by Acarya Pranakrsnananda Avadhuta
What is the motivation for life? I am alive because I want something! Everyone wants something. I want to experience the world through the five senses of smell, taste, sight, touch and sound. I want to interact with my environment. I want to own it, make it mine. This wanting is the motivation of life? And I want these experiences because I want to get happiness. The basic reason for doing any action is to get happiness.
Even the murderer commits the crime to get happiness or to remove the obstacle to getting happiness. No one murders a person thinking that he or she will be given the death penalty! No one does anything thinking that I am doing this because I want to go to hell! Even the worst sinner expects to go to heaven in the end. Everyone does action to get happiness. So the fundamental motivation of every action is happiness.
However every time we do an action it leaves an impression on our mind. How is that impression made? There are three conditions causing this impression. The first condition is that I feel that I am an individual. There is the Supreme Consciousness and there is me. We are two separate entities. I am separate, individual and unique and there is also the Supreme Consciousness, another entity separate from me.
The second condition is that I am responsible for what I do! When I cook a nice meal or make a nice cake and everyone is eating the cake, I am expecting someone to say, “Oh! What a nice cake! Who prepared this cake?” If they ask, I will swell up with pride and say, “I made it. I take responsibility for making that cake!” The third aspect is that I expect something in return; I expect a reward for my action. I expect to get something. If these three conditions are present then my action makes an impression on my mind. This impression, reaction in potential form, is called samskara in yoga philosophy.
So every action that I did, I did because I wanted happiness. And when I did that action, I planted a seed in my mind. That seed is called samskara. When that impression is stored in my mind, it is stored associated with one or more of my sensory experiences. The sensory experiences are the anchors that hold the impression in the mind.
So every impression will have also one or more of the five sensory anchors associated with it. It may be a smell, a taste, a sight, a touch or a sound. But every impression will occupy my mind together with its sensory associate. That is why I recall or remember an incident or a person whenever I experience a similar smell, taste, sight, touch or sound.
For example, I like the flower lilac very much. It has a very nice smell. When I was in secondary school we had a lilac bush in front of our house. So when I would pass that lilac bush I would get the smell of that wonderful flower. So now when I pass a lilac bush anywhere I remember that house. The smell of lilac stimulates the memory of that house. This is a kind of association. A particular experience has entered my mind with one or more of the senses and remains there to be awakened by the same association at some future time and place. I am remembering a particular kind of food that my grandmother made for me. Whenever I taste the same type of food again, the thought of my grandmother arises in my mind. The association of taste awakens the memory of my grandmother again. This is also the case with sight, touch and sound.
Every thought has associations. So when I experience anything in the external world it will be associated with a sensory experience. The past impression will automatically arise in my mind. Through the process of meditation I am maturing all those seeds. One day a seed will bear fruit. The day when I bite into that apple or pear, the fruit of my previous action, and enjoy that fruit, that enjoyment of the fruits of my past impressions or samskaras is called karma in yoga philosophy.
I am doing spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is basically two things. The first is that the mind gets bigger. I am trying to understand what is Supreme Consciousness. I do not know what it is! When I will experience Supreme Consciousness in totality, that state is called emancipation, freedom from all wants. Supreme Consciousness is an Idea. I want to know what that Idea is. I am studying the Idea. The study of anything is termed as “…logy”. The study of the idea then is called ideology. I am an Ideologist. Some people are biologists, some anthropologists and some sociologists. I am an Ideologist. I am studying an Idea and that Idea is Supreme Consciousness.
As I am studying, meditating on this Idea, my mind is getting bigger because I am trying to put Supreme Consciousness inside my mind. In order to get a concept I put the idea or object inside my mind so that it becomes part of me. When I want to know what a pen is, I bring the perception of pen in my mind and then I know what a pen is. Pizza is bigger than a pen. A city is bigger than pizza. Europe is bigger than a city in Europe. Earth is bigger than Europe. The larger the concept the bigger mind becomes. So meditation is the process of stretching the mind to fit Supreme Consciousness inside the mind.
I have been given a stretching mechanism called mantra. By repetition of my mantra with its acoustic sound, intellectual and sentimental meaning and its energy, my mind is stretched. As my mind is stretched, I encounter barriers trying to keep my mind the size that it is now. And those boundaries are my past impressions, potential reactions, or my samskaras. Many saints, spiritualists, have described them as ropes or chains.
Let us take the example of a circus performer, the strong man in the circus. The strong man shows off his muscles to the audience and then wraps a chain around his chest. By expanding his chest he breaks the chain allowing his chest muscles to expand fully. I am expanding my mind by the process of meditation. As my mind expands, I encounter a chain or boundary. As my mind continues to expand it breaks the boundary. When that boundary is broken it is called the expression of samskaras or karma. My past impression is temporarily expressed again with all of its sensory associations, perhaps in a more exaggerated way since it has been dormant in my mind for some time.
I know that meditation is not just the repetition of mantra for thirty minutes. When I am doing meditation, automatically, those past impressions, samskaras that are blocking the expansion of my mind, will be expressed. This is the sign that my meditation is good, is successful. Some people say that their meditation is not very good because during meditation there are so many thoughts. But this is the sign that meditation is good! Why? Because it shows that my mantra is releasing my past impressions and allowing my mind to expand. If I do not express the samskara, then the mind remains the same size. If Idon’t break the chain, the mind cannot become bigger. The sign that the chain has broken is the expression of samskara.
There was an interesting program I saw on television called the God channel. It is an evangelists TV program for propagating Christianity. They had a very interesting little drama that showed, “what goes in must come out”! Whatever I put in the mind must come out of the mind. When I eat food, after digestion, the waste must come out. According to yogic treatment of diseases, constipation is a major cause of disease. My mind contains so much waste, samskara, accumulated for so many years and it must come out otherwise I will suffer from psychic disease.
I remember when I was at school; my mother took me to see a movie called “The Ten Commandments”. It was a new kind of cinema system called cinemascope; the movie was shown on a wider screen. So we went and as per my usual habit I wanted to eat popcorn while I watched the movie. So we went to the counter in the cinema to buy a big box of popcorn. But there was something new called margarine that was put on the popcorn so we decided to try it, as we had never tasted margarine before. So we watched the movie and I ate popcorn.
When we arrived home my stomach was upset. I went to sleep but I could not sleep, as my stomach did not seem to like popcorn with margarine. So I felt the sensation of vomiting. But I always hated to vomit. I didn’t like the taste that it left in my mouth or the smell it left in my nose. It was also a very unpleasant experience. So I went to the toilet and sat down praying that it would go out the other way. But the human body is not so simple. It had to come out through the mouth, and it did. Well I didn’t like the after taste or smell, but I felt well since the cause of my stomach upset was removed. I felt fine. Samskaras are like that. They are in the mind and until they get out I feel uncomfortable.
Now we have two categories of samskaras, those that I like or good samskaras, and those that I don’t like or bad samskaras. Both good and bad samskara are preventing the expansion of mind, or limiting the spiritual experience. So when I do meditation, one of the signs of progress is the expression of samskara. There are four ways to relate to these samskaras according to yoga psychology – expression, suppression, denial and channelization. When I am sitting in meditation, I may be having some wonderful devotional experience, feeling that the Supreme Consciousness is a person with whom I am having a very intimate relationship. The mystics of all spiritual paths agree that devotion is the best way to experience the deepest levels of meditation.
The symbolic pictures to represent the highest devotional experience are of two lovers in embrace sometimes swinging on a tree swing. Let us take an image from everyday life to explain a meditative experience. Imagine a girl and boy sitting on a sofa showing each other how much they love each other through hugging, kissing and affectionate words. Suddenly the younger little brother of the girl comes into the room anxious to show off his new toy. Not understanding the importance of the relationship between his sister and her boyfriend, he tries to get the boyfriend involve in the enjoyment of his new toy. You can imagine the discomfort of the boy and the irritation of the girl. Both of them would certainly want the little boy to just go away! In a similar way our samskaras are just like that little boy.
While I am enjoying my meditation, a samskara emerges from my mind demanding attention. Now this impression was something that I created myself. Because of my previous action I made this little child, my samskara. It may have been created in a social context but this samskara is mine. It is in my mind and therefore will have to be dealt with by me. I have my own samskara, my own baggage. Others may sympathize with me, comfort me, advise me, but only I can resolve it. All my baggage is blocking the expansion of my mind. When I have resolved these samskaras, I will be able to experience Supreme Consciousness fully without any distortion.
Now I want to know what I should do when these samskaras express. One approach advises us to let it be. Let it express itself. Do not try to control it in any way. For example, a child goes to the dining room and opens the cabinet containing all the expensive dishes. The child discovers that smashing each plate on the floor makes a very nice sound. So the child breaks each and every dish laughing every time the child hears the sound. Now if the mother comes and sees her child breaking the dishes and says, “Oh! How cute! Isn’t my little child so cute breaking all the dishes?” If she watches the child break every dish without interfering, this would be an example of expression. Some people look upon life in this way. Let it happen and don’t try to control it in any way. I know that when I express something, it is action and action gives opportunity for potential reaction – samskara. So expression will only reinforce the existing boundary making it stronger. So expression will not remove the chains of samskara that are preventing mental expansion.
The second approach is suppression. Religious systems generally advocate this approach. Religion tells us that we are not supposed to think certain things or do certain actions. There is an emphasis on “sin”. Perhaps during meditation thoughts arise which I was taught are not supposed to be in the mind of a spiritual being. But they are there; they do come. So the approach here is to try to push them back into the mind from where they came. I try to suppress them. The thoughts enter and exit through the conscious mind. When I am doing meditation, those samskaras bubble up from the subconscious to the conscious. When in my conscious mind there is a thought that I don’t want, a thought, which according to the rules of morality I am not supposed to be thinking, what do I do? We have learned from our religious cultural background to push the thoughts back into the subconscious mind. This is suppression.
What happens when you suppress? I had an interesting experience in Thailand. I was conducting a small meditation retreat in a Buddhist monastery. It was a beautiful environment with green trees, flowers, etc. The temple was beautiful with monks and nuns quietly moving in spiritual practices around the temple. I was giving a lecture on Ananda Marga philosophy. Suddenly there was the sound of screaming and shouting. We looked out the windows and saw a Buddhist nun running quickly away from another Buddhist nun who was holding a long knife. Behind the second nun were several monks running behind the second nun trying to catch her and prevent her from harming the first nun. The second nun seemed to be a volcano of anger. All of these monks and nuns were running through the flowers and trees surrounding the temple, all of this happening in the tranquility of this beautiful monastery. Finally they were able to catch the angry nun and get her under control.
What happened? The story was then told to us that these two nuns were given one room to share with a kitchen and bath. However each of them had a completely different way of doing things. So every aspect of the angry nuns life was in contrast to the other nun’s way of doing things. As this continued for some time the angry nun tried her best to control, rather suppress, her irritation at the chaotic behavior of her roommate. Irritation grew to anger and anger to violence. This is the result of suppression. Suppression makes the emotion build up in the mind until I are not able to control it anymore! The extreme form of suppression is denial. This can be observed in drug addicts, alcoholics and in people who deny that they have a problem at all.
Whenever I go for professional help with any problem, I must first admit that I have a problem before I can ever begin to remedy it. I must say openly, “I have a problem”. People who are in denial are generally under some form of treatment or should be. Denial is a psychic disease.
There are two important forces in human life – rationality and sentimentality. Rationality is like the steering of the car. When I was a small boy I used to get into the family car and stand on the seat and pretend that I was driving the car. My legs were too short to reach the pedals but I liked to play with the steering wheel. The car was not going anywhere. I was just moving the steering and pretending that I was driving. I was having so much fun and my family was enjoying my display. “Isn’t he cute?” For some people intellect is like that. There is a lot of structure but no movement.
There is a place for everything and everything has its place. Structure, system is needed but it does not give movement. It also gives a kind of pleasure. Sentiment gives movement. If you have sentiment there is movement, if there is no sentiment there is no movement. That is why sentiment, rather devotion plays a key role in meditation. The technique is important but it is the devotion that gives the movement. Sentiment is the petrol. The gasoline causes the car to move. The foot has to be on the accelerator to increase the amount of petrol reaching the system. Increasing the petrol in meditation means to increase the devotional relationship with Supreme Consciousness as a Person. Increasing the sentiment increases the speed of movement towards Supreme Consciousness. I am not expressing, suppressing or denying my desires, rather I am trying to increase and direct my desires toward my nearest and dearest One, my Supreme Consciousness, my goal.
Rationality helps me guide my desire, sentiment or movement. Rationality without sentiment is meaningless, useless. Sentimentality without rationality is dogma. System without speed is useless, and speed without system is dangerous. The system, process of meditation, without devotion is useless. And emotion or sentiment without direction is dangerous. When I do meditation I practice a system. But the system only works when I have the ingredient of devotion. Without the ingredient of devotion there is no movement. It is static. I channelize in two ways. These two processes are represented by two triangles.
The triangle with the point down represents the practice of internalizing the devotional experience of the Supreme Consciousness as a Person. The second triangle pointing upwards represents the recognition that the Supreme Consciousness is everywhere around me, manifesting in everyone and everything. He is within me and He is everywhere around me.
During meditation I am experiencing various thoughts, emotions, experiences and samskaras I have created. These samskaras are created in the process of my mind’s relationship with the external world. In the Ananda Marga education system we try to make impact on our children’s minds by using the five senses. The more senses involved in the learning process, the greater the impact of the experiences on the child’s mind the greater the memory of the information we give. When I experience the world I experience it through one or more of these five senses. Naturally when I feel that I am separate from Supreme Consciousness, that I am responsible for this action, I do the action using one or more of these five senses.
When I am doing meditation the impression or samskara doesn’t just come as words. It may come with pictures, colors, forms, smells, tastes, touches or sounds. Perhaps while doing meditation a thought automatically arises in your mind. The thought of the food I ate yesterday. There may be a picture of the food, perhaps also the taste, the smell, the touch and the sound of eating. This experience arises spontaneously in my meditation. I did not do anything to make that thought come in my mind. Now what should I do with this thought? First I should welcome it. If I am to resolve this emotion, thought or experience at all, I have to change my attitude toward it. If I hate the thought, it will make a greater impression on my mind with the intensity of hatred I have for it. If I love it, its strength will also increase in relation to the degree of attraction I have for it. Therefore I have to accept its existence and face it.
As I have explained earlier, sentiment increases attraction. Both love and hate are sentiments and should be used to intensify my relationship with the Supreme Consciousness as a person. Then I should allow all the sensual experiences, associated with that thought, the freedom to be there together with the thought. If there is any picture, color or form associated with this thought, then I should allow that picture to be in my mind with the thought. If there is any smell or taste associated with this thought, I should let those sensations be there as well. If there is any touch or sound associated with my thought, then they should be free to remain. So when the thought arises in my mind it will automatically come with any or all of these five associations of smell, taste, sight, touch and sound.
It is these associations, which are anchoring this impression in my mind. So I should welcome the thought together with all of its associations. This normally happens very fast in my thought process, faster than it is taking me to explain it here. People experience thought in various ways, either as a picture, sound or feeling. As I repeat my mantra, I imagine, hear or feel the energy of the mantra entering my thought, my emotion, my impression or my samskara. This can be done in various ways depending on the nature of the person’s manner of thinking.
Imagine a faucet with water flowing from it. I am holding a cup or glass under the faucet to catch the water. The cup is gradually filling up. If I were to imagine the faucet as the mantra and the energy of the mantra like the water flowing from the faucet and the thought like the cup being filled, then the energy of the mantra is filling up the thought in the same way. I am sitting in my living room listening to music on my sound system. I have two very big speakers, which are directed toward me as I sit on the sofa. I can feel the sound as its vibrations enter my body.
If I could think that the speakers are like the mantra and the sound coming from the mantra is like the vibration entering my body from the speakers and my body is like the thought, then the sound of the mantra is vibrating my thought in the same way. I am sitting at a table with my girlfriend or boyfriend. I feel a very strong love for her or him. I can feel that love pulling us towards each other. As the feeling gets stronger my face is pulled closer and closer to her or his face until our lips meet in a kiss.
If I imagine my lover as the mantra and the feeling of love as the power of the mantra, the feeling of the mantra is pulling me towards it. I am becoming more and more overwhelmed by the power of attraction. In the same way my thought can be overwhelmed by the power of the mantra. Through imagination, sensation or feeling I am able to create the idea in my mind of the power of the mantra. Each of my impressions was created out of the desire for happiness. Each of my thoughts is unfulfilled. My samskaras expected happiness but they have not yet experienced the full satisfaction of happiness. They are still waiting for that happiness.
By feeding, vibrating or transmitting the power of the mantra to my thoughts, impressions or samskaras, I am able to give them what they really want. Their internal reason for existence is fulfilled. Getting the happiness that they were waiting for liberates them. Liberating my samskara means that my mind is able to move onto the next boundary. As the application of mantra liberates the boundaries of my mind, my mind expands. The expansion of mind leads to emancipation.