Freedom vs. Samskara



In Indian and yogic philosophy, samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions and intents that an individual has ever experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.

It is said that a samskara is created after a vritti, or thought wave, arises in the mind. Once this thought wave has left normal consciousness, it sinks down into the subconscious or unconscious mind, where it remains in the form of a samskara. In this model, the samskaras also serve as memory stores that hold all past experiences in perfect detail. When memories are recalled, the samskaras come back to the level of the conscious mind in waves of recollection”; (definition from Yogapedia).

B.K.S. Iyengar discribes consciousness as a lake, which has primary waves or fluctiations of consciousness on the surface of the lake. Those are easily visible, like disappointment that you feel when a dinner with your best friend has been at the last minute canceled.

But then, there are secondary fluctuations or waves too. Those are the one that arises from the bottom of the like. The bottom of the lake is coverd in sand and, so if you experience a sufficient number of disappointments in life, there will be a mound of disappointment on the bottom of the lake, your consciousness. So it’s likely you will feel disappointed in many situations in life even if there would be no real reason for it.

Our reactions are preconditioned by moud of samskara and therefore unfree. Everybody aspires to be free. The practice of yoga is about reducing the seize of the subliminal mounds and setting us free from these waves of our consciounsness. This is a reward of sustained and dedicated practice over time (tapas) that it creates lasting results. So first we go from bad samskara to good samskara. But yogi sees even good habits as a form of conditioning or limitations. So what we want is for the bottom of the lake to be flat so that we don’t get any secondary waves or fluctuations bouncing off the bottom. In practical terms, most of us have built up negative habits. You want to turn them first in to good habits and then in to no habits. That is real freedom. To have actions free of past habits and without desire for reward in the future. It is the right thing in this present moment just because it is right. It is colorless; not good, not bad, just free!