Namaskar. Today let's talk about samskara. Samskaras are those reactions of mind latent within you. They are all of the reactions that you have to actions you have taken in the past; to situations and circumstances in this life and in lives of the past. The mind is like a malleable substance, like clay. You push on it, it leaves an indentation. So as you grow and develop in your life, all of the situations and circumstances you are exposed to, these indentations in your mind, they leave impressions upon you.
Naturally circumstances which are everyday and not particularly difficult, will leave very light impressions. But there are those circumstances which are either very difficult or traumatic, or very joyous and very special - either one of those leave deep impressions in the mind.
Those impressions left upon the mind, but not yet enacted in the world to be healed, are called samskaras. They are the latent impressions within the mind from all of your entire life's experience.
From the environment that you live in, your environment leaves impressions. You will be a different person if you grow up in the tropics than if you are living here. Or, if you had lived in the Arctic or the far north of Alaska or Siberia you would have a different set of vocabulary. You would probably have a great many words for snow. The environment would shape you differently. If you grow up in New York City and live there your lifelong you will have a different impression than if you grow up in Wyoming.
So your physical environment leaves an impression upon you, as does your culture leave a very big impression. And your society, how your society operates, the values in your society. And your family, and your teachers in your schools - all of these people, all of these situations, all of these factors leave impressions upon you.
And then there are the impressions that you have due to actions you have taken in the world and the reaction to those actions. All of these leave indentations in the mind. Due to these indentations, these samskaras, you have a tendency towards one thing or another. You have certain biases, certain understandings, certain reactions to different types of experiences - all predisposed by these prior experiences you have had.
When situations and circumstances in your life elicit response of these prior impressions in the mind, your free will ceases to exist. You are governed by the reactions in your mind. And only when those reactions have calmed will you be able to exert your freewill and make a new action that is not simply a reaction to past experience.
You may meet someone and that person reminds you of your father. They remind you so much of your father, that depending upon your relationship with your father, you may have a very positive feeling towards this person, or you may have an instinctual reaction to them that you don't even want to get near them. You are angry with them and you don't know why until you realize they remind you of your father and they do the things that your father use to do that so annoyed you.
Like this, these impressions left in our mind from past experience, these samskaras create situations in which we are simply reacting to our environment without any ability to have freewill and conscious action. There becomes a state of reactivity. And when these impressions are driving your life you will find that you have very little control. You may think, why do these things keep happening to me, why don't they stop? Why is it I am having these type of experiences in my life? They may be very good experiences, positive experiences, or negative experiences, ones that are difficult for you. But either way they seem to keep happening and you don't seem to be able to change the pattern. When that occurs it is due to this reactivity of mind, this past samskara rising to the surface and being played out in your life.
So these samskaras, as long as they remain in the subconscious mind not enacted in the life, they remain inaccessible to you and they govern you from within. Only when they rise to the surface which they naturally want to do - they want to be recognized, they want to be expressed so that indentation in the mind may be evened out. When they are expressed you feel this out of control situation where circumstances and situations are happening that you seem to have no ability to stop. But when they settle down, you may become aware of what is driving them. You may become aware of the reactions that are in the mind. You begin to be able to unravel them. They find peace.
You realize, I don't have to react to that man because he looks like my father. I can just let him be himself and I, myself. Holding that in awareness, yes he looks like my father, he acts like my father, but he isn't my father. Then this samskara as you work with it begins to have less hold on you. You begin to unravel it, to smooth out the indentation in the mind until you are free. But then, there are more samskaras, more of these reactions held in the mind that rise to the surface. Until, you realize there must be something that can be done. There must be a way out of this conditioned mind and reactivity.
When you go deep within in meditation, when the mind is very calm, it allows these impressions that are buried to rise to the surface and be expressed. That is why some people say that spiritual practice can be challenging because it brings all of this inner material to the surface.
The yogis say that to do spiritual practice, to do Brahma sadhana, it requires vira, courage, for you must face your inner demons. You must work with the difficulties and struggles and tendencies of your own mind. This is not work for the weak hearted. This is work for those who have courage, who have strength, who are willing to face themselves and to come to know the deeper person within. But the reward for doing this is very great.
As you begin to face these inner demons and work with your conditioned mind because the mind is simply a set of conditionings from all of these samskaric reactions. When you work with a conditioned mind, you become able to free your identity from your conditioning. And the real liberation comes when you can free your sense of self, free your conscious awareness from your conditioned mind, from your habitual thoughts and patterns, from these samskaras - these reactions to past reactions. When you become able to free yourself to be aware of yourself as independent of those, when you can see that all is occurring within the mind of the infinite, you let go of your identity with I and mine. When you begin to recognize that you are a part of an integrated whole, then you begin to awaken the freedom within you to see reality apart from the colored glasses, colored by all of these reactions of mind through which your conditioning has brought you to view. Instead, you begin to see that you are not this conditioning. You are not these reactions of mind. They exist—this conditioning of mind attitudes, beliefs, behaviors—but that is not who you are. When your sense of identity, when your awareness becomes separate from that which you have been experiencing in your conditioned reactions, you begin to edge into freedom. You open space in which you can come to know yourself. You become truly able to make choices - real choices not simply reactions.
As you free yourself from the bondages of samskara, you drop into awareness of infinite being. As the distortions of mind begin to ease, awareness of yourself as a part of this cosmic existence comes into view and you realize there is but one mind, one existence, one integrated whole manifesting in enumerable forms. And that, that which you have taken as your own self apart from everything else, is in fact part of that integrated whole. That you exist within this universal beingness. You are a part of it. It is a part of you. You are a part of all things, all beings, and all beings are a part of you.
When you realize this, you realize that all of this conditioned mind does not bind you. The bondages of your past experiences and your reactions to them begins to unwind. When this occurs you become able to see reality and in that reality to recognize you are not alone. You are a part of a vast whole of being which expresses in enumerable forms in this manifest universe. You are a part of that one existence. All that you have thought belongs to you. All that you have assumed is you is a part of this one infinite existence. You are a part of a whole and the quality of that wholeness is love, truth - and there is a great joy, ananda, in being.
So do not let your conditioning from past experience dominate your life. When it arises and controls the circumstances, situations, and outer circumstances of your life, simply watch it, observe it. Do not be bound by it. Recognize your true nature and let that be your shelter in the storm. And in so doing, the hold of these samskaras on you fades.