Developing Positive Samskaras

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, talk given at Andheri Sports Complex, Mumbai, on March 4, 2006

The field of samskaras

Samskaras are the impressions in the field of consciousness. These impressions decide our destiny. They decide the direction of our life, the character that we develop and the mentality that we are endowed with. This happens at a very subtle level, at the level of the unconscious.

The faculty of consciousness has three dimensions: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. The conscious dimension is responsible for logical, linear analysis. The subconscious dimension is responsible for the creation of desires, associations and attachments, identities that we recognize as good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative. The unconscious dimension represents the field where the seeds of impressions are latent.

The latency of impressions in the unconscious must be understood properly. Imagine that you are holding a seed in the palm of your hand. You can break open the seed, layer by layer, but you will not find a tree in it. However, in each seed lies the absolute possibility of manifestation: of becoming a tree. The seed becomes a tree, although you cannot see the tree, the roots, leaves or fruits in it. Similarly, the unknown dimension of the consciousness has been defined as the unconscious by psychologists. Why ‘unconscious’, why not ‘unknown’? The reason is simple: consciousness reflects the level of awareness that one has at a certain stage in life.

You may know that there is noise outside the room you are in; you cannot hear the noise, but you know and realize that it exists – that is the unconscious. It is not unknown; you know that the sounds are there, but your awareness is not expansive enouhg to hear the sounds. Therefore, to define the unknown area of the consciousness, the word ‘unconscious’ has been used. It denotes absence of awareness from that dimension. And it is in this dimension that impressions or samskaras are created, nurtured and mature.

Sometimes, samskaras manifest in the form of fear or insecurity. Samskaras also manifest in the form of strength or a positive quality. They can manifest as an aggressive nature and as a peaceful nature. The important point is that human beings can manage these samskaras and create a new set of them. If they could not do so, it would’ve been a great problem because then there would be no scope for transformation.

Impressions in the womb

We receive the initial set of impressions from our mother in the deep unconscious in the womb. We are born with them. Therefore, it is possible to learn the skills of life, to acquire wisdom, while we are in the womb, provided the mother is disciplined, conscious and spiritually awakened. It is only a spiritually awakened mother who is capable of imparting the right samskaras. With proper application of yogic practices, the child can be imbued with positive attitudes, samskaras and qualities in the womb itself through the mother. She can become a conduit for the purity of the consciousness of the child.

Second level of samskaras

The second level of samskaras is attained after a child is born, from the day of birth until the age of about three or four years, before the intellect kicks in, before you begin to develop your child’s brain power by teaching him, “A for apple, B for boy.” The moment you start saying this, the psychic nature of the child shuts down and the intellectual nature begins to develop and mature.

The psychic nature, the intuitive and receptive nature of the spirit shuts down at the age of three, or whenever you start the intellectual education of the child. There are people who start its intellectual education before the child is even born; they register the child for school when it is in the womb! Therefore, the growth of the child is lopsided, it is all intellectual and there is no sensitivity. There is no sensitivity to understand human character, to reach out to those in need. There is absolute selfishness in life.

So, in the second set of samskaras, the child receives cultural education and impressions: what to say and what not to say, to abide by truth or falsity; to develop a positive and dynamic personality or pessimistic and negative attitude; to be reactive because the family members are reactive, or to live a life in which peace becomes the hallmark and creativity the ultimate expression. This set of samskaras is received through the environment at home.

Whatever appears in front of a new-born makes a difference in the perception and the quality of the child. You may think that the child is only a dumb one-month-old baby who cannot hear or understand a word, but you are wrong. What is a word anyway? A word is energy; sounds are expressions of different vibrations and frequencies, and one can alter these frequencies wilfully. This frequency is shakti; it is power. The word has the power to uplift as well as destroy. However, we fail to see the energy contained in words. Thoughts are energy, too; your attitude is energy which is being transmitted. Our entire life is an expression of consciousness and energy, nothing else. Therefore, it is possible for yoga to create a balanced state of samskaras through the application of different techniques and systems.

Working on the second level

The second level of samskaras that a child receives can be made positive if the environment at home is improved. This is imperative if you want a better future generation. And what can you do to achieve this? Practise mantras. No matter which sect, religion or tradition you belong to, practise the mantras appropriate to that tradition for the well-being, creative development and upliftment of all who live in the house. The vibrations of mantras affect and influence the subconscious behaviour in a very subtle way.

Mantras are not related to personages, but to inherent faculties. It has been the principle and philosophy of yoga that each mantra, sound, vibration and frequency, known or unknown, audible and inaudible, is contained and inherent in the different energy centres which pulsate at a certain speed and rhythm, thus affecting the object in which they exist, which is the body. Yoga mantras are not religious mantras, they are spiritual mantras. They are vibrations by which you can free your mind from the bondage of the senses and karmas, attain freedom from the gross nature and establish yourself in an awakened and balanced nature. Therefore, the method to cultivate the second set of samskaras is the use of mantras.

Three mantras should be practised first thing in the morning every day: Mahamrityunjaya mantra and Gayatri mantra eleven times each, followed by the thirty-two names of Durga thrice. These are mantras that are meant for well-being, creativity, and removal of distress from life. They have to be done in this specific sequence. This is not part of your religious sadhana, but of samskara sadhana. In religious sadhana, you can do the Gayatri mantra as many times as you have been guided by your tradition or guru, but as a sadhana to awaken creativity and influence the psyche, to increase the frequency of inner shakti, the Gayatri mantra must always be chanted after the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, and eleven times. In addition, every Saturday evening, chant the Mahamrityunjaya mantra with your family 108 times.

Mantras can create an environment in which the right samskaras are acquired. Here mantra is used for improving the quality of thought, vibration and energy patterns – called aura or emissions of personality in modern terminology. Anyone who comes in contact with you during a state of positive energy is helped. It is possible to create that positive energy within your home. A house can be turned into a temple of positive energy if the people who live in it follow a discipline and cultivate the right attitude and samskaras. In order to do this, the only requirement is – and this is a must for everyone to know – take a sankalpa that you are aware of your spiritual nature and you want to improve the quality of your life. Say to yourself with a strong conviction that out of the twenty-four hours of the day, twenty-three hours and fifty minutes may be for the society, profession and the world, but ten minutes are for your inner awakening.

Guru as source of samskaras

The third set of samskaras is received from the guru. Guru in this context means one who can put you in contact with the creative powers within you, which can manifest in the form of luminosity in your personality. A teacher educates you in the ways and skills of the world while the guru inspires you to connect with your spiritual nature so that you can become self-effulgent in your actions, thought and behaviour.

In the Indian tradition, at the age of eight children were taken to the guru to be given samskaras. This was called upanayan. Today it has turned into a thread ceremony and its real significance has been forgotten. Its intention was to give the wisdom and the tools to connect with the source of energy inside, with the fountain of creativity within. This happened when the guru initiated the eight-year-old child in mantra, asana and pranayama. Wearing the thread was a symbolic act defining a person who is reborn by the samskaras given by the guru. The three practices given during upanayan created a spiritual awareness in the child, unknown to him. When he practised mantra, meditation became a natural part of it. When he practised asana, cultivation of awareness was a natural part of it. When he practised pranayama, a balance in the energy flows was the natural outcome.

The set of samskaras received during upanayan allowed the child to move into the next stage, into a proper maturing of intelligence and emotions at the time of adolescence. At that time, the management of the changes in the behavioural and thought patterns were aided with spiritual counselling, with the help of a spiritual guru, not with the help of a material teacher.

In adult life also, we are reminded to cultivate the right samskaras when we take the guru mantra. At this time, we are adding the component of conviction and faith to the frequency of vibrations which controls and directs our life, because it is a frequency of sound which we have received from a person who is thinking of our well-being. It comes with a positive energy and feeling from that being to us.

In this way, in each stage of life, we can build up our own set of samskaras. With this, we become more enlightened, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Training in natural life

The young ones must also be trained to live a natural life in order to cultivate appropriate samskaras. The modern society does not allow one to be trained in living a natural life. Right from birth, children are pampered, each and every desire is fulfilled. Parents do not wish their children to go through the trials of life; they wish them to be happy. It is a good sentiment, but it does not expose the child to a natural environment which can help the natural growth and understanding of the intelligence and emotions by connecting with new ideas, concepts and emotions.

The way to do this, as it used to be in ancient India, is the gurukul system: training the children in an ashram. Parents should send their children to an ashram during vacations, whether for a week or a month, so that they are away from the influence of parents and the comforts and luxuries that they are used to, with a clear understanding that they have come to learn how to live a natural life.

Natural life means acquiring the wisdom of nature in life. In an ashram, where the environment is different, children are exposed to many psychic awakenings and experiences. It happens at a subtle level. No matter how hot and sweaty a person is, if he goes into a cool room the sweat will dry out and he will begin to enjoy the coolness. That is what happens in an ashram. We go from a cool world into hot nature. From an air-conditioned room to a room without even a fan. The comforts and luxuries that we identify with weaken the personality. If those who bathe with hot water twelve months a year are asked to take a cold shower, they will start sneezing immediately. The physical strength, the immunity, has become low; the body cannot withstand any change, whether in temperature, mind, ideas or attitude.

Gurukul education was the hallmark of Indian culture and tradition in the past. Rama had to go and live with his guru. He had an exposure to palace life as well as natural life. Those who know how to survive and be happy in both worlds can go through crises and tribulations with strength of character. They are able to overcome difficulties and remain cheerful and optimistic all the time. Therefore, gurukul education is important for children. The learning they receive here is not intellectual, but heart-oriented. It tells you how to connect with other people. Material training provides the intelligence the tools to survive in life. Spiritual education enhances the efficiency and expression of the qualities of the heart and connects you with other people. It helps you recognize the needs and the condition that other people are in. The purpose of life is fulfilled when you are able to help another person evolve and become happy, and not when you are seeking self-satisfaction and fulfilment. This is the difference between yoga and bhoga. Bhoga is self-fulfilment; yoga is understanding life.

The peg of meditation

The practice of meditation is equally important. Meditation always begins as a process of disconnecting from the world and connecting with other experiences. Imagine that there are two electric sockets. One socket represents the material world to which you are plugged in and the other is the spiritual socket. All your experiences of the world are due to the flow of current through the socket which is lighting up your bulb. To take the plug out of your materialistic nature and put it in the spiritual socket, you have to extract it till disconnection takes place, the flow of current stops, and then you put it in the other socket, and the current begins to flow again. In the process, a disconnection has taken place from the material world.

Meditation is the process by which we can disconnect from the material world and connect with our spiritual nature. Therefore, meditation is a must for everyone, including children. Meditation will always bind them, give them a peg to tie their rope to. It will bind you to the awareness that I am not what I am, I can be more than what I am. And that will always inspire you to seek new experiences; the desire to become more will become an inspiration. Meditation will become the inspiration to provide you with a new set of samskaras.

Yoga samskaras

The practice of yoga will lead you to the attainment of appropriate samskaras when yoga becomes a culture in your life. Assistance can be given to children to become better human beings by teaching them yoga after the age of eight, either at home or at school. However, when you teach yoga in school, it should not be in the form of physical gymnastics or training. Allow yoga to remain yoga. Don’t dilute it in the hope of quick results, because each practice of yoga has a role to fulfil in life. Therefore, try to imbibe the spirit of yoga rather than trying to change the yoga systems to suit your needs, conveniences and expectations. They will be there, but at the same time become aware of the real progression in yoga and know that you need to cultivate the right samskara in your child or in yourself by creating the right opportunity.

The children of Rikhia and Munger

In Munger and Rikhia, our work is mainly with children. When yoga becomes a part of the life of children from the initial stage, strength of character develops and the power of ethics and morality guide behaviour and performance. Yamas and niyamas are expressed spontaneously. Life is balanced.

In Munger, the association of children is called Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal (BYMM). In Munger town itself, there are 2,000 children who are yoga teachers. In Munger district, there are 29,000 yoga demonstrators and teachers – children in the age group of seven to fourteen. All over India, we have 91,000 yoga-trained children. All of them have commitments and responsibilities, families and school. Yet, they identify with what they believe in. Sometimes, for many months they are out doing yoga work voluntarily and when they come back, they are still meritorious in studies. This has been the outstanding achievement of BYMM. At the end of their term in BYMM, they join Yuva Yoga Mitra Mandal, an association of young people.

Children are also cared for and guided in Rikhia. These children represent the strata of society which is totally deprived of opportunities. These deprived children have been adopted as children of yoga by Paramahamsaji. If you look at them today, you will not believe that they belong to the grassroots of human society. They speak better English than you and I. They are better cultured in the arts and sciences. They know things that we do not know – about human nature, mind and personality, about everything. How does that happen? Does Paramahamsaji call them over to give a class? No, but just by creating an environment the positive energies are awakened in the life of an individual. This has been the teaching of our paramguru, Swami Sivanandaji and of our guru, Swami Satyanandaji.

Experiment with children

Swami Sivananda used to say that a child is like a clay doll. You can give any shape to the nature, the personality of that doll while it is wet. Once it dries, you cannot alter its shape at all. Therefore, it is essential that children imbibe positive samskaras. The doors of our mind and heart are closed, but that is not so with children. They must be given the opportunity to practise yoga. The positive result of this is proven. BYMM is proof of this.

An experiment was conducted on the BYMM children, the first of its kind in the world. It was conducted in 2001 by the children themselves and 700 children participated in it. Out of the 700, 350 belonged to the yoga group and 350 to the control group. The yoga group children would come to ashram every alternate weekend. They were taught only three asanas and three pranayamas, which they practised for four months. Questionnaires were made to analyze several dimensions of the personality: memory, concentration, creative ability, and confidence. These dimensions were studied by the children themselves.

The result of this research was incredible. In all the dimensions, all the parameters showed an improvement in the yoga group compared to the control group in the ratio of 12–30%. When this research was presented to UNESCO in Paris in 2002, yoga was made an integral part of the syllabus in several UNESCO-run schools in the European countries. This proves that children can improve the quality of their personality through the practice of yoga.

So, give your children the opportunity to experiment with yoga. Not the yoga that you think is beneficial for them, but the yoga which they intuitively know to be beneficial for them. Then yoga can become the means to give the right samskaras to children in this material age. Along with giving it to children, if you can also incorporate yoga in your home, if parents also become a part of the yogic discipline, then the child will be able to imbibe better samskaras.