Samskaras: Meaning in the Yogic Philosophy

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What is the meaning of the yogic term Samskaras? How do Samskaras manifest in the day-to-life?

You may have come across the term Samskaras reading texts on yogic philosophy, but they often muddle up its meaning. Samskaras are mental imprints formed as a result of past experiences. For example, if driving past a mustang like your ex-girlfriend’s disturbs you, that’s a manifestation of a samskara—you’re affected in the present by something that happened in the past.

Keep reading to understand the meaning of Samskaras.

Samskaras: Meaning and Significance

A Samskara is a stable cycle of blocked energy patterns. Over the course of your life, you’ve stored many of these in your psyche. Beyond understanding the meaning of Samskaras, here’s how Samskaras occur:

  • When a blockage happens, you initially try to process it through your mind, but this fails, as the only way to resolve a block is to release it.
  • When you can’t resolve the block in your mind, it moves to your heart, where it generates emotions.
  • When you resist it in your heart, your heart puts it in deep storage, where it becomes a Samskara, an “impression” from the past that runs your life.

Releasing Samskaras

You don’t have to live at the mercy of circumstances and Samskaras. Learn to relax and release; handle Samskaras by choosing to let go of the old, stored energies whenever they come up.

  • First, notice your energy flow starting to tighten into jealousy, anger, or whatever it is.
  • Second, relax and remember yourself as the self, the objective witness of experiences.
  • Third, use the opportunity of the triggered Samskara to release the negative energy through non-reactiveness. Just let it flow through you and out of you without any or resistance. Recognize this as an opportunity for healing.

Cultivate this process of spiritual purging until it becomes your default approach.

Falling and Rising

The fall into samskaras is actually a fall into unawareness. You encounter a trigger—some sight, sound, situation, or other experience that’s linked to one of the Samskaras stored in your heart (such as the smell of the perfume your ex-wife used to wear before your marriage imploded)—and this trigger pulls you down into the disturbed energy. From there, you see everything through the negative energy’s distorted haze. Eventually, the negativity plays itself out and subsides, and you rise again. However, if your life hits another blockage while you’re already fallen, and you make life decisions from that negative inner state, then a series of cascading crises can occur, resulting in a downward spiral. 

You fall because you fear life and therefore resist it. You fear life because of its inherent uncertainty, so you use your mind to create a false world of static stability. But you fail to realize that with this mental ruse, you actually make the world a scary place because you define reality according to your own inner problems: What doesn’t disturb you is okay, what disturbs you isn’t okay. So you try to arrange life so that it doesn’t trigger your sense of being disturbed, and in doing this, you make life itself into a threat.

Freedom from fear is possible, and thus freedom from falling is possible. It simply means refusing to fight with life. When life inevitably hits your stored negative stuff (your Samskaras), let go of the negativity right then, because it will be harder later. You can actually learn to “fall upward” into ever more delightful levels of enlightenment. Simply surrender. Observe and allow the negative thoughts and feelings to emerge, and let your blockages and disturbances become the very fuel for your enlightenment as your act of releasing them propels you upward into clarity, peace, and joy.

Samskaras: Meaning in the Yogic Philosophy

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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