and The Noble Truth about the Cause of Suffering by revealing that our misguided search for happiness through objects may provide temporary comfort but ultimately lead to further sorrow. Further, he has also told us point blank that whatever we are doing to reach our goal – attainment of peace – is not working. We will come to Guru Maharaj’s teachings later.

“We go through cycles of rebirths without satisfying this urge for comfort”, could very easily qualify for an aphorism (Sutra). “Satisfying this urge for comfort”, is the reason for continuation of rebirth. Guru Maharaj in this one, seemingly simple sentence, has invoked the theory of Sanskars, the doctrine of Karma, and the concept of Impurities. We may say, and sincerely believe, that we are tired of a dichotomous world with unfulfilled desires, with what Sankaracharya Ji called, a ‘pair of opposites’ – pleasures and pains – “the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree” – but, in fact, we are not tired at all. This is reflected by our tendencies to return and repeatedly plunge into a sense-experience cycle. It is an addiction that is far deeper than we can comprehend. Except for brief moments of our physical and spiritual hangovers, transient and temporary instances of disgust and repentance, this recurring process of craving and aversion continues. The desire to postpone death and cling to life is one of the greatest obstacles of enlightenment. To cling to life is to cling to a normal sense-consciousness; thereby shunning the superconsciousness within which the Atman is known and self is realized. And, this is our invitation to rebirths – warmly accepted and obliged by nature.

It should be noted that the other Two Noble Truths: The Noble Truth about the Cessation of Suffering, and The Noble Truth about the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering were alluded to in Guru Maharaj’s statement, “We never seem to figure out that what we are looking for is not where we are searching; it is somewhere else.” While we are all looking to Stay in Peace, the erroneous portals through which we have been searching have not led to fruitful results.

So, is Guru Maharaj’s message still relevant? To paraphrase the great philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, this is not a proper question because it assumes that a link exists between changes in the material world and those that are unchangeable. Everyday experiences reveal an absence of any linkage between the Universal Truths about Sufferings and development in the material world. Guru Maharaj’s teachings are about emphasizing the Universal Truths and conquering human sufferings. He shows us the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering in a very simple and straightforward manner. And, that’s where its relevance lies. It was relevant then. It is relevant now. And, it will remain relevant tomorrow and forever.