From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Karma Yoga Book 1, Karma

Should one try to create positive samskaras or eliminate negative samskaras?

Swami Satyananda: Samskaras can be eliminated in a positive or negative way. Instead of blocking, interfering with or trying to eliminate the samskaras, it would be much better to develop, create or initiate stronger samskaras. For example, when a person tries to develop the inner experience, he is creating strong samskaras. Thus the positive overcomes the negative. In the positive method, one cultivates all the mental, emotional and physical qualities which will saturate the mind with sattwa guna and perfect equilibrium.

Although it is possible to fix the samskaras, this is dangerous for the majority of people. Sometimes in the effort of adjusting, pacifying and eliminating the samskaras, one develops an abnormal personality. Whether through mantra, yantra, tantra or religious practices, please do not make the mistake of fighting with the samskaras. This will only disturb the structure of trillions of archetypes in the brain. What is one going to do with these archetypes? Be positive and don't fight with the base of life.

No one is quite sure if there are samskaras at all. A person may be just a machine – who knows? If so, somebody must be running this machine. Do motor cars have samskaras? Maybe a person is also like that; one can't be sure. Please don't go by faith and belief alone. Be sure not to make that mistake in life; go the sure way. The surest way is to develop a higher, nobler and more sublime attitude to life; then all the positive samskaras will follow. All will be transformed in the course of time.

One does not have to kill the samskaras; one does not have to destroy the base of one's existence. This is a destructive way. Rather one should remove the vasanas, the latent desires and passions. It is not possible to destroy samskaras and exhaust karma! I cannot do it, so I am moving along with my demons. A person should have good samskaras in order to overcome the negative ones, because the law is that positive overcomes negative. When a person develops positive karma, positive attitudes and positive qualities in his body, speech, mind and emotions, the negative will naturally be weeded out.

What are the methods to remove samskaras?

Swami Satyananda: There are some forms of karma which can be managed well. It is important that one works out one's karma, otherwise evolution is incomplete. Many ways have been suggested to work out the samskaras. The most important way is expressing and living them. Karma has to be lived and worked out, whether it is good or bad. There is no way of avoiding it.

The karmas are unalterable, like seeds. When they fall from the tree, they sprout. By performing karmas one exhausts samskaras, and the accumulated karmas in the deep layers of consciousness, known as karmashaya, are destroyed. Working out one's karma means fulfilment of the obligations of man's nature and reality. By becoming a swami I am working out my karma. In the same way, everybody is working out their karma through their present incarnation.

The life of a householder was designed not merely to enjoy, not merely to while away time, but in order to work out the rajasic and tamasic properties of nature. A householder has the opportunity of expressing, releasing and working out his karmas in the form of passions, desires and ambitions, as well as experiencing the agonies, happiness, fears, frustration, hatred, jealousy and thousands of other traits that belong to the lower mind, to tamoguna and rajoguna. The lower nature, in the form of tamas and rajas, is released through this association with the objects of the world. Through the involvement of one's ego with every situation, person and experience in life, the lower, dormant nature comes out. Therefore, be involved in everything and by the involvement of ego with many events in life, work out the karmas.

It must be remembered that without working out these crude and gross karmas, one cannot experience the light that is within. First clean the mirror, then the face can be seen; clean the globe of the bulb and then the light will shine through. Thus, within a person the dross has to be cleaned, and that is the purpose of grihastha, or householder ashrama.

The second way the karmas can be worked out is by going deep into meditation: pratyahara, dharana or dhyana, and expressing or transforming those samskaras in the form of visions. In the stages of pratyahara and dharana a lot of visions and feelings are experienced. This means one has not lost the individual ego. One is still at the level of duality. These experiences in meditation are only a transformed vision of one's samskara. One is expressing the samskara in that form. This can happen in the state of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana or in the early stages of samadhi. The deeper one goes, the greater is the fixing process of the samskara. These are the two important methods.

The third method is to voluntarily impose some sort of hardship upon oneself. By exposing oneself to any kind of hardship, the whole mind gets a jolt and all kinds of things come out of it. The mind begins to express itself during the period one is imposing the hardship. These hardships are known as tapasya, penance. This is a negative process, so side by side, positive samskaras should be added.

The fourth method which brings out karma is karma yoga. Karma means 'action'. In the day-to-day life, the actions to which one is exposed are necessary for one's evolution. Therefore, seventy percent of one's life must be karma yoga. Serving the guru, serving the poor, working without any selfish motive, are also very important paths for the exhaustion of karma. This is karma yoga.

Asana, pranayama, ajapa japa, nada yoga and the other practices of yoga help to rid the mind of the accumulated samskaras, impressions and unconscious memories. No matter which yoga one practises, the toxic matter of life is going to come out: thousands of patterns of experiences, unworked karmas, suppressed emotions and everything else that is there, desirable and undesirable, necessary and unnecessary, horrible and wonderful. The chitta is a storehouse of cosmic knowledge; it is a treasure trove.