Human Temple Sunday: Samskara & Yoga

The ancients said every experience leaves a residual element in our mind, and modern neuroscience agrees.  Here is more from The Vedanta Center about such “samskaras” and the yoga techniques developed to help you manage this:

The “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” constitute the most important and the fundamental work on yoga psychology. The work is divided into four chapters or padas, namely “Samadhi Pada”, “Sadhana Pada”, “Vibhuti Pada”, and “Kaivalya Pada”. A commentary on the Yoga Sutras, attributed to Vyasa, and another one by Bhoja, all in Sanskrit, are other important works in this tradition. The Yogavartika of Vijnanabhikshu and a commentary by Shankaracharya are among other important works which have enriched this tradition.

Sanskrit grammarians give two meanings for the word “yoga”: “concentration”, and “the union of the individual soul with the universal soul”. Yoga is simultaneously an art of intelligent living, a science, a philosophical system, and also a subjective psychological study and analysis of the human mind.

The sage Patanjali defines the purpose of yoga as “cessation” of the wrong identification of our sense of “self” with various mental processes. That, in turn, is the cause of all mental sufferings and psychological problems. Yoga is a path to spiritual freedom, which is freedom from the tyranny of the senses. Patanjali says that freedom ‘of the senses’ is spiritual and psychological slavery, and freedom ‘from this slavery’ is spiritual freedom, which is the goal of yoga.

According to Indian psychology, every experience leaves behind an active residual element in our mental system. This residue, which is accumulated in our mind-stuff through innumerable life cycles, is called “samskaras“. The concept of samskaras is a distinct contribution of Indian psychology to world thought. Samskaras constitute our character, influence our thought and actions, and in effect constituting our whole psychological personality.

According to yoga psychology, human life is not a single one-way track. It is a cycle. Death is not the end of human existence. It is just a transition point. We go through endless cycles of lives, deaths, and re-births until we attain liberation. With conscious and continuous efforts, we can improve our destiny by purifying and sublimating our thoughts and actions. Impure thought currents can be countered by pure thought currents, impure speech by controlled speech, and impure imagination by pure, elevating imagination.

Yoga helps us to develop a harmonious and integrated personality. It helps us to enjoy inner peace and harmony and, at the same time, to experience perfect harmony, peace, and integrity in our interaction with others. It helps us to sublimate our desires, actions, and thoughts, giving us an inner sense of meaningfulness and fulfillment in life. It resolves many of the mysteries regarding our inner life by explaining why we are what we are, why we behave the way we behave, and how — through conscious effort and practice — we can mold and improve our everyday life. Study of yoga psychology helps us to enjoy peace and blissfulness while being engaged in our daily duties and responsibilities, no matter what our profession or responsibility may be, and irrespective of whether we believe in a religion or not. It does not recognize barriers of beliefs, culture, or traditions. It’s appeal, usefulness, and relevance are universal.