Ted: Namaste, Sanford.
Sanford: First of all and again thank you, again and again.
Thus far can we say that vasanas are likened to what is in psychology known as the sub-conscious or sometimes un-conscious, but without taking aboard previous incarnations, being a storage house for all karmas.
Ted: The causal body is the sub-conscious, un-conscious (though this is a misleading term given that consciousness/awareness is never not conscious of itself — even when the mind is not aware of objects, as in deep sleep), or storage house. The vasanas are the impressions of past experiences that are stored in the causal body. These impressions give rise to tendencies. These tendencies are one’s proclivities, one’s likes and dislikes, which in turn give rise to one’s desires and fears and consequent attitudes and behaviors. Technically the vasanas are just the impressions themselves. But, of course, those impressions inevitably sprout as likes and dislikes, desires and fears, and consequent attitudes and behaviors, so when we speak of vasanas those things are what we mean by the term. This is a bit like splitting hairs, but since you are becoming a somewhat advanced student at this point, I thought you might like a more precise breakdown of the matter.
Sanford: Is it that samskaras are basically the same notion, or is the difference in intensity of a sort.
Ted: You are on the right track. Samskaras are similar to vasanas. Indeed you might say that they are vasanas that have become more deeply ingrained than the average vasanas. In terms of this understanding, you might think of the distinction between vasanas and samskaras in the following way. Vasanas are scrapes and cuts that have left their mark, require you to administer minor first aid, and compel you to modify your behavior in order to expedite healing and avoid pain. Samskaras are the deeper lacerations that require stitches and may very well leave a scar — which is not to say, however, that samskaras cannot be neutralized or ‘burned away’ in the same way as vasanas, but just that they cling to one (or more accurately one clings to them) with a bit more tenacity.
Another way of understanding the distinction between vasanas and samskaras is in terms of personality traits versus complexes.
Each singular vasana is what we might call a personality trait. For example, I like chocolate ice cream, I have a dry wit, I dislike aggressive people, I prefer to be alone, and so on and so forth.
Samskaras are clusters or bundles of ‘complimentary’ vasanas that form certain personality complexes or archetypes. For example, the abused spouse, the ‘alpha dog,’ the ‘sex kitten,’ the ‘spiritual’ person, the ‘sensitive artist,’ the ‘momma bear,’ and so on and so forth. There is no single vasana that defines any of these types, but there are a specific collection of traits that coordinate to create and manifest as them. These complexes are identified and analyzed in various ways by various systems, such as zodiacal signs, enneagram numbers, etc. They are basically the program for our persona.
Sanford: Can you please say bit more on cultivation of calm, peaceful, predominately sattvic mind, what are the best approaches you would advice.
Ted: Though we can never see the self directly since the self has no attributes and is thus not an object, we can see/know it indirectly by means of its reflection in a pure mind. It is therefore essential to cultivate a predominately sattvic mind because it only in such a mind that one can see an accurate reflection of the self or pure awareness.
The means for purifying the mind are what we call yogas. The word yoga means ‘to yoke’ or ‘to connect.’ Yogas are practices that serve to withdraw one’s attention from its extroverted focus and redirect it ‘inward’ toward the self. The fruit of this discipline is that it enables one to subsequently discriminate between the self and the not-self, the real and the apparent. As long as one continues to chase objects believing they will bring one lasting security, pleasure, and virtue, one has not yet cultivated the skill of proper discrimination. Though the understanding of the distinction between awareness and the objects that appear in it can register in the intellect, it cannot be said that one has fully assimilated it until one no longer seeks happiness, fulfillment, or peace through the acquisition and enjoyment of objects. In other words, a pure mind is one unfettered by desire for it knows its true identity as whole and complete, limitless, non- dual awareness.
The fundamental practice for cultivating a pure mind is karma yoga. Though there are several yogas prescribed by Vedanta (i.e. bhakti, jnana, triguna vibhava, and meditation) that serve to increasingly refine the mind and thus prepare it for the assimilation of self-knowledge, none of these will work until one has effectively implemented the practice of karma yoga in their daily life. Such being the case, what follows is a basic outline of karma yoga. If you want to discuss the other yogas later after you have karma yoga firmly in place, we can do that another time.
Karma yoga is essentially an attitude that you take towards action. It is based on the premise that while you have the right to act – indeed action cannot be avoided since by virtue of awareness illumining the three bodies every aspect of creation is constantly changing and thus in action at every moment — you have no right to the results of your actions.
I’ll say that again. Though you have the right to act, you have no right to the results of your actions.
You have no right to the results of your actions because the results are not up to you. You are only one small factor in a huge field of cause and effect. Though you do contribute to the ultimate outcome generated by your actions, you by no means bear sole responsibility for that outcome.
Putting aside the whole issue of whether you are actually a doer in the first place and assuming for the moment that you are such, let’s logically examine whether or not or to what degree you actually determine the results that ensue from your actions.
Let’s say you are going to wash the dishes. First, in order for there to be a person who will wash the dishes, dishes that need to be washed, food residue that needs to be washed off, soap and water, a sink, etc., you need the gross elements. Second, you need eyes to see that there is a pile of dirty dishes that need to be washed, so the perceptive organs are needed. Third, you need a mind that coheres the sensory data and relays it to the intellect so that it can decide whether or not washing should be done. Fourth, you need an intellect in order to make the final decision that the dishes should be washed. Fifth, you need the vasanas to advise the intellect about what to decide based on previous experience. Sixth, you need an ego that will accept the intellect’s decision and assume the responsibility for doing it. Seventh, you need the emotional energy to ignite the active organs. Eighth, you need the active organs to move the body so that it performs the washing. If you take away any of these factors, not to mention the myriad other factors needed to maintain the functionality of these factors as well as the field in which they function, no washing will get done. In short, the execution of any action requires the compliance of the entire field of experience.
The best you as an apparent individual can do is to act in an appropriate and timely manner. And even that doesn’t guarantee that you will get the result you desire. For instance, let’s say you want to buy a ticket to an upcoming rock concert. If you go to the grocery store to purchase the ticket, you will be out of luck because they don’t sell tickets to rock concerts at the market. If you go to the ticket outlet, but arrive at a time of day when it is closed you will also be out of luck. If you do make it to the ticket outlet at a time when it is open, but the concert has already sold out you again will get no ticket. Even if you do get a ticket, there is still no guarantee that you will see the show. Your car could break down. You could get mugged and have the ticket stolen. You could lose the ticket.
You might decide to sell the ticket or give it away. You could get sick and be unable to attend the show. The concert might be cancelled because the lead singer got sick or overdosed. The list of factors that might prevent the fulfillment of your desire is virtually endless. Given the intricate web of factors that influence the outcome of any action, it is ludicrous to think that you are the doer.
But if you are not responsible for the results of your actions, then who is?
Isvara or Bhagavan. Or, if you prefer a less religious term, the universe. That is, the entire field of experience — which is what is personified by Isvara or Bhagavan — is responsible. Contrary to the chaotic and unpredictable mess it often appears to be, the apparent reality or the field of experience is actually an elaborately designed machine that functions according to precise rules or laws that govern its preservation.
In other words, the universe functions in such a way that it absorbs and processes whatever actions are executed within it and consequently manifests in the form of whatever results are in the best interests of the field as a whole.
If, therefore, your desires and actions are in harmony with what is best for the entire field, you will get what you want. If not, you will not. This being the case, it is foolish to worry about the results of your actions.
The best course to take is to simply offer whatever you do to Isvara or The Field and then, knowing that in spite of how it might look at any given moment in time Isvara unfailingly doles out whatever results are ultimately most beneficial for all, accept whatever results ensue as prasad or a gift from God (i.e. Isvara or The Field). You might think of your actions as a manifestation of what you think is best for the field and the results as Isvara’s affirmation or modification of that thought. It is nothing personal, though if you really inquire into the true identity of both yourself and Isvara you will see ‘they’ are one and the same awareness. You as an individual entity seeing the world through the extremely limited lens of your ego think you know, but because your scope as Isvara is much broader in terms of both time and space, you can always trust that you as Isvara know best. This understanding allows you to gladly accept whatever results ensue whether they be what you as an individual had originally desired/intended or not.
If consistently applied to every situation in life, the practice of karma yoga will eventually cancel your sense of doership and neutralize your vasanas. Your mind will consequently grow more calm, quiet, and peaceful, and you will be able to see without subjective judgment awareness manifesting as all that is. Such a purified mind will ultimately allow you to see the entire apparent reality as you, and yet know that you as awareness are ever free of it. This is liberation.
Sanford: Regarding my parents, I must say that I was holding a grudge against them for not teaching me better, but thankfully realized the futility and forgave and accepted them as they are, knowing that they always did to the best of their ability and with love and dedication. Next week I am moving away from them, to a far place, Ireland to be exact. This is to their dismay, but little by little they are accepting and understanding it.
Ted: It’s best to give up grudges and practice forgiveness. As you say, your parents did the best they could. Certainly they passed on to you certain erroneous notions about the nature of reality and your true identity, but they couldn’t help it. They were conditioned to believe these things by their parents, and their parents by their parents, and their parents by their parents, and so on. It’s ignorance all the way back to the beginning or all the way down to the present, whichever way you choose to look at it. No one is to blame.
Besides, the vasanas that constitute you migrated to the circumstance most appropriate for their expression, so in that sense you could say that you chose to be conditioned the way you were conditioned, though this is not actually the best way to put it given that neither the vasanas nor you for that matter have any independent volition.
The best way to look at it is that the vasanas are as they are because that is the way it is — call it Isvara’s will if you like the personal flavor of that metaphor — and thus you are the way you are because that is the way it is, but none of it actually has anything to do with who you really are. It’s all just the costume you are wearing to the grand masquerade ball.
So leave your parents, yes, but love them just the same, for they are nothing but a reflection of the false self you yourself formerly took yourself to be. As Christ purportedly said while hanging on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Sanford: And yes, you are right, f–k what other people thing, f*** trying to be someone, fuck it, and just be, be what it is.
Ted: Yep. And the day you no longer have to fuck what other people think or fuck trying to be someone is the day you’ll know you are free….and have always been free. It is only because you think you are Sanford that you feel the need to get free. But actually freedom is not for Sanford but from Sanford. When you ultimately realize and stand in your true identity as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness you won’t care what people think of Sanford or even what Sanford thinks of Sanford for that matter. You will stand free of Sanford as yourself.
Sanford: Your prescriptions are noted and are put into practice, as much as I can, sharpening the axe of self-knowledge, cutting down the branches of this tree of life.
Ted: Might I add that if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a huge, huge, huge favor and buy a copy of James’ book How to Attain Enlightenment. It step-by-step walks you through the whole process of self- inquiry. It is in my opinion the best book on ‘spirituality’ written since Adi Shankara graced the planet in the 8th Century. It has much to say about the other yogas I mentioned. Please know that I am happy to field any questions you have and to continue our correspondence, but I really think you would benefit by reading and re-reading James’ book. And if you can afford to purchase any of the videos of his talks, I would highly recommend investing your time and money in that as well.
Blessings Ted, Hari Om
Ted: Blessings to you, Sanford. And best of luck with your move!