What are Samskaras? | How Samskaras are Formed?

The Power Of Samskaras-Part-1

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Why the Bhagavad Gita was delivered to Arjuna and not to Duryodhana is interesting to know. There was once an occasion when Lord Krishna tried to advise Duryodhana on lessons in Dharma (धर्म). He tried to enlighten Duryodhana on Dharma(righteousness) and Adharma(अधर्म unrighteousness), highlighting the wrong actions of Duryodhana towards the Pandavas. To this, Duryodhana simply smiled and answered humbly “Krishna, it is not that, what you are telling is not getting into my head. I am also totally cognizant of the fact that, what you are saying is just the Truth and I am thankful to you that you have confirmed it. But my problem, you do not seem to understand. My heart does not go with what is appropriate in the line of Dharma. My intentions find support only in Adharma. I cannot persuade myself to do that which is called Dharma and I can never stop myself from doing all that you consider Adharma. This is the nature of my problem. I have a strong tendency; a power within me that enforces me into doing Adharma and keeps me away from all that is Dharma. I am more than certain that you do not have a solution for my peculiar problem.”

Arjuna asks a similar question to Sri Krishna, in the 4th Chapter of the Gita. He enquires “Lord, by what force does an individual do wrong, knowing well that what he is doing is against Dharma, although he has intentions of doing Dharma?” The difference in the statements of Duryodhana and Arjuna is a subtle one. Duryodhana puts the same subject as a matter of fact, as an emphatic statement, without wanting to know the solution, completely satisfied with his arrogance. On the other hand, Arjuna puts the same subject in question, as an enquiry, because he wants to know from the Lord and is ready to do whatever it takes to get rid of such an attitude.

There is a level of consciousness which lies below our normal wakeful level of consciousness; our subconscious and unconscious states. At that level, there are samskaras (संस्कार) embedded at that level, which can be roughly known as tendencies. These tendencies form our Nature, known in Sanskrit as Prakriti (प्रकृति). This Prakriti consists of Raga-Dvesha (राग-द्वेष), roughly known as likes and dislikes in the English language. The likes include our tendency of attachment to pleasant experiences. Dvesha represents our tendencies to get repulsed, to our irritation towards certain things which causes displeasure. The attachment and displeasure in our system is formed due to strong habits that we have adopted in this lifetime or in previous incarnations. The heap of our practices and habits go and settle down at the subconscious mind level, which is a stack lower to our normal mode of consciousness. Thus aversion and attachment are the result of the strong samskaras or tendencies. These tendencies are deep rooted and one is never conscious of these tendencies as they manifest. Mostly the subconscious tendencies remain submerged within our psyche, unexpressed. Then there is our interaction with the world, which produce certain reactions at the conscious level. The interactions may be in the form of thought, word or actions. Thus these interactions produce a certain response in our system. This response is expressed on the conscious level. If somebody hurts one’s feelings, our response may be to dart back at the person through anger, harsh words or through sulking at the thought level.


An example to this effect can be useful. Suppose I am suffering from diabetes. I make up my mind, not to have anything sweet for the day. I am with a friend, who is hungry and I have already had my lunch. As we are traveling, we halt at a restaurant so that the friend can have his meal. We enter the shop and my eyes fall on a pastry. I restrain myself knowing that I should not have it. The meal order is given and I see my friend having his lunch seated opposite me. I keep looking at the pastry. Its already half hour and I have started getting pangs of hunger. I fall for my temptation and order for the pastry and eat it. Why did I eat it, can be a logical question. The answer to that is based on the habits that I have already formed as I grew up. I have spent my life as a child eating pastries, all the time, especially during outings. I have developed a sweet tooth as a result. The Samskaras for sweet has already taken root deeply. Now, many years have passed and I have developed diabetes. However nothing has been done to tackle my inner urge and this urge needed a trigger. My entering the restaurant and setting my gaze on the pastry, revived the silent, unexpressed tendencies. The waiting time, added itself to the already boiling tendencies of eating the pastry. Thoughts about eating and enjoying the pastry started to reel in mind (samskaras agitate the senses), the urge lingers on, the senses got activated and they had to be calmed. This is raga (attachment).The urge was so severe that the images of the pastry (thought) in my mind and in front of me at the counter (interaction with the world) made me order for a pastry (word) and then once I received it, I ate it up (action). The samskaras subjugated all my thoughts about the diabetes disease and tricked me into eating the pastry. I did that very thing that could cost my life. This is the power of Samskaras.