Ramana Maharshi is very clear about two things. One, vasanas/samskaras are what force the mind outward. Thus: “It [the mind] is accustomed to stray outward by the force of the latent vasanas manifesting as thoughts” (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, p. 302). And, two, the mind is nothing but thought. “Thoughts,” he states plainly, “comprise the mind” (Ibid, p. 302).
Samskaras, as I’ve discussed in other posts, are ego-self tendencies. They are “specks” on the pristine mirror or “clouds” in the azure blue sky of pure awareness. Maharshi’s helpful point is that samskaras aren’t just ego-self tendencies like “I am unlovable” or “I am proud” that arise. In their arising, they are also “pulling” or “yanking” the mind outward.
As the mind goes outward, it seeks among objects and others for satisfaction, which amounts to nothing but temporary relief. As a result, this cycle–samskaras arising, mind going outward, seeking for temporary relief…–continues.
We must see and then dissolve all samskaras, therefore, or as many samskaras as is necessary. As this happens, the mind “returns to” the Heart, as Maharshi likes to put it. Or in Zen, we would say that scattered mind gives way to unified mind and then to no-mind.
The second point Maharshi makes cannot be made often enough. The mind, as mind, is a fiction: there is no such entity as mind. Often, Maharshi tells spiritual aspirants that there is no mind apart from thought. Here, he says that thoughts completely “comprise the mind.”
If you ask, “Who is the one observing the arising of thoughts?,” you’d be wrong to answer that this too is the mind. Clearly, pure awareness is prior to as well as beyond the arising of mind in the mode of thought.
In the absence of thought, there is no mind. In the absence of mind, there is no world. In the absence of mind and world, there are no others. In the total absence of all of these, there is only pure awareness.
Maharshi was adamant: “Just be still.” Pure awareness is utter stillness, utter stillness pure awareness.