Getting Clear About Samskaras: Putting Ramana Maharshi And Swami Satchidanda Together

Let me begin with Ramana Maharshi’s clear statement on samskaras in connection with awakening and then return to the exquisite commentary I cited yesterday.

Ramana Maharshi on Samskaras

The following is an astonishingly illuminating satsang with the radiant Sri Ramana Maharshi:

Ramana Maharshi: Awareness is jnana. Jnana is eternal and natural, ajnana is unnatural and unreal.

Questioner: Having heard this truth, why does one not remain content?

RM: Because samskaras [innate mental tendencies] have not been destroyed. Unless the samskaras cease to exist, there will always be doubt and confusion. All efforts are directed to destroying doubt and confusion. To do so their roots must be cut. Their roots are the samskaras. (Be as You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, ed. David Godman, p. 29)

Notice the supreme importance that Ramana is placing on samskaras. They are, he implies, tremendous obscurations. “Why can’t I get what you just said? Why am I not realized right now?” Because these samskaras have not only not been seen and understand but also because they have not yet been destroyed. Ramana is arguing, then, that samskaras are precisely what prevent sudden awakening. If he is correct, then an investigation of our samskaras will be crucial for actually seeing directly who we are.

Sri Swami Satchidanda on Samskaras

Importantly, Satchidanda helps to clarify our thinking. Recall what he stated in his commentary I included in this blog yesterday.

1.) “When you meditate on these impressions [samskaras], you bring them to the surface. You can’t destroy them by this means, but you can see and understand them well….” (pp. 88-9).

2.) “When you let go of the ego, all the impressions [samskaras] in it will be lost also. But [again–see 1 immediately above] until that occurs, the impressions will not go away” (p. 89).

Putting Ramana and Satchidanda Together

Here is how I would tie everything said together:

–First, certain delusions do very naturally fall away as a result of constant and complete seated practice. They cease to show up.

–Second, one is then left with basic ego patterns or personality types called samskaras.

–Third, those samskaras are of two types: wholesome (is this what Jung called archetypes?) and unwholesome ones.

–Fourth, seated meditation on its own will not, as Satchidanda says, destroy unwholesome samskaras. Rather, it will simply allow one to see, understand, and (I would add) see certain unwholesome samskaras fade out (but not completely). Meditation allows one to see such unwholesome samskaras more and more as (a) asat (not really real) and (b) not me (i.e., not what I truly am).

–Fifth, only, as Ramana and Satchidanda suggest, by getting to the root will unwholesome samskaras finally be destroyed. That root is the ego or I-thought. To cut out the root is to destroy unwholesome samskaras.

–And, sixth, since there must be wholesome samskaras in order for the Formless to manifest itself in appropriate form and, from there, into speech, action, and the like, wholesome samskaras, or archetypes, must remain even for the jnani. In other words, wholesome personality structures remain without being in any way identified with since the jnani is, of course, beyond all that…