Marshland Flowers Part 4

Karma in different systems

According to the Abhidharma or Abhidhamma in Pali, the physical cosmos that science studies (so far) is not the whole of the cosmos. This world of human and all its galaxies etc, physically seen so far is only one plane of existence, but it certainly is not the one and only plane of existence. There are many realms of existence. All other religious systems too believe in other realms of existence besides this physical realm available to the human experience directly or through extensions of refined machines. This is the meaning of heavens and hells and other realms. It is important to understand that Karma and continuity of the mind in the various realms of existence is very important aspect of the Buddhist tenets.

Although Karma and rebirth in other realms of existence are also very important tenets of Hinduism as a whole, the exact definition of Karma and all its implication and the way 're'-birth happens is quite different in the two systems. By the way, Jainism also believes in Karma and rebirth. Even though the words are the same, they do not mean or imply exactly the same in the three systems.

In fact, even when both Mahavir, the pro-pounder of Jainism, was alive there was an incident that made it very clear that Karma as meant by Mahavir and Jainism, and Karma as meant by the Buddha and Buddhism was quite different. In the story, Mahavir, who was older than the Buddha, send one of his closest disciples to debate with the Buddha himself on what is Karma. Mahavir's contention was that the physical action called 'kaya danda' was the main aspect of the Karma and it was more powerful. What this means is that the real meaning of Karma, ie, what we do physically is more powerful. It was the Buddha's contention that the mental action (mental Karma) is not only far more powerful than mere physical action but also was the forerunner and a necessary beginner for all physical Karmas.

Thus Karma means basically first and foremost 'chetana', or mental intention or mental Karma. So Mahavir's closest disciple met the Buddha in a huge forest while the Buddha was coming back from his alms begging. They sat together and the subject was broached. To cut the long conservation short, the Buddha asked Mahavir's disciple - do you know that where we are sitting right now was once a huge city in ancient time? Mahavir's disciple replied yes. Then the Buddha asked - do you know that the whole city was destroyed by the curse of an ancient Rishi? And Mahavira's disciple replied yes.

Karma in different systems continued

We are continuing from last week's story on the discussion between the Buddha and Mahavir's disciple.

The Buddha asked the disciple of Mahavir - now tell me could a man using his physical body destroy this city to dust in a matter of minutes so that it becomes a huge forest ?

The disciple replied, "No, thatss not possible."

The Buddha asked again, "So then which is more powerful, the mental Karma or physical Karma?"

It is said that Mahavir's disciple became the Buddha's disciple there and then but the Buddha accepted him as his disciple only under the condition that he continue to support Mahavir in any way he had been doing financially .

Likewise, what is meant by Karma in Hinduism is not exactly the same as Karma in Buddhism. Since Hinduism believes in a Creator (God) or Ishwar, and Ishwar would not be a Creator-God if he did not create the World and everything in it, including all beings in all the planes of existence, the concept of Karma in Hinduism would have to be highly modified by the Ishwar concept. If God creates everything and is the cause of everything that happens or exists, Karma as a system would have to be redundant and highly compromised, to say the least. Thus even though the same words are used in all the three Indo-Aryan Dharmas their meanings are very different.

The Semitic religious systems (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) do not seem to have any concept like Karma in their systems. Although even in these systems it is said good deeds are rewarded by good things, and bad deeds punished. It is not Karma that does it but very clearly understood that God does the rewarding or punishment.

In Buddhism, Karma is the cause and Karma is the result. Both are called Karma because both are actions, etc. This difference in the meaning of the same word Karma within Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism shows very clearly how three systems differ from each other even when often the same words are used. Thus rebirth (punarjanma), Karma Mukti(liberation), Gyan (enlightenment), etc, are all used in all the three systems. This has caused a lot of confusion in those who think the meaning of these words must be the same as they are the same words. And these confused personalities include many supposedly enlightened or well studied Hindu scholars and pundits. But in reality only the words are the same and the actual meaning of the words are different, sometimes drastically opposing in the three systems (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism).

Shared Culture of Three Santana Dharmas Distorting Interpretations of Key Concepts

We saw the different meanings of the word Karma in the three Arya Dharmas (also called Sanatana Dharmas) in the previous article. All the three Dharmas call themselves Sanatana or Arya Dharma not because they are talking about the same thing in three different ways but because they share the same culture - the culture of Bharat Varsha (Greater India) which used to extended from Afghanistan to Burma and from the Himalayas to Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin). Because the same literature and mythological stories and cultural elements are shared, they tend to use the same words.

For example, Sanskrit and Sanskritic languages are shared by this bigger culture, all three systems share a common heritage and mythos and history. Some Hindu Pandits like to call this common heritage and history the Hindu Culture. But it is not historically correct to call it solely a Hindu culture. These cultural elements existed in the Indian subcontinent even before Buddhism and Jainism and Vedic Bramanism and later forms of Vedic- Bramanism which came to be called Hinduism later on.

Even in the time of Alexander we find different rites and rituals and festivals and living styles amongst the various Janapadas (rudimentary form of Republics) which are mentioned even by the Buddha about two or three centuries earlier. We find Chanakya trying to unite all the various Janapadas against Alexander under the banner of the unity of the culture or of the sameness of the culture (Sanskriti). Chanakya did not mean only Vedic Bramanism!

It is because they shared a common history and culture we find that often the same words were used in their philosophies and Dharma terminologies. We took the concept of Karma. Now let us take the concept of punarjanma (re-incarnation or rebirth). In the Hindu system, there is an entity which is the same person which is reborn again and again until liberation (mukti) is attained.

As we said a long time back, the Hindu system as a whole is not so homogenous as it appears to be at the outset. Therefore, what I've just said is a rather loose description of rebirth within the Hindu system. Many laymen believe that the Atman takes birth again and again as is often implied when such people ask the Buddhists- if there is no Atman what is it that takes birth again and again. However, not all systems of Hinduism agree to the notion that the Atman takes birth again and again. There is a fallacy implied in this concept of an Atman being reborn again and again. If the Atman is Sat (really existing) them by definition the Atman cannot change. More on this in the next article.

Punarabhava or Punarajanma continued

Punarbhava means becoming again or new becoming. The new becoming as opposed to being born is crucial inunderstanding the weltenschaaung of Buddhism as a whole. There is no Being as such but only a process of becoming; we are not a NOUN an entity, a being but rather a verb, a flow, a process of becoming. If you understand this then you can also clearly understand that there is no entity, being or person or personality that is reborn again and again.

No One or NO Thing is reborn again. It is more like a continuum of a river or a burning flame. The flame continues on and on into the next moment and again into the next moment, but it is not the same flame or flames, etc., that continues on into the next moment. Although it does appear exactly like the same flame is burning moment to moment. In fact this is an illusion.

In reality every millisecond or so a new flame comes into existence while the old flame goes out of existence. We have already explained this point of the flame and the continuum a long time ago. We just brought it up here in the context of Punarbhava, or becoming again or re-becoming. As we have already said a long time ago, Buddhism believes that the Chitta Sanatana (mind continuum) continues from this life to the next but since this Chitta Sanatana (mind continuum) is changing every moment (Kschana), the possibility of the same entity continuing even to the next moment, let alone the next life is out of the Buddhist question.

Every moment the Chitta Sanatana (mind continuum) is re-becoming again and again (Punarbhava). Just as the causes and conditions (hetu pratyay) of the new flame will come into being out of the ashes of the older flames, so to say, in the same way, as long as the causes and conditions of the Chitta Sanatana (mental stream) continues the Chitta Sanatana will continue to continue. But we must understand that the 'Chitta Santana' (mental continuum) is not an entity or thing that will continue but rather a process (a verb) that continues. So it is this Chitta Santana (mental continuum) which continues into new form of existence depending upon the Karma- Sanskara, which we call re-birth or reincarnation, being born again when in reality there is No One Entity being born again. So the word Punarajanma (reborn) is inaccurate when applying it to Buddhism.

Punarabhava to Avidhya - the difference between two systems

In the same way like Punarabhava, Avidhya means a different thing within Buddhism and Hinduism. Sanakaracharya has clearly defined Avidhya (ignorance or nescience) as not knowing or recognizing that one's true self is the eternally unchanging Atma (self). Or simply put, not knowing or recognizing the Atman. So Agyan (another word for Avidhyaor nescience) in he Sankara Vedantic system is not recognizing that one is the Atman, and instead identifying oneself with the body or mind or in a more technical language the Pancha Kosha (the five sheaths) as Atman, or ones true self which is what one truly is.

Although we have already gone in great details about the Atman, for the sake of new comers who are reading this article for the first time, let us talk little bit about this. Sankaracharya defines the Atman's nature as Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word has become very famous amongst Hindus, almost a household word, but the vast majority of those laymen who use this phrase or word (Sat-Chit-Ananda), do not actually know properly how Sankara himself has defined it. As we had actually quoted the actual Sanskrit verses used by Sankaracharya himself for explanation, we will not repeat them here again but a short explanation is required.

Sat is a Sanskrit word which is means really existing, as opposed to Maya (illusion). In the Indian Subcontinent, all the systems that grew within it have all accepted the fact that what really exists must not and cannot and should not change. Now this needs to be clarified as those not well versed in the logical systems (Pramana Sastra or Naya Sastra) of the Indian Subcontinent and educated in the Western education system, are bound to ask - why should something that really exist be unchanging? To an untrained bystander it is a valid question, even though such a question is a contradiction in itself. This brings us to the question of change and a changing thing. And the word changing thing brings us back to the word continuum, which we discussed at great length already. But let us revisit it in this context.

A changing thing or entity is a contradiction if by the word thing/entity we mean an unchanging same entity/thing. If by 'thing/entity' we mean an unchanging entity/thing, then when we are saying a changing entity/thing that remains the same and does not change. This is a preposterous statement to say the least. How can we call a changing entity unchanging? More on this in the next article.

Continuing with Hindu misleading notions about Buddhism

Then there are those who give commentaries on Buddhism without having ever received any teachings on Buddhism from any authentic Masters of unbroken lineages. Needless to say, all of these types of Masters interpret Buddhist concepts and ideas as if Buddhism was a form of Hinduism. Most of their knowledge of Buddhism are based on English translations of Buddhist texts etc., and they have never ever read the Pali or Sanskrit or Chinese or Tibetan texts directly or listened to the explanation of Masters.

Amongst these types of are those who claim that the Bhagavat Gita and Buddhism teach the same thing. Again, needless to say they fail to quote the Bhagavat Gita or any authentic Buddhist Sutras or Sastras to prove their point - as there are no such proofs. Many of them are completely unaware of any Buddhist Sutras or Suttas and know only what their Master taught about Buddhism - a Master again falls into this same category.

I would to challenge all such types of Masters or their disciples who claim that:

1.Buddhism teaches the same thing as Hinduism only in a different way

2.Who give Hindu explanations of Buddhist texts

3.Who say that Buddhism believes in an empty vacant unconscious state devoid of any awareness

4.Who teach No-Mind (Achitta) of Buddhism as just a non-conceptual awareness without any thoughts

5.Who teach that the Vedantic 'Brahman-Atman' is the same as the Buddhist Anatma (Non Self)

I would like to challenge all such Hindu (or otherwise) Masters to prove their point using authentic Buddhist or Hindu scriptural quotes or commentaries by authentic Masters of both Hindu and Buddhist systems; they of course must show how Buddhism and Hinduism are teaching exactly about the same thing.

Now let us continue with Avidya. We have seen that Avidya means not cognizing ones Atman, which is of the nature of Sat-Chit-Ananda as ones true Self, according to the Sankara Vedantic system. As Hinduism is a pot pouri of many heterogeneous ideas not all Hindu systems agree to this Sankara Vedantic definition of Avidya/Nescience. Some would say Avidya is not realizing God more than not realizing Atman-Brahman. And there are some who try to integrate the two disparate ideas into one saying self-realization is God realization etc. etc. Needless to say, Avidya within the Buddhist systems of any denomination has nothing to do with Atman Gyan, self-realization or Braman Gyan (realization of the Macrocosmic Self), or God-realization of any kind.

Avidya-Nescience of Buddhism

In the Abdhidharma Sammuccaya, Asanga, the famous scholar-siddha of Gandhara (present day Afghanistan) defines Avidya as:

What is Avidya (nescience)? It is the absence of knowledge (Agyan) with regards to the three realms of existence (Traidhatuka). Its function is to give a basis to the appearance of defilement (Klesha), mistaken decisions and doubts concerning the dharma (Buddhism).

So here in the Abhidharma Samuccaya, Asanga (a Bramin of ancient Gandhara, and the brother of Vasubhandhu, the famous writer of Abhidharma Kosha), says that Avidya is the absence of knowledge (Agyan) as regards to the three realms of existence. This needs a little bit of explanation. What is the meaning of absence of knowledge related to the three realms of existence?

Tridhatu (similar to the Hindu Tri Bhuvan but not exactly the same) means the three realms of existence. Now, what are the three realms of existence? They are called the Kama Dhatu (the desire realm), the Rupa Dhatu (the realm of subtle form) and the Arupa Dhatu (the formless realm).

The first Kama Dhatu is called the Desire realm because the Kleshas play a major role in these realms. The realms with Kama Dhatu include the human realm, the hell and the heaven. There are many levels of Deva Lokas (heavens) which belong to the realm of desire. The Gods and Goddesses (Devas) of these realms are not free from Kleshas, although they enjoy more pleasure than in the human realms or realms below them. The realms above the Deva Lokhas (heavenly realms) of the Kama Dhatu are the heavenly realms of Rupa Dhatu. The Rupa Dhatu (realm of subtle form/form realm) is also called the Bramah Lokas, because the Bramahs stay here. But there are many levels of Bramahs and their realms. And then there is the Arupa Dhatu (formless realm), also called Arupa Bramah Lokas. When we use the word Tridhatu (the three realms of existence), it also includes all beings in there.

Now, what do we mean by the absence of knowledge (Agyan) about the Tridhatu (the three realms of existence)? It means not knowing their mode of existence, the way they exist. Not knowing that these three realms are Dukha (suffering), not knowing how these three realms are suffering, not know why these three realms are suffering, not know the way(Marga/Path) out of these three realms of suffering, not knowing the Four Noble truths is Avidya or Nescience.

Here, knowing does not mean a conceptual knowing of the Four Noble Truth but to see through Vipashayana/Vipassana the facts of these Four Noble Truth. So Avidhya is not knowing what the Tridhatu/the three realms of existence is or in another way not knowing the four Noble Truth.

Klesha direct product of Avidya

The Theravada Abhidhamma defines Avidya/Nescience exactly as not knowing the Four Noble Truths. The Tridhatu (the three realms of existence) can be called the 'world' in layman language. This world includes the Sadhakas (practitioners). The Tridhatu is included in the Pancha Skandha (the five aggregates), which compose what we can call the individual (Pudgala in classical terminology). The Pudgala is a label given to the collection of the five aggregates (Pancha Skanda) and is not an entity as the English word individual would imply. A Pudgala/individual is only imputed upon the five aggregates (Pancha Skandha). The word used for imputation in the Theravada Abhidhamma is 'Pragyapti'. A clear and correct Vipashyana/Vipassana shows very clearly that these are not and cannot belong to a Pudgala entity per se, but only the streams/continuua of the five aggregates.

Now, let us see what is meant by Asanga when he defined Avidhya as the absence of knowledge (Agyan) as regards to the three realms of existence (Tridhatu). Asanga says, 'and its function is to give the basis to the appearance of defilement.' We just in a rather skimpy way explained what the Tridhatu means but what does Asanga mean when he says Avidya is the 'Absence of Knowledge (Agyan)', as regards to the Tridhatu?

First of all, it means not knowing (absence of knowledge) that the entire Tridhatu (the three realms of existence) is impermanent (anitya), suffering (dukha), non-self (anatma) and empty (sunya). It is because we do not have knowledge of this mode of existence of the Tridhatu (the three realms of existence) that it becomes Avidya, and that this Tridhatu because of this becomes the basis for the appearance of defilements/emotional defilements or called Klesha in the technical language of Buddhism.

It is this Klesha which is the major cause of suffering (dukha). Klesha is so ingrained in our system because of Avidya/nescience that every minute action and reaction in an average person's life is infused by Klesha. All the Klesha can be subsumed into three main Kleshas 1. Kama (attachment like desire) also called Kamacchanda/Raga or Ragacchanda, etc, 2. Krodha (anger, hatred, dislike) or also called Dvesha and would include jealousy, etc., and 3. Moha or stupidity, confusion, torpor, dullness, inability to distinguish good and bad, delusion, etc.

In the Adhidharma Samucchaya, Asanga defines these thus: What is craving (Raga)? It is attachment to the three realms (Tridhatu) of existence. Its function consists of engendering suffering (Dukha). The Theravada Abhidhamma Sanghako defines Kammacchanda like this: the greed (Lobha) and craving (Trishna) creates attachment (or weakness) towards the things and one's desires (Kama Vishaya) is called Kamacchanda.

Explanining klesha (defilement)

According to the Abhidharma Kosha of Vasuvandhu, there are two types of Raga (attachment). One is the attachment to sensual pleasures like called Kama Raga, and then attachment to existence called Bhava Raga.

Then concerning Dvesha or Pratigha (hatred etc), the Abhidharma Samuccaya of Asanga defines it thus: What is Pratigha (repugnance, hatred, dislike)? It is malevolence (aghata) with regards to living beings, suffering and conditions of suffering. Its functions consist of supplying a basis to wretched state (unpleasant life or existence). In the same way, the explanation of the Theravadin Abidhammatha Sanghaho says that Dvesa is the strong reaction of the mind to what it dislikes, just like when a black snake who is out shows its nature. This is a very rough translation of the Pali definition but the meaning comes out clearly.

And Moha (delusion, confusion) is defined like this in the Abhidharm Samuccaya of Asanga, as having the characteristics of not knowing (Agyan). And the explanation of the Theravadin Abhidhammatha Sanghaho also says the same thing - Eso Ayyaanalakhano (this has the characteristics of Agyan). And Theravadin text goes on to beautifully define Moha as that which hypnotizes or mesmerizes towards its objects so that it does not know its object for what it is. It is not just lack of awareness but rather the opposite of proper knowledge of things. Just as Wisdom, Knowledge (Gyan) gives the correct knowledge of things as it is (Yathabuta), Moha gives the wrong knowledge of things as they are not really. It contradicts wisdom, knowledge (Gyan). Its characteristics is to blind the mind so that it does not see the facts as it is (Yathabhuta).

So if you were to see a lump of shit or anything that you dislike like your enemy you will dislike what you see. This is Dvesha or Pratigha (hatred, dislike or anger). If you were to see a beautiful flower or beautiful scenery or a freind you really love you would like it. This is Kamacchanda or Raga or attachment, greed, liking or desire. If you were to see an ordinary fountain pen you would feel neither a liking nor a disliking for it, you would remain neutral to it. Many systems which are unclear about enlightenment imply that such a state of neither liking nor disliking is the enlightened state. Many Gurus in the Indian Subcontinent teach directly or imply that an Awareness, which remains neutral, just watching with no like or dislike, no attachment nor hatred but remains detached, as the state of enlightenment. Many go even so far as to label such a state as the Buddhist No-Mind (Achitta). But unfortunately to authentic Buddhist system such a neutral awareness with no like or dislike, no attachment or hatred is Moha (delusion). This a point that I have not seen any Indian Gurus and their disciple who claim to give Buddhist teachings (even though they themselves are not Buddhist or have not studied under any Buddhist Masters) elucidate clearly. Most of them are hopelessly confused about this point and go on to confuse millions of other people.

Interpreting the meaning of gyan in different systems

So we have seen very clearly how even though exactly the same words like Avidya, Gyan, Karma, Mukti etc. etc. are used in all the three systems that developed within the Indian Subcontinent, they do not necessarily mean the same thing. In fact, sometimes they mean almost the opposite. A very good example is the word Gyan.

Gyan of course means knowing, however what is meant by Gyan in the sense of enlightenment is quite drastically different within Hinduism and Buddhism. In the Hindu system, there are two broad schools related to Gyan. One is Atman Gyan school, which would mean self realization or gaining knowledge of the True Self (Atman), which is one's true nature and this would amount to Braman Gyan (knowledge of the Cosmic Self, or Super Self or Super Consciousness). After all this very Atman (my True Self) is the Braman as the Vedic Maha Vakya (great words of the Veda) says Ayam Atman Brahman, which means this Atman is Braman itself.

Another group of Hindus would interpret the word Gyan as Ishwor Gyan, which means God realization or knowledge of God. Of course in the Hindu system this knowledge is not supposed to be some intellectual knowledge or conceptual knowledge of the Atman (Self) or Braman (Seer Cosmic Self) or God realization (Ishwor Sachyaatkaar) but more a direct non-conceptual knowledge.

Within Buddhism, such knowledge would be just further continuation of Agyan or Avidhya. Let us explain the Buddhist perspective here. We all have a tendency to feel that there is an ultimate really existing I or 'I-I' if you like, which is the word used by the famous Hindu saint Raman Maharshi. We tend to feel this as the center of our experience and we tend to feel that it does not change but rather remains the same unchanging always. This is what is meant by the Atman. Most of Vedantic Hinduism and Jainism use this label (Atman) for an unchanging, eternally the same 'I-I' that is the centre of all our experiences or the core Awareness that experiences (or Witnesses) or knows all that is as the Knower/Witness/Watcher/Seer. So within most forms of Hinduism and within Jainism, basically Enlightenment or Gyan means realizing that one is not the body or any of the Pancha Kosha (five sheaths) but the eternally unchanging and the one and only really existing thing (Mahavastu). This Mahavastu is Witness, Knower or Seer of all. The Vedantic system distinguishes between the thinking mind (manas) and the deciding mind (Buddhi) and this Witness, Knower or Seer who knows the thinking mind and the deciding or discriminating Buddhi.

Clarifying buddhi and manas and Buddhist terminologies

The Buddhi and Manas are Vigyanamaya Kosha (consciousness sheath), which sheaths the Eternal Witness, Knower, etc. It is based on Hindu categories and the names are used by many Hindu Gurus, who should have known better, but they have confused themselves and millions of their disciples about Buddhism. Because according to them, the Sachi - Atman (Witness, Self) is beyond the Buddhi (desciminative faculty) and the word Buddhi used by the Hindu systems seems to be close to Buddha and Bodhi. They just assumed that the Buddha actually reached only up to the level of the Buddhi and could not go beyond the Buddhi to the level of the eternal Atman, which is beyond the Buddhi.

They just seem to assume that the whole world and all the other cultures just use the same words to mean the same thing, after all the world religions just branched out from the Hindu Vedas directly or indirectly, and therefore, there are no other paradigms than the Vedic paradigm. And since the Buddhi and Manas etc, are all within the Vigyanamaya Kosh (sheath of consciousness) and the Buddhist too use the word Vigyana; they did not go beyond the Vedantic Vigyanamaya Kosha (sheath of consciousness). Therefore, many Hindu Gurus like the famous and very interesting Shiva Puri Baba claimed that the Buddha never went beyond their Vigyanamaya Kosha and stopped at the Buddhi level; but he and other Hindu Masters went beyond into the Atman and even beyond into God Realization. I cannot but comment 'how nave.'

First of all, this is a clear cut confusion in terminologies and the confusion is based on a very Hindu attitude or belief that there are no other paradigms than the Vedic Hindu paradigms and whatever, whoever talks about is just a variety or branch or another way of saying what Vedic Hinduism has already said a long time ago. If they had even made the slightest effort to study Buddhism according to what the Buddhists and their sutras/suttas and their commenteries say, it would have been very easy for them to see that the Vigyana of the Buddhist is not the Buddhi (the discriminative faculty) or Manas (the decider) but the Knower, Witness of the other two, and the other two are called Sangya Skandha, Sanskar Sandha etc and are not Chitta (Knower) but Chaitta or Chaitasik, the Known.

The Buddha knew the Witness, Knower very well but his investigation was not burdened by the pre supposedly accepted formula already accepted as the truth; so he investigated (Vipashayana) free of all preconceived assumptions and saw that this so called Knower, Witness was ever changing. All though it never ended, it was not Sat (Unchangingly Eternal) but rather Changing Eternal (Parinami Nitya).

Importance of unbiased investigation to determine ultimate reality

The Buddha was not bound by the chains of some ancient texts so that he had to make his finding confirm to those texts that existed during his time. He was free to investigate (Vipashyana) and see thing as they really are (Yathabhuta). Even modern Quantum Physics agrees to the fact that the assumptions of the investigating mind influences what we see. Assumptions are Sanskaras and if you work with those assumptions and Sanksaras that is what you will see. That is why the Buddha himself said in the Kalam Suttat not to believe in what is handed down in tradition but to investigate and find out for oneself if that is true or not in the sense of whether it will free you from Kleshas and Sanskaras.

Vipashyana is not about trying to see what the Buddha and Buddhist texts said but to see for oneself whether it is how it is (Yathabhuta). Now, is the Kalam Sutta about eschewing all traditions and advocating re-inventing the wheel in each generation - as some modernist Buddhist intellectuals believe? To eschew all the rich lore and knowledge accumulated through the centuries after the Buddha is one thing, to see for one's own self whether what these lore's say is true or not is quite another thing. It is extreme idiocy to say each generation has to throw away all the texts and technology of how to create the wheel and re-discover the whole thing all over again for themselves, without accepting any of those texts on how to create a wheel. Then every generation should burn all the discovery on science and technology, and go back to the stone age to start anew each generation. This is stark idiocy in the name of independent and free thinking.

However, in the field of Dharma (as in science), it is paramount not to assume (be conditioned/sanskaras) that what the traditions say is the one and only truth, because this produces a biased experience based on an assumption, and to test yourself whether what is said is true to not, you need unbiased investigation.

But to test, we need to use proper techniques just as in science. The proper technique is Vipashayana. We must test through proper Vipashayan whether the conclusion made by the Buddha are valid or not. If we do not use the proper microscope of Vipashayana, we will only see the rough outside and what we see in such a case may not tally with the Buddha's teachings but rather more likely tally only with our own sanskaras/conditionings. To see that the Witness, Watcher, Knower is ever changing moment by moment, we need the correct method to see it. Otherwise, our ignorance, nescience or Avidya and sanskaras/conditionings will not allow us to see this fact, and it will be easy to fall into the trap to see, experience and believe that this Seer, Watcher, Witness, Knower remains unchanging and eternal - which is what the Vedanta says and is confirmed by our sanskaras/conditionings and habitual thinking patterns.

Importance of unbiased investigation to determine ultimate reality II

We can also understand that the Kalam Sutta is not telling us not to depend at all in any tradition and find out for yourself what the truth is. In that case, to think - we have to eschew Vipashyana because that is tradition handed down and accepted by learned people etc. etc. - that kind of interpretation of the Kalam Sutta made by some Nepali modernistic new fangled Theravidins is totally idiocy. In such a case, Buddhism also would have to be reinvented in every generation from the ground level. That is complete stupidity.

What the Buddha meant in the Kalam Sutta is not that we should throw out all traditions, never take the advices of the Wise and Experienced, never to follow any tradition at all. The Buddha said not to accept these things blindly just because it is tradition, just because it is logical, just because the learned say it; but also (also is the key word here) to check for yourself whether that is the truth or not. But to check whether anything is beneficial to you or not you again need methods, and an ordinary person riddled with Sanksaras cannot be trusted to come out with the correct method because his Kleshas and Sanskaras will not allow him to see the proper methods. In that case, we have to depend upon tradition where people who have freed themselves to a greater degree than us from Kleshas, Sanskaras, etc. Otherwise every man will come up with his own ideas, beliefs and systems entirely based on her/his own sanskaras/conditionings.

However, this dependency should not be blind. We should never be blinded even with any Buddhist system so much that we are even afraid to listen to other systems or even other Buddhist systems different from that one you are following for fear of losing one's faith. It is exactly this kind of faith that the Kalam sutta speaks out against. If this is the case, we have just increased our Sanskara instead of freeing ourselves from Sankaras. It is idiotic to throw out all the scientific research and scientists that has been handed down through the centuries in the name of free, independent thinking and say each man has to rediscover science for himself because each person is an island to himself. That is definitely not what the Buddha meant. What the Buddha meant was closer to saying that each generation should use the traditional tests to see for themselves whether what science has said is correct or not and not just believe it blindly.

We have now dealt with Avidya (Nescience), we will go into the second chain in the twelve links of interdependent origination, which is Sanskara, in the next article.

Understanding the importance of sanskara

We that have now dealt with Avidya (Nescience) we will go into the second chain in the twelve links of interdependent origination, which is Sanskara. It is due to Avidhya that Sanskaras develop and finally become stronger, and these very Sanskaras make Avidya stronger so they are interdependent upon each other.

Sanskaras basically mean that which condition (Abhisanskaroti). Sanskaras can be good in the sense they can liberate or open the mind, and bad in the sense they can limit or close the mind. Karma and Sanskaras are very closely related, and sometimes the second factor called Sanskara in the twelve chain of interdependence is also called Karma Sanskaras. These conditions or Sanskaras condition the way we experience the world of our experience. Then, further condition the way we interpret our world of experience. For example, if I have had a tiff with somebody and I'm angry with her, the next time I meet or see her, the way I react, the way I think about her, the way I interpret her behavior, are all conditioned by my past experience, which conditions my mind (Abhisanskaroti). The same is true when I meet an old friend I'm fond of and with whom I've had good experiences. Sanskaras are often translated as volitional impulses.

The Abhidharmakosha of Vasubhandu defines Sanskaras as Sanskarah Purvakarmana - which means Sanskara is the state brought about by the former karmas. Now, this means the former mental continuum does good and bad actions (karma) and this state of our collection of good or bad karmas is called Sanskara. In the Theravada tradition, the Vibhabini, which is a Tika (commentary) on the famous Abhidhammatha Sangaho of Anurudachariya, it defines Sanskara as: Pubba Payoga Sambhuto Viseso Chittasambhavi - which means the special energy found in the mind resulting from the former actions of mind, body and speech is Sanskara. The Paramatha Dipani also defines Sanskara in the same way.

What this means in simple non-technical language is that Sanskaras are those which conditions the mind, and they are based on the habitual patterns of the mind, body and speech. What we repeat again and again creates a special energy accordingly. A dancer conditions her body to be able to dance in a certain way by practicing again and again until a habitual pattern (Sanskara) are formed in her mind. And because of this Sanskara her body is easily capable of making certain movements which would be very difficult for those who have not developed that Sanskara or those who have not conditioned themselves through repeated practice to be able to do it. More in the next article.

Continuing with understanding the importance of sanskara

A skilled classical singer is able to produce sounds which would be either very difficult or impossible for an average man to produce because through continuous repetition and practice the singer has conditioned his mind (subconscious) to be able to produce such sounds through his vocal cord. And in the same way, repeated mental acting (Manaskarma) conditions the mind to act or react in a certain way and this is what is meant by Sanskara. The Abhidharma classifies the mental Sanskara into great details of categories but we shall not go into it here as this is not really necessary in an article like this. However, Sanskara is a very important concept because all the Kleshas are Sanskaras and a major part of Buddhism is about dealing with these Kleshas (emotional defilements).

We need to go a little in-depth with Sanskara. Whatever we are capable of seeing or not seeing, understanding or not capable of understanding, whatever we see as nice or not nice, whatever we like or dislike, as good or bad, as correct or wrong, they are all based in our Sanskara in the case of an ordinary person. In fact, all our actions and reactions are based on our Sanskaras. Most people believe that when they look at the world of their experience, they see an objective world that is really like the way they see it. But modern brain science and Quantum Physics does not agree with this overly naive concept of our experience. Actually, we do not see as it is (Yathabhuta) the world out there, but what is constructed by our Sanskara out of the energy patterns out there. According to Quantum Physics, there is no world out there the way we perceive it but only an interplay of energy, which we do not perceive.

So what is it that constructs the world the way we perceive it? This is what is meant by Sanskara. In this case, these Sanskaras are more accurately called Karma Sanskaras. According to Buddhism, when a fish looks at what we call water, it sees a home and not what we perceive as water. When humans look at water they perceive and experience what the word 'water' signify. But to a fish that very same 'so called water' is not experienced as what we mean by water. And when a Preta looks at that same glass of water, the Preta perceives what we call pus or an empty dry glass and the Preta does not perceive what we call water. But the Preta is looking at the same glass of 'so called water as we humans are.

Karma sanskara according to Buddhism

Let us continue with the talk of how we construct the world the way we perceive it. We were talking about how a Preta and a human perceive water very differently. A hell being sees burning fire and brimstone and molten lava and not what we call water. And again when the Devas (celestial beings, Gods) look at the same glass of water, they perceive ambrosia and not water as we think, believe, see and experience it. This is what is meant by Karma Sanskara, which conditions the mind or consciousness to experience a world out there which does not really exist the way we see it or experience it.

This is the Sanskara, the second link after Avidhya or Nescience in the twelve links of interdependent origination. The Sanskara conditions the mind or consciousness (Vigyan, the third link in the chain of interdependent origination), which then begins to experience the world based on its Karma Sanskara. This is Karma Sanskara (Karma conditioning) that make the mindset, which creates the world of our experience.

Another meaning of Sanskara is what is called conditioning, which conditions our reactions to the world that we experience. This Pavlov reflex action is a conditioned reflex action where the dog begins to salivate the moment it hears the bell after giving it food over and over again every time the bell is rung. In a similar way, Sanskaras learned in this life and according to Buddhism in former lives conditions our reactions to the world we experience.

There are many ways we get conditioned. Conditioning already starts in the mother's womb. The child's neural wirings are being conditioned by the emotions and experiences of the mother. A depressed mother's world creates chemicals that will influence the child's neural wirings etc.. A happy and relaxed and positive mother likewise conditions her child accordingly. In many cases birth would itself condition the neural wirings of the child to a lesser and greater extent, which would influences the child the rest of her life if not dealt with properly. Then the child's upbringing would condition the mind and brain of the child. According to transactional psycho therapy, family injunctions are handed down through generations. Thus we have families that have winner's scripts and families that have loser's script. There are families who have a culture of being paranoid about anything new and there are families who are open and encourage innovations, creativity and new ideas.

How sanskara influences us everyday

Scripts, games and life positions like I'm ok, I'm not ok, are handed down generation after generation as family injunctions. There are families with what is called loser scripts and families with winner scripts. A child who grows up with loser scripts tends to lose out in life except those who are lucky enough to shake out of this Sanskara either through proper therapy or sometimes through life experiences. And people who grow up with the winner script end up successful in life.

All these are various kinds of Sanskaras. In fact, in an ordinary person, her whole life tone is set by the kind of Sanskara that has been downloaded into her mind-brain computer since her childhood, and of course from carry over back logs from her former lives too. The same person can be seen as a wonderful person by Ram Lal, while Hari Lal can perceive the same as horrible. How can the same person be perceived as both wonderful and horrible?

An overly simplified answer would be Sanskara. To Ram Lal, his Sanskaras make him see the person as wonderful while to Hari Lal, his Sanskaras make him see that very same person as horrible. We all know that we all like different types of food and dislike other foods; we all like certain type of clothing and dislike other types of clothing. All these are again based on Sanskara (conditionings). Some people just seem to have a very positive outlook towards life. They are full of spirit and oomph most of the time. They are adventurous and are keen to learn and experience new things in life. They even seem to infuse the same kind of open-minded, happy spirit to those who are around them. This is due to the Sanskaras downloaded in their mind-brain complex. And again there are those who seem always to be down in the dumps. Everything is gloomy, boring and unexciting. They are very close-minded. They do not like new things coming into their life. They feel insecure with everything. They cannot trust others, life or even their own selves. Again this is Sanskara.

Of course we can also say that some people are disposed genetically to be down in the dumps where others are more disposed to be celebrating life continuously. But genetic research by Dr. Bruce Lipton shows that even the genes are mere potential possibilities and that it is the state of the mind how she thinks, feels, believes (mostly believes) that triggers which gene is activated or deactivated. But our beliefs are heavily colored by our Sanskaras.

Continuing with how sanskaras influence us everyday

An average Nepali may not feel he had a good lunch or dinner unless he's had dal bhat (rice and lentil soup). In fact, I've had many Nepalis say they don't feel filled unless they take dal bhat. But many Americans cannot feel filled, like they've had a good lunch or dinner, unless they had their steak. This is Sanskara.

Most Nepalis folks in the villages do not even feel they've had a good cup of tea unless it is thick with a hefty amount of sugar and creamy milk. Some even prefer burnt milk. But most health conscious Westerners would balk at having such a tea. Most Nepalis cannot think of a tea without sugar. In fact, tea without sugar is not a tea at all but some mistake. But most Westerners and nowadays perhaps many health conscious Nepali folks have tea without sugar.

The famous Zen Master Soen Shaku, who was amongst the first Zen Masters to take Zen to America, had a very interesting way of taking his coffee with every breakfast. Every morning when he would sit down for a breakfast he would first take black coffee without sugar or milk. After few sips, he would add sugar to the coffee and have few more sips. After that he would add milk to his coffee and have few more sips. Then eventually he would add cream to top the coffee and drink it. His American students noticed him doing this at every breakfast, and they asked him why he was drinking his coffee that way. He replied like this: "I'm training myself not to expect anything."

What did 'not to expect anything' mean? Here we are talking about Sanskara. It is our Sanskaras of believing that coffee should be with cream and sugar that makes us expect coffee with cream and sugar. This expectation is craving (Trishna), the eighth links in the twelve chains, which is considered the root cause of Dukha, or more correctly the proliferation of Dukha. So when I don't get my cream and sugar coffee, I get irritated and feel offended. If I get it I feel satisfied and happy temporarily. But this short lived 'coffee happiness' is not the real happiness. However, the average person does not know any other kind of happiness but this 'coffee happiness'. For her, life is not worth living without her 'coffee happiness'. This is not to say that a good cup of coffee the way you like it should not be enjoyed. This is to say that you should also be able to enjoy sugar free coffee equally.

Continuing with how sanskara influences us everyday II

Our expectations build from your Sanskaras will not normally allow us to enjoy a coffee that is sugar free, like the way famous Zen Master Soen Shaku enjoyed. So your happiness or enjoyment or celebration is limited to 'the sugar milk coffee' happiness. And when there is no sugar and milk coffee we are incapable of celebrating life. This coffee happiness is a limit of the life of the average person riddled with Sanksaras and expectations. Expectations make us grasp or cling to our 'milk sugar coffee' happiness. This grasping, clinging is the ninth chain in the twelve links. Just for refreshing the memories of those who do not know the twelve link of interdependent origination (Dwadas Nidan or Dwadas Pratitya Samputpada), we will reiterate them again.

They are: 1. Avidya, 2. Sanskara, 3. Vigyana, 4. Nam-Rupa, 5. Sadayatana, 6. Sparsha, 7. Vedana, 8. Trishna, 9. Upadana, 10. Karma Bhava, 11. Jati, 12. Jara-Maran-Soka-Parideva-Dukha-Daurmanashya-Upayasya.

It is because we expect certain things we are happier when we get what we expect and are unhappy when we do not get what we expect. Thus, we limit our happiness to 'milk sugar coffee', which in life may not be always available. Thus, our expectations, which in life are usually not fulfilled, makes us unhappy, dissatisfied and unfulfilled most of the time. But these expectations are also created by our Sanskaras. Because we are slaves to our own Sanskaras, we limit our happiness. But Sanskaras are learned, not innate. No one is born with the innate love for black coffee and dislike for milk coffee. We train ourselves or are trained to like coffee or milk coffee by our family, culture (Sanskriti), schooling and the general weltanschauung of the period.

So later on, when I don't get my black coffee with the right amount of sugar for my morning coffee I lose my cool and I blow off or I get irritated and in some cases I may even throw a tantrum and ruin my relationship with my wife or husband, as the case maybe. I expect something because Sanskaras or conditionings propel me to expect it. The most famous example of conditioning or Sanskara in the twentieth century was the Pavlov Dog conditioning.

Pavlov rang the bell in front of the experimental dog and then gave him good food that he liked. He did this over and over again until whenever Pavlov rang the bell, the dog automatically began salivating. This is Sanskara or conditioning. We humans would like to believe that we are better off than that poor dog who was more like an automaton. But is that really true?

Continuing with how sanskara influences us everyday III

Look at your own life and it is not very difficult to notice that you yourself, with all your pride of being a superior, intelligent human are not so different than Pavlog's dog. Your family and societies and culture have merely replaced Pavlov, and your family culture, class culture, societal culture, education, ideologies have merely replaced Pavlov in ingraining you with all kinds of Sanskaras (conditioning) so that you react like an automaton just like the dog and salivate your ideas, beliefs, reactions, actions in your day to day life.

For instance, most Nepalis who are morning bed tea drinkers cannot stomach the idea of having a cup of coffee in the morning bed. Some may even get angry or disgusted or dissatisfied or become unhappy if a cup of coffee was handed over to them in their morning bed. And on the other hand, they would feel very contended if a good hefty glass of tea with the right mix of sugar and milk was offered to them when they wake up in the morning. They have been trained to drinking 'chiya' (the Nepali style tea) as soon as they wake up. Now, what is the difference between this reaction to 'chiya' and to Pavlov’s bell?

Most people do not even realize that they spend their whole life in a haze created by their Sanskara. What they see as true or false, or as right and wrong as what should be done or should not be done, what they believe is possible or impossible, what they like and dislike, the type of dress they prefer and the type of dress they believe is either incorrect or inappropriate or even impossible for them to wear, the type of food they prefer, the type of people they like or dislike, the type of people they get along very well with easily or the type of people they just cannot stand; are all results of their Sanskrars and they have no more truth to them than the belief many so called educated Nepalis have that if you touch your neck with your fingers you must blow your fingers otherwise you are bound to get goiter.

Time and again I have seen so-called educated Nepalis blow their fingers dedicatedly every time their fingers manage to touch their neck, so dedicatedly that one would almost believe that they really believed in this non-sense. When we ask them, their intellectual understanding makes them laugh at it but yet the very moment when and if their hands touch their neck they ever so dedicatedly blow on their hands unconsciously as if their life depends on it. This is what Sanskaras are.

Learning the right sanskaras

Not all Sanskaras are useless or valueless. Some Sanskaras were developed at times when such a Sanskara was useful for the smooth running of society; but many of them became outdated and lost their value as time went by. However, members of the society stick to things as if a curse will fall upon them if they abandoned it. Very often they continue in the name of Sanskriti (culture). After all Sanskriti (culture) is derived from the word Sanskara. And often a Sanskara subscribed by a Sanskriti (culture) a hundred years ago or even thousand years ago when that Sanskara had some value in that ancient context is adhered to as if it was their religion and Dharma, when not only is it merely an outmoded Sanskara but also it is not Dharma per se.

Some Sanskara as part of cultures are downright obstructive to growth and fulfillment of life, but because they are old Sanskriti (culture) people are reluctant or in some cases even afraid to relinquish them for better Sanskaras, which are more suitable to the time. There are Sanskaras which help in growth and psychological development, etc. For instance, the only different between a really educated person and country lout who has had no education are their sets of Sanskaras.

Most people think that education is a collection of information. Then a B.A. has (or is supposed to have) more information that a ten plus two and a Masters is supposed to have more information than a Baccalaureate. But this kind of education (the mere collection of more and more information) is useless and valueless. It doesn't help the MAs to live life better than the BAs. And actually if a ten plus twoer made efforts he could collect more information than a Master level student. In such a case BAs and MAs become just formalized institutionalized forces with little meaning. When Einstein was once asked what is education, he replied that education is what remains after everything that has been learnt at school and college has been forgotten. So what remains?

It is the way the person sees life and himself and others. It is the way she acts and reacts to the circumstances of life. It is the way she acts and reacts to the circumstances of life. It is the way she lives life. All these are based on good Sanskaras (Su-Sanskaras). When she meets another human being, she smiles and does Namaskar or says good morning etc. etc. That is Su-Sanskaras (good conditioning). She doesn't eat with a loud slurp that irritates those around her or disturbs them, that is Su-Sanskara. She helps others when they need help. That is Su-Sanskaras. She does not steal from others, cheat others, kill others, lie to others, etc. etc. All these are Su-Sanskaras, which helps in the smooth running of society and human relationships and helps in her own continuous happiness.

Sanskaras and information learned in schools and colleges

Sanskaras are what remains after everything that we have learnt at school or college (maths, algebra, trigonometry, et al.) has been forgotten. The twelfth century Egyptian Sufi Master, El Ghazali, whose thoughts influenced Western thinking a lot, but was not given much credence by Western civilization, knew about Sanksaras (conditioning) long before Pavlov. He says very clearly that education is not the collection of information but rather a change in consciousness. Just collecting more and more information does not necessarily change consciousness. In fact, you can collect more and more information but your consciousness may not change or transform or broaden. What did El Ghazali mean by change of consciousness?

He himself gives an apt example. He says a small child of four or five does not and cannot possibly know or understand what goes on in the mind of an adult, in the same way an uneducated adult, a country bumpkin with no education at all cannot and does not know what goes on in the mind of an educated adult. Likewise, an educated man does not and cannot know what goes on in the mind of a learned man (liked Einstein or Stephan Hawkins), and in the same way a learned man cannot and does not know what goes on in the mind (consciousness) of a sage (like the Buddha, Lao Tsu or Ghazali, Sankaracharya, Christ etc. etc.). Why? Because of the change of consciousness that distinguishes these levels of people.

For instance, due to experiences etc., the mind of an adult changes (hopefully!) from that of a former five-year-old child. This change in consciousness brought about by exposure to life and its experiences is what distinguishes the mind of an adult from that of a five year old child. And this change in consciousness is what remains after everything learned at school and college (information gathering mostly) has been forgotten. So El Ghazali and Einstein are saying the same thing in different words.

Now going back to Sanskaras. There are two types of changes in consciousness. One change in consciousness is basically change in Sanskaras. But if we are talking about evolutionary change in consciousness, i.e. change in consciousness in terms of growth and development of the mind (consciousness), we are talking about change of more and more refined Sanskaras. This is the difference in consciousness between a civilized educated person and an uneducated jungle man; and also between a four years old kid and a mature man. This is not necessarily an addition of more and more information.

Real freedom from sanskaras

A person can accumulate more and more information and yet Sanskaras can worsen more and more in terms of his consciousness/mind. But there is another type of change of consciousness which is not related to making the Sanskaras (conditioning) more and more refined, but rather freeing the mind of all Sanskaras (Sarva Sanskarachaya). This is the change of consciousness that produces a sage. I need to emphasize that there are degrees of freedom from Sanskaras (conditioning) and these degrees are what are termed called sage-hood. This is the measuring rod to evaluate different systems to sage-hood. Which system has a way or path to really free us from all Sanskaras, which system actually add some Sanskaras, while cutting some Sanskaras only in the name of cutting all Sankaras, and which system actually add more Sanskaras to the ones already existing in the name of Dharma (religion or freedom)? Here it is necessary to understand what exactly freedom from Sanskaras mean.

Freedom from Sanskaras means the person is not bound by Sanskaras but that does not mean that the person is incapable of using useful Sanskaras even when circumstances demand it. Freedom means ability to use or let go Sanskaras for the benefit of others and oneself. Many people who believe they are free from Sanskaras are merely grasping to the opposite type of Sanskaras or the dislike for the sanskaras etc.

Any kind of grasping is Trishna/Upadana. If I hold on to the opposite Sanskaras, ideas, beliefs, this is not true freedom from Sanskaras. For instance, I can hold on to one end of a stick. Let us take that as a metaphor to grasping to holding on to Sanskaras. Now, the stick represents the Sanskara or sanskaras and I am grasping on to it because I believe I want it this is craving and grasping (Trishna and Upadana). Now, I'm holding on to one end of the stick and some one tells me that this grasping is what causes my suffering. If I stop grasping on to the stick at the end and hold on to the stick by holding on to the opposite end of the stick, then I have not really let go of the stick or Sanskara/sanskaras/conditionings. I've just changed my position of grasping on to the other end of the stick, the opposite Sanskara. This is a very subtle part that most people and systems miss out.

If I like a certain sweet that is grasping, craving or clinging to the sweet. If I hate that sweet that is not really freedom from the sweet but just holding on to the sweet or Sanskara from the negative angle, i.e. the other end of the stick. When I do not hold on to/ grasp /crave /cling on to either end of the stick, I am free to use the stick as the situation demands.

Using the sanskaras without being chained to them

When I do not hold on to/ grasp /crave /cling on to either end of the stick, I am free to use the stick as the situation demands. This is freedom from Sanskaras.

There is a beautiful story in the Jataka told by the Buddha himself. Many of the stories of the Jataka told by the Buddha have made their way into the Pancha Tantra stories, the Aesop fables and many stories are used by Hindu swamis today in their teachings.

In this story, there was a venomous and very angry snake/naga living near a field where children of the village would come to play. One day a renunciant (a former incarnation of the Buddha when he was still a Bodhisattva on the path of the Buddhhood (Buddhata)) was passing by that place. This snake had killed many people in his anger. There was an encounter between the two, and the snake seeing the peaceful state of the renunciant asked him for some teaching. The renunciant taught him compassion and non-violence. The snake was convinced by the renunciant teaching and made a firm resolve to let go of all forms of violence.

So the next day, the snake came out of its pit and was peacefully basking in the sun. Some kids came along to play in the field nearby. At first, when they saw the infamous snake, they all became frightened. But then some of the kids noticed that the snake did not attack them as usual, as the snake did not respond in the usual way. So he pelted the snake hesitatingly with some stones but the naga didn’t show any signs of being perturbed .Then another kid threw more stones at the naga and yet another boy threw stones and the snake’s bones were broken and it was wounded very badly. But still the snake did not get angry and attack the kids. A few days later, the renunciant, who had taught the snake non-violence and compassion, came by to see how the snake was faring.

But he saw the Naga was deeply wounded and all his back bones broke and asked the Naga/snake what had happened. The Naga replied, I followed your instruction to the word and did not attack the children even when they pelted me with sticks and stones. I didn’t get angry with them. But look what happened to me when I followed your teachings.

Then the renunciant told the Naga that he was sad for what happened to the Naga, however, he said, I taught you not to lose your temper and kill the children. I didn’t teach you to not pretend to be angry or not to frighten the children away. If you had just pretended to be angry and fanned your hood as if you were really angry with them, the kids would all have run off and left you alone and you wouldn’t have had to go through this.

So this is letting go of anger and being able to use it when necessary.

More on using your sanskaras

To continue with the story of the Naga. The Naga was holding on to the concept of the opposite of anger so it was afraid to even pretend that he was angry for fear that he might really lose his cool completely and revert back to his old anger. So this is what freedom from Sanskaras means.

Most people do not understand this point. They think being free from anger and other Sanskaras mean being like the snake, not being able to even pretend that he has lost his cool. People are afraid to even pretend because psychologically if people are not really free from the Sanskaras then they know it subconsciously and they subconsciously know that if they even try to pretend, the hidden Sanskaras might raise its head again. So they are afraid even to pretend. But a person is really free from the Sanskara if s/he can use that Sanskara as the situation demands without fear of the Sanskara raising its head again as it's hold on the mind has been completely destroyed. If a person is really free from a Sanskara then the person is free to use and or use the Sanskara as the situation demands.

This brings us to a point about an enlightened person about which most people of the Indian Subcontinent are confused about because of the vague lay person's cultural concepts about how an enlightened being should or must behave. These concepts are based on vague notions which are in turn based on misunderstanding of improperly understood technical words imbibed through the activities of the culture at large. There is also the difference between the behavior of an enlightened being as understood within Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Most people in the Indian Subcontinent (after Buddhism vanished from the Indian Subcontinent and Hinduism, which is an offshoot of the interaction between Vedic Bramanism and Buddhism, began to rise) have a vague concept that an enlightened being is like a stone, without feelings and not sensitive to the outer world, almost like a stone statue which is feeling-dead. A feeling-dead person is not an enlightened person according to Mahayan Buddhism. According to some commentaries of the Hindu text Yoga Vasistha, it is very clear that as the person climbs up the ladder of Hindu-Vedantic enlightment, he becomes more and more withdrawn from the world which is here and now. He finally arrives at a state where he is so absorbed in the inner Braman/Atman that he virtually cannot perform even the basic needs. Thus, it is said if people put food in his mouth he will eat, otherwise he will be incapable of eating. More on this later.

More on using your sanskaras (II)

Stories of Poonja Swami of South India also confirms to this kind of state, which in modern psychology is called dissociative and considered a state of mental dis-balance, where the person is no more in proper contact with the real world of here and now, and more and more absorbed in his own mental world. This is the antithesis of the Buddhist enlightenment, and especially the enlightenment of the Mahayana/Bodhisatvayana. Even in the Theravada Suttas, we never find the Buddha so withdrawn into his enlightened mind that his disciples had to put food into his mouth. In his entire life, except when he was in deep meditation, we never find the Buddha in a state oblivious to this world of here and now (Drishtadharma). In fact, in his entire life he was a very here and now person who lived fully in the here and now, sensitive to the world here and now.

In the Bodhisattva way, also called Mahayana, which consists of two Highways called the Paramitayana and the Vajrayana, the deeper one travels the path of enlightenment, the more sensitive the person becomes to the rich display of all the hues of life and the world here and now, and becomes more richly aware of the world here and now and less and less lost in her own mental world. It can be seen that this is the antithesis of what the Yoga Vasistha commentaries describe. If one does not become more and more sensitive to the world here and now, there is no possibility of Karuna (compassion) to develop, as compassion is based on seeing and feeling the suffering of the world (self and others).

If we become dissociative or lost in our own mental world (no matter what name you give it - Atman, Brahma or God - we cannot even feel or see the gnawing suffering (Dukha) of the world as we are not present there. In such a case, such a person cannot empathize or sympathize with the sufferings of others. In such a case, we cannot possibly have compassion (Karuna) towards the suffering of the world with whom we cannot even empathize or sympathize as we will have lost contact with that world of suffering. As Karuna is one of the very foundational corner stone of the way of Mahayana, there can be no Mahayana practice without it. And practice of Karuna makes one more and more sensitive to the fine innuendoes and conotations of suffering other beings are going through.

More on using your sanskaras (III)

According to the Bodhisatvayana (Mahayana), an enlightened being is not someone that has a mind that is neutral and without feeling, like a piece of a stone statue. An enlightened being is a living dynamic being living in the here and now fully. If she is living fully in the here and now, she is also fully aware of sensitive to feels the pain and suffering of the world (Sansara).

If she cannot feel the pain and suffering of the world, she cannot have Karuna (compassion). Either she is in the world or she is dissociated from the world and there are degrees to these to states. To the degree, she (the enlightened being) is in the world, she also feels its pain and suffering; she is sensitive to its travails. But it is also a natural result that to the degree she's sensitive to and of the world she forgets herself. This is the meaning of Karuna (compassion). And to the degree, she forgets herself, which depends upon the degree she's in here and now, which means the degree she's sensitive of the real world, is the degree that she herself becomes free from suffering thereby by forgetting herself and along with it her personal pains, neurosis, suffering. This is the meaning of Anatma in Buddhism.

Dogen, the eleventh century founder of Japanese Soto Zen Buddhism, said, 'To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to FORGET The Self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by the hundred thousand things'. The phrase 'hundred thousand things' is an expression in the far eastern cultures like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc., for all the experiences of life which is in effect the Sansara. To be enlightened by the hundred thousand things one needs to forget the self. To forget the self is the meaning of Anatma. There is to no more feeling experientially that "I" am the center of my world from where I experience the world separate from me. This is weltenschauung, which is the Zeitgeist of the average man of today and that has many implications.

If the world is out there separate from a real Me who exist in here, 'I' take precedence to the 'World out there'. Thus, the world becomes a consumer good out there to be used for my exploitation, but there are others who may want it too for their consumption and exploitation. Thus, I begin to hate or dislike that other 'I' who is the world for 'Me' anyway and thus can easily be another consumer item to be exploited for consumption.

Perpetuating moha is not enlightenment

So 'I' get angry with that other 'I' who too wants to consume the same thing that 'I' want. That angry 'I' may be extremely attached to the world out there which 'I' want to consume as my own. This is attachment, desire or greed.

Or I may feel this world is too much for me. It burns me, either way. So I withdraw from this world into my own 'I' or self and become dissociated from this 'terrible' world. To the degree 'I' withdraw into my own world and become less and less sensitive to the world (Samsara). I seem to become more and more free from natural suffering entangled by anger, hatred, dislike of the world or attachment, like, greed of the world. However, this is a false freedom. This is just moving from one prison, the prison of Kama and Krodha (attachment and hatred) into the prison of Moha (insensitive stupidity). That is why the Buddha rejected all such methods where the self is withdrawn from the outer world of here and now into an inner self, while the suffering (Dukha) of Kama (desire, attachment) and Krodha (anger and hatred) seems more pronounced.

It is not correct to think that Moha is not suffering (Dukha). If Moha, delusion, stupidity means freedom from Dukha, the all drug addicts are free from suffering. If you are shown something that you dislike, like your enemy or a piece of shit, your reaction is to become angry, irritated, etc. This is what is called Krodha/ Dvesha (anger, hatred). If I show you a beautiful rose or somebody you like, you will like it. This is called Kamacchanda/kamaraga/kamavasana/lobha (attachment, greed, desire). If I show you an ordinary pencil, your reaction is neutral, you neither like it or dislike it. This is called Moha, which can be translated into English as dullness, stupidity, confusion or inability to be sensitive.

State of moha opposite of here and now

Staying in a neutral, dull state with no attachment, hatred or dislike towards anything is Moha and this is not the Buddhist enlightenment state. Nor was the Buddha in that state. Moha is also a Sanskara and remaining in the state of Moha which appear to be neutral (tatastha) is not really freedom from all Sanskaras. To be truly free from Sanskaras, one needs to be free from Moha also. If one is free from Moha, one is alert to the world here and now, not lost in some inner world, imagined or real.

In the Indian Subcontinent, after Buddhism vanished due to the Islamic invasion, which literally destroyed Buddhism and all its support, etc., it has become the culture to believe that enlightened beings are like stones, who are neutral and feeling-dead to the world of here and now. But such a state is retrogressive going backwards towards the animal and mineral kingdom, rather than progressing towards growth which should even with simple logic become more aware, more sensitive to your surroundings.

As long as this 'I' is considered as the centre of your world, the only way I can be free from suffering which appears to be coming from the world out there, is to withdraw from that insufferable world into oneself. This result is the same whether one capitalize it as Oneself or calls it oneself. This is at best only a temporary solution which only blocks the suffering temporarily as the root cause of that suffering has not been destroyed but only blocked off.

Secondly, in such a modus operandi there may not appear to be suffering as it is temporarily blocked off but the downside is that there is no authentic joy too. But it is just a dull state like a desert-wasteland. This is Moha. However, this is not a state free from suffering and joy but a state so dull that one does not feel either the suffering or the joy. This is not really different from an alcoholic who gets fully inebriated so as not to feel the suffering of his/her personal life. Well, the guzzler will not feel any suffering as long as she remains drowned in alcohol but neither will she feel any joy too - a joy that is the result of real freedom from suffering. So freedom from all Sanksaras would have to include freedom from the Sanskara called Moha too. The second method of freeing oneself from Sanskaras is to see that 'I' am not the centre of the world but am just a Sanskara like all the Sanskaras and am not really different.

Vipassana in Pali or Vipashyana in Sanskrit found in different Buddhist systems 

The method of freeing oneself from Sanskaras is to see that 'I' am not the centre of the world but am just a Sanskara like all the other Sanskaras and am not really different which appears to be out there separate from me (due to Sanskara). This is the true meaning of Vipashayana. The now famous word Vipassana is only the Pali word for the Sanskrit Vipashyana and both the Pali and Sanskrit traditions define Vipashyana as Visheshena passati as seeing, especially seeing holistically (Vividena). And Vipashayana is found in all forms of Buddhism as its main meditation practice and is not the special property of the Theravada tradition. Nor is there only one method of Vipashyana which is taught in the centre in Budhanilkanta in Kathmandu as taught by Sri Goenka ji. Even the Theravada texts do not validate such historically misleading notion.

There are many other methods of Vipassana of the Theravada traditions still being taught by authentic teachers in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, and Burma certainly is not the only Theravada country where somehow the so called pure Vipassana/Vipashyana methods of the Buddha survived. Another such misleading notion, which is rampant amongst these Acharyas (who should know better) is that they spread the quaint notion that Vipassana doesn't exist in Mahayana Vajrayana. Needless to say that these Theravada Acharyas have made such concepts based solely on their ten days or more retreats and without studying their own Pali literature � what to say of any study of Mahayana systems and texts.

Well, the Pali texts themselves contradict the quaint notion that only what Sri Goenka ji teaches is the so called pure and true Vipassana. Even the Buddha himself taught many forms of Vipassana and the many Ajhans(Acharyas) of Thailand and Laos are living proofs of that fact. They all teach Vipassana according to the Theravada methods and none of them are even closely like the method of Goenka ji, but actually quite different from his methods. And what is more interesting is that even the Pali Suttas and their Burmese commentaries and the Athakathas (which are older commentaries) validate the method of Vipashayana as found in all forms of Mahayana and Vajrayana.

We shall go into greater details into them when we come to the Marga Satya (the truth of the Path of the Noble Truths Chatvari Arya Satyani). Right now, we are dealing with the second Noble Truth (Arya Satya), which is the Samudya Satya or the cause of suffering.

Vipashyana for recognizing and eliminating sanskaras

In the process of understanding the root cause of suffering we began to see into the twelve links of interdependent origination (Dwadas Nidan). And of the twelve links, we have finished Avidya (nescience or ignorance), we are currently analyzing Sanskara (conditioning). Without Vipashyana, one cannot dislodge the Sanskara, which posits the 'I' as the centre of our world. That is why Vipashyana is the one and only way (Ekayana Magyo). But we must be careful here to fully understand that we are talking about Vipashyana as the Ekayan Maggo (the one and only way or the only way leading to freedom or Mukti from all the Sanskaras) and that Ekayano Maggo does not by any means the one and only special "special" meditation methos taught by any one particular Master. There are many ways and methods that Vipashyana can be done and has historically been done since the time of the Buddha himself.

Vipashyana is not a name of one particular method of doing Vipashyana but a generic term for many methods. A couple of years ago we went into great details to define Vipashyana according to both Theravada and Mahayana traditions and we shall go into them again when we come to the Marga Satya (the Noble Truth of the Path). Suffice to say in a very simplified and short way that Vipashyana is any method that helps in seeing (Pashyana or Passati) specially (Vi) that all Dharmas (phenomena) are not really the way we see them but rather Anitya/Amicca (impermanent), Dukha (suffering), not me not my (Anatma/Anatta Anatmiya) and Sunya/Suyya (Empty).

It is through mindfulness and discerning awareness called Smriti Samprajanya that we become aware of our own Sanskaras. Without Smriti Samprajanya (mindfulness and discerning awareness) which is a key element in Vipashyana/Vipassana meditations, no one can possibly become aware of our hidden Sanskaras lodged so deep in our unconscious. Normally, our Sanskaras are very powerful because they are lodged very deeply in our unconscious mind. Because they are so entrenched rather strongly in our unconscious mind we tend not to be aware of them. Because we are not even aware of them they are very powerful.

Actually, most of them are more unconscious than subconscious in the sense we do not even know about them and are not aware of them and they are not brought into awareness easily. But exactly because they are in our unconscious mind, they are more powerful in controlling us. Even in modern psychotherapy, one of the main objectives of psychotherapists is to bring up ones unconscious material (Sanskaras) up to the conscious mind, i.e. to help patient become aware of them.

Awareness key to eliminating sanskaras

The founder of Gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, says, "Awareness is Curative". So even just to become aware of what Sanskara we have and how it has influenced my behavior, how it is controlling us, how it defines what I can see and what I want to see or sometimes cannot see, how I perceive the world out there, how I interpret the world of my experience, etc. etc. can in itself be curative. That is why the practice of Smriti Samprajanya (mindfulness and discerning awareness) is so crucial to becoming free from our Sanskaras.

Meditation systems not based on Smriti Samprajanya cannot help us become aware of our Sanskaras. If the meditation is not about remaining mindful with discerning awareness (watching what comes up neutrally with mindfulness or Smriti, and discern (not thinking)), the fact that whatever arises is impermanent (anitya) and therefore not some permanent, real thing that I cannot be free from, that it is suffering or the cause of my suffering (Dukha), which is what we were never told to realize and thus continue to propagate as if that Sanskara was dear and near to me, and that it is neither me or mine (Anatma Anatmiya), therefore I can gently let it go even though until now I thought that that Sanskara or these constellation of Sanskaras were what made 'ME'; then such a mediation can help us free ourselves from those Sanskaras which are one of the major cause and conditions of our suffering.

Such meditations are called Vipashyana/Vipassana. Other meditations like concentration on some light on the third eye or some object (no matter what the object is) do not and will not necessarily make us aware of our unconscious Sanskaras etc.. And thus they will not help free us from those Sanskaras. Even in various methods of psychotherapies, one of the major elements used is to help us become aware of our unconscious elements, which are causing us problems. It is very important to understand that if we cannot become aware of our Sanskaras and their workings, we cannot possibly become free from them in anyway whatsoever, even according to modern forms of psychotherapy.

The more we are unaware of these Sanskara constellations, the more powerful they become in controlling us and our life, the more powerful they become in making our lives dysfunctional. If we want to free ourselves from these Sanskaras, which are making our life dysfunctional, the first and foremost step is to bring up into our awareness what or which set of Sanskara are causing these dysfunctional behaviors in us.

Recognizing and eliminating sanskaras 

In modern psychotherapeutic language, they (Sanskaras) may be called complexes, traumas, etc., but all such catagories are subsumed under Sanskaras. If we are not even fully aware of what Sanskaras control us, there is no way we can become free from them.

The more aware we are of any of our Sanskara/conditionings, the weaker they become in controlling us. It is those Sanskaras of which we are so totally unaware that we tend to even deny the fact that they are in us; that are the most powerful in controlling us like puppets on strings. These Sanksaras which are in the unconscious mind have more power in controlling us from inside than those Sanskaras that we are aware of. Therefore, from this point of view which is also the point of view of modern psychotherapy, Sanskaras that we are not aware of and thus may think we do not have them, or may even deny we have them when somebody else points it out to us, are the strongest, most powerful and most dangerous in the way it controls our behavior, our views, our beliefs and the way we experience our world and how we interpret our world. But because it is in the unconscious mind, we are not only totally unaware of them and how they can control us but also it is not so easy to be aware of them even if we wanted to become aware of them. However, their influence in us is seen by those around us and those who are trained to see it, as they raise their heads up in our daily behaviors and activities, actions and reactions to the situations of life.

They usually tend to show their heads above the deep in times of stress and problems when our controlled, learned, trained balance tends to go out of wack. But if you train yourself systematically in Srimit-Samprajanay (mindfulness and discerning awareness) then to the degree you have trained yourself; you can become more and more aware of their presence. And as Fritz Per, the founder of Gestalt therapy says, "Awareness itself is curative"; becoming aware of these Sanskaras and the role they play in our lives is the first step towards becoming free from them. However, to be truly free from these Sanskaras, it is not enough to be vaguely aware of them through some mindfulness meditation learned from books, although even that has some benefits, but one needs to learn the practices of Smriti-Samprajanay systematically in a proper way.

Categorization of sanskaras

This is the true meaning and purpose of Vipashyana/Vipassana excerpt last week's article:

To be truly free from Sanskaras, it is not enough to be vaguely aware of them through some mindfulness meditation learned from books, although even that has some benefits, but one needs to learn the practices of Smriti-Samprajanay systematically in a proper way.

It is Sanskaras based on and fed by Avidhya (nescience), which produces Trishna (craving), the seventh link, and then grasping, the eighth link of the chain of interdependent origination/causation(Pratitya Samayutpad) triggered by a series of other factors in the chain. And this seventh link, which is Trishna (craving) of which we will discuss later, which is the independent cause of all our suffering, of which too we will touch upon although we have already gone into greater details about it when we took on the first Noble Truth (Arya Satya), which is the truth of suffering (Dukha Satya).

Right now, we are discussing the second Noble Truth, which is the truth of origination(Samudaya Satya). In the Abhidharma of Sarvastivada and the Abhidharma of the Theravada, we find various categorizations of the Sanskaras but in an article like this, we need not go into such details. Suffice it to say that the Abhidharma categorizes 46 Sanskaras called 46 Chaittas or Chaitasikas (mental factors), while the Theravada Abhidharma categorizes 54 Chetasiks in Kamavachara (the realm of desire). But all of these can be subsumed into the three major Sanskaras. They are: Kama (attachment, desire, like, greed), Krodha or Dvesha (anger, hatred, irritation, dislike) and Moha(dullness, stupidity, non clarity).

Their opposites are also Sanskaras in a way, however, we do not eliminate them or pacify them, which is the correct meaning of prashamana. Actually the purpose is not to completely eliminate all Sanskaras as that would make humans into total unfeeling stones or perhaps a more appropriate analogy in the modern world would be a cyborg or a robot with no feelings at all. It is not the objective of Buddhism to produce the borgs like those found in Star Trek, who are more like mechanical computer beings with no feelings at all. The Buddha or an arhat or high level bodhisattvas who are bodhisattvas above the eighth Bhumi are not like the Queen Borg in star trek who is more like some sort of a rational computer machine who is emotion-dead. Such borg-like beings could not possibly have any compassion at all. Without compassion there is no Mahayana Enlightenment of the lowest level, what to speak of a Buddha.

Sanskaras' link to karma

It is not the objective of Buddhism to produce Borgs like those found in Star Treks, who are mechanical computer beings with no feelings. A Buddha or an Arhat is not like the Queen Borg in Star Trek, who is some sort of a rational semi-machine but emotionally dead. Such a state of mind with no compassion (Karuna), no empathy, no sympathy or in the language of Star Trek, where compassion empathy sympathy becomes irrelevant is a monstrosity still immersed in Moha (mental confusion).

A person can be very sharp in linear thinking but still be in Moha, where his own mental activity only confuses him more and more. Such beings that are emotionally dead, neutral to all feeling or incapable of feeling like love, compassion, empathy, sympathy but have immense intellectual rational acuity are monstrosities rather than enlightened beings.

In Mahayana, the purpose of all practice is to pacify all the negative Sanskaras, which is what the word prashamana means normally, and develop all the good qualities already inherent within our true nature, which is called Buddha Nature. Our Buddha Nature has infinite positive qualities, which should be developed if a person is to be enlightened. If a practitioner practices types of meditation or paths which fosters remaining in the neutral feeling- dead state of Moha, such a method is certainly not going to develop the inherent qualities already present in our Buddha nature. Without their full development, one does not move in the direction of the Buddhist enlightenment. However, an integral part of the path of the Buddhist enlightenment is dealing with the Sanskaras, which are contributing factors to our suffering (Dukha).

Klesha (emotional defilement) is very closely related to Karma because all our Sanskaras are related to Karma. We shall go into greater details about Karma when we come to the tenth link of the chain of interdependent origination (Pratithya Samputpada) but before that, let it be said here that Karma does not mean fate or some programme handed down by some God out there, but your own mental, physical etc., actions that you perform yourself and their results. It is your own actions which conditions you. Even when two people go through the same experiences they would/could interpret that very same experience in two different ways. It is that interpretation of that experience which conditions (Sanskara) the two persons in two different ways. That interpretation is one's own individual mental action or Karma and it is this interpretation which contribute to creating our Sanksaras.

World of words

It is Karma and Klesha which bind us to Dukha (suffering). It is Karma and Klesha (emotional defilements) which causes craving, the eighth link in the chain of interdependent origination. That is why Nagarjuna says Karma Klesha Chayaan Moksha which means liberation from suffering is attained when Karma and Klesha are pacified. He goes on to say Karma Klesha Vikalpita, which means Karma Klesha arise from Vikalpa. Now what is Vikalpa?

The word Vikalpa is usually translated as concepts or conceptual thinking in English. In the Abhidharma, it is defined as Vishaya (object), Kalpana (imagination); from Vishaya Kalpana we have Vikalpa. So technically defined Vikalpa means the imagination or imagined ideas of the objects (Vishaya) of our sensory experiences, experienced by the six senses. So Vikalpa is the imagination or fantasies we have about the objects of our experiences, which believe in as true.

These imaginations or thoughts or concepts are heavily based on verbal thinking; that is why Vikalpa can also be defined as verbal thinking. Man has created words and language which makes him more sophisticated than his other animal brothers. But it is this very language and verbal thinking based on the language which takes him away from reality and this initiates suffering. It is as if man created the motorbike to ride on it to facilitate his transportation but somehow the motorbike begins to ride on him.

Man created language and words to communicate but these words and verbal thinking based on those words to communicate began to define his world. Our words, language, language structure defines what we can see and what we fail to see, what we experience and how we experience it and how we interpret it. A scientific research has been done to see the effect of different languages in the brain and it was found that different cells in the brain fired when different languages were spoken. Although the full implication of this is yet to be evaluated, we can safely say that our language structures do define the world of our experiences.

The Eskimos have around fifty or so words for snow whereas the English or Nepali language have just a few words. Now, as a Nepali, it is easy to see that because of our language we cannot even imagine let alone experience fifty types of snow. Therefore, when an average Nepali goes to Alaska, s/he would fail to see more than what s/he calls 'hiu/snow'. We can guarantee that s/he will not experience/see more than one (or two kinds of snow). But an Eskimo would see and distinguish and experience fifty or so different types of snow.

The real seeing

An Eskimo can see, distinguish and experience fifty or so different types of snow. But that's not all. Even your Weltenschauung/world view i.e. the way you think, feel, experience and interpret your world, the world of your experience is heavily colored by your language.

Then Nagarjuna says Karma and Klesha (emotional defilement) arise from Vikalpa (verbal and conceptual thinking). Conceptual and verbal thinking relies heavily on words and languages. We cannot possibly have thoughts and concepts without words and language. Now what is Vikalpa, verbal thinking or concepts?

The Pragyapradip of Bhavavivek says, 'Dukhaadukha sakala kalpana vikalpebhya'. This means, - all imaginations like happiness and suffering etc. etc. arise from Vikalpa (conceptual thinking). And Vikalpa (verbal-conceptual thinking) itself is, as we have said, the imagination of the objects of our experience (the Kalpana/imagination of vishaya/objects of the six senses). This imagination is heavily colored by our Sanskaras (conditionings). Thus, when I 'see' Ram Lal, I may see him as a horrible man, a cut throat, a crook, an enemy or someone I hate, but when Anita looks at or sees the same Ram Lal, she may see a handsome, smart, intelligent, adorable, lovable young man.

Now that raises two questions. First of all, how can the same Ram Lal be both lovable and hated, and secondly, who or what or which one is the Real Ram Lal?

Obviously, Anita and I see Ram Lal according to our Sanskaras, which label him as either loveable or a cut-throat. But then, it is our Sanskaras- colored reading of Ram Lal and not the real Ram Lal as he really is (Yathabhuta). Ram Lal is just a unit of our world but Ram Lal is our world. That is how we experience the world and we never see, experience, know the world as it is (Yathabhut or Tathata).

When I see a lump of shit, I dislike it, I find it disgusting, and that is based on my conceptual thinking (vikalpa), the imagination of the object (lump of shit here) acquired (sanskaras/conditioning) through familial and socio-cultural training. I've been taught by my parents, society and my language that a lump of shit is disgusting, yucky et al. but how many mothers have seen their little infant gleefully play around with their own lump of shit and enjoying it too as if it were a lump of clay, until she shrieks sky high to the infant's total surprise?

All sanskaras are learnt

When I see a lump of shit, I dislike it. This is based on my conceptual thinking. I have been taught by my parents, society and my language that a lump of shit are disgusting. It has become such a strong part of my conditioning (Sanskara) that I take it as a fact, without even questioning that a lump of shit is disgusting, it is yuck. But how many mothers have seen their small infant play around with their own lump of shit as if it was a lump of clay and enjoying it too before she shrieked to the infant's surprised.

If a lump of shit was really, really yucky as we feel it now, then the infant too should have felt it without the mother shrieking to the infant to stop it. So we can see that the yucky-ness of the lump is a conceptual process learnt by us (as infants) and acquired rather than innate. This example is a very good example of how concepts can be so strong that they overwhelmingly override facts and create their own facts. Even after intellectually understanding the actual fact a lump of shit will still be so strongly yucky to many people that even the thought of it can make them puke.

Now, in the same way, if I showed you a bouquet of roses you would smile and be attracted towards it. But if I showed you some weed flowers, you would not react in the same way even though if we were to waive aside our conditioned conceptual reflex towards what we have been taught as beautiful roses and dirty weeds, we can see that some of the weed flowers are as beautiful if not even more beautiful than the rose.

Related to this, below is a very famous Haiku by a famous Zen Master and haiku poet of Japan, Basho {1644-1694}:

Yoku mireba

Nazuna hana saku

Kakine kana; which means When I look carefully/nazuna is blooming/beneath the hedge.

Nobody notices a Nazuna (a weed flower which lies full bloom under the hedge. Why? Conditioning (Sanskara) is the answer and that is reinforced by our conceptual, habitual patterns learned by us through training within our family-culture-constellation. So the roses is a "wow" to us while a Nazuna is to be trampled on or weeded out and not even noticed. If you put a Nazuna flower (weed) and a rose in front of an infant, she would not see the difference we see between them because she has not been adulterated by her socio-cultural norms.

Categorizing sanskaras

A rose is not really a rose but what the word rose charged with all my socio-cultural-linguistic Sanskaras make it out to be. A Nazuna from Basho's haiku in the previous article) is not a Nazuna and we do not 'see' it as it is (Yathabhutha). The object rose or nazuna or a lump of shit are not experienced as they really are or as it is (Yathabhuta). But they (the Vishaya or object) are coloured by our imagination (Kalpana) and so we experience the imagination of the object or Vikalpa(the Vishaya Kalpana). So we do not per se experience the world as it really is per se but more through our own conceptual goggles. So the lump of shit is yucky, Ram Lal is cute handsome or cut-throat as the case maybe.

So now going back to the more classical category, when I see a lump of shit, I dislike it and that is hate, anger, etc. called dvesha, krodha, etc. When I am shown a beautiful bouquet of roses I like it for the same kind of reasons I dislike the lump shit. I reach out for it, I find it attractive etc. etc. and this is greed, desire and attachment, etc. etc. called Lobha, Kama and Raga, etc. etc. If someone were to show me or you an ordinary pencil, I would neither like it nor dislike it but react neutrally to it. Now, this Moha, often translated into English as stupidity, dullness, insensitiveness or confusion. It's a kind of mental state where one is incapable of being aesthetically sensitive to the fine aesthetical qualities (called rasa in Sanskrit) of our experiences, like as if we were in a very subtle unrecognizable stupor, as if our mind were dulled or mesmerized.

When we are feeling drowsy, tipsy, drugged, it is easy to see that the mind is in a state of Moha but in normal states, we do not easily notice it, but normally when we are in a so-called neutral state like when we experience an ordinary pencil, we are in a state of Moha. Many spiritual systems mistake this neutrality as some kind of an enlightened state. But that kind of neutrality comes at the expense of loss or clarity or by dulling one's awareness. If awareness is keen, sharp and sensitive, it cannot also be insensitive to feelings. Neutrality comes only when awareness becomes insensitive. Any loss of sensitivity is a marker for loss of awareness is called Moha, which is confusion-stupidity-dullness-unclearness are all rolled in one.