MEHER BABA ON SANSKARAS
A yogi, even after he attains the highest yogic state in his study, does not reach freedom, because there are still for him the sanskaras (meaning impressions) to finish up with.
Sanskaras mean the impressions left behind when doing any good or bad action. Even a thought creates a sanskara. Talking, hearing, thinking, seeing, eating, sleeping, etc. – in fact, even Subtle movements – cause sanskaras or impressions, which have to be experienced without a single hitch, with a mechanical precision, unless removed away root and branch by a Master’s grace or blessing.
Our present existence and all the related experiences of pain and pleasure, virtue and sin about it, are the results of our past sanskaras, or amal, as termed by the Muslims.
The very breath we breathe, the eyelid we twitch, the finger we lift, are all due to past impressions. Our present existence is the mere unfoldment of our past Subtle impressions in Gross form. And again, it is our present Gross actions that recreate impressions, and so on. A good word or a good action has its good result compressed in an impression – suppose in the form of a circle – and a bad word or action likewise stores up a bad result in a similar Subtle form.
That is, good actions in this life necessitate acquiring a happier state in the next formation. And similarly, a bad action in the present life brings about a bad result in the same way. There is that tie, which has not been dispensed away in any case.
Good actions bind a man with a golden chain, and bad actions with iron and spiked chains. But the chain is there in either case. The man has not been set free. Yoga or other studies are good actions, and they give the person a better chance in the next incarnation. But they do not set him free, or give Liberation. To have Liberation, one must neither have virtue nor vice on one’s credit or debit side. But it should be a clean slate, to reach the state described in an Urdu couplet:
‘We shall not go either to heaven or hell;
But on the day of final judgement
we shall stand gazing at the face of Muhammad.’
And this is impossible to reach without the grace of the Guru. For a Master, it is the work of a moment, though. The vast and almost infinite impressions of a person may be likened to a heap of dry grass, which it is impossible for the person to clean out. Even the process of cleaning out without a Master, that is, through yoga, etc., means contracting impressions again in different forms.
But this heap of dry grass is a work of a moment for a lighted match, which only the Perfect Master possesses. The Perfect Master uses his matches, but mostly for the members of his Circle only, and thus at the right moment brings them to his own level in less than a second. But even those who have no direct connection with a Perfect Master can derive the greatest personal benefit merely through the contact and company of his personality:
‘One moment, half a moment, and even half of a half of a moment in contact with a Perfect Master, and ten million of your sins are washed away.’
4 October 1922, Manzil-e-Meem,
Bombay, RD p70-80
About Meher Baba’s flag:
The flag should be of seven colors…
Do you know why I suggested a seven color flag? The seven colors represent the seven planes of consciousness. Red should be at the bottom of the flag, and sky blue at the top. Arrangement of the other five colors is your decision…
Besides representing the seven planes of consciousness, these colors also represent sanskaras – impressions. The colors in the flag signify man’s rise from the grossest of impressions of lust and anger, symbolised by red, to the culmination in the highest state of spirituality and oneness with God, symbolised by sky blue.
23 April 1924,
Without the sanskaras being totally eliminated, there is no spiritual Liberation. To dispose of sanskaras, one has to create reverse sanskaras which are opposite in nature. Opposite impressions reverse the sanskaric makeup of the mind. To remove stains, soap or lime is necessary. But the mind never dies of itself.
For example, suppose your hand is to be broken. It is difficult and almost impossible for you to twist your own hand enough to break it. But if a strong fellow comes along and twists it, your hand fractures in a second. That powerful man is the Sadguru, who is required to deal with the mind and all its mischief.
But a Sadguru is not to be found so easily. It requires love, the search for Truth amidst hardships and sufferings, and undergoing untold difficulties. These draw the Sadguru to the deserving ones.
If by hurting a person temporarily, you provide a permanent healing, this apparently cruel act of yours is, in fact, a blessing. In the same way, suppose that by rendering a temporary healing, you create a permanent hurt. This apparently blessed act of yours is, in fact, a curse. A doctor cutting open a boil and causing so much pain to the sufferer is considered an enemy who has hurt one. But when the pus is removed, the patient is relieved, and the doctor is considered a real friend who helped.
So the Sadguru is at first apparently considered an enemy when he tries to remove sins and wipe out desires and sanskaras of the aspirant by forcing strict discipline on him, renunciation, etc. But when the bliss of union with the beloved God is attained through his grace, he is considered a true friend.
9 December 1927,
All thoughts, words and acts cause sanskaras or impressions on one’s mind. Sanskaras are of seven different colors, the same as those of a rainbow.
Ordinary good thoughts cause impressions of a light blue color.
When such thoughts are put into actions, either in words or deeds, the impressions generally caused are of a deep blue color.
Anger and wicked deeds like murder cause sanskaras of red color. Red sanskaras are the worst, and they are difficult to be wiped out.
Intense spiritual longing gives rise to sanskaras of the green color. Just as red sanskaras are the worst, so the green ones are the best.
before July 1930,
Ms 2:7 p8 (July 1930)
The obstacles to Illumination are certain mental tendencies and desires connected with egoism, which in the East are called sanskaras. The sum total of these tendencies and desires creates the illusion of a separate self at war with or isolated from other selves. Evolution, or the fall into matter, made the creation of such a separate self necessary. Otherwise, spiritual consciousness could never be attained in the flesh.
In the beginning, before evolution began, we were united with the source of all, and (have) a consequent conscious longing to return to it through a succession of lives and forms. The conscious return to the source during physical incarnation only became possible when consciousness became equilibrated in Gross matter.
22 May 1932,
Other versions: PM p169-171, LM5 p1626-1627
Q. What makes us wake up?
Baba: Impressions, sanskaras. They prick you – ‘Get up! Spend us!’ Sanskaras are impressions. You become angry. Your mind immediately gets the impression of anger. Now this impression is on the subconscious mind. But it remains stamped deep in your subconscious mind. Unless these impressions go, mind cannot become still. Now, these impressions must be spent or experienced in the Gross form.
Q. What do you mean by sanskaras to be spent? Can they be worked out on the Subtle plane?
Baba: No. Some, very rarely, go by themselves. Mostly they have to be experienced in the Gross. You think, you act – all these create sanskaras, which you must work out. It is a long process, this working out in innumerable forms.
18 January 1937,
Aw 16:2 p20
What, really, are sanskaras? Impressions is the literal meaning. Whatever impression the mind receives is called sanskaras, and then these sanskaras again have to be spent and experienced. All your actions and desires are given shape by these impressions.
For example, in a camera you take different impressions of one certain movement, and many impressions shape that one movement. When you see one movement in the film, you know how many pieces go to make up that one film. These are, let us say, sanskaras. They are imprinted on the mind.
Now, naturally, any action, any thought, any desire will have its impression. Good actions, good desires, good thoughts will have good sanskaras. Bad actions, bad thoughts, bad desires will have bad sanskaras. Both good or bad, both bind, because both have to be experienced. Both have to be spent.
So it is impossible to be rid of sanskaras by one’s own self, because whatever you do, it binds. You may think the highest thought – it binds. So too does pity, compassion, virtue, gratitude; all these help to bind. I pity, I am grateful, I fast, I pray, I want God, I want union with God – all these bind.
So how to escape from these bindings? You see, and this mere seeing binds. This will leave its impressions on the mind. You scratch your head – this too binds. There is satisfaction. That is why the soul has to go through numberless phases of illusion, because duality is based on sanskaras.
You seek the supreme. As a matter of fact, you are supreme, but you are entangled in illusion. How can you escape? Everything binds, everything gives a sense of I. Whatever you aspire to binds, and so everyone, whether poor, rich, healthy, sick, philosopher, sinner or saint, have moments of depression and unhappiness due to the soul being burdened with this load of impressions on its mind.
How to escape from this load? The only wanting, the only desiring that binds for freedom is love. The lover too wants. The lover wants union, but in this union the I gets so feeble that the binding, instead of hindering, helps to free. The moth around the candle-flame wants union with the flame, but the wanting I is so feeble that the moth does not think for a moment about the result, and is not a bit afraid of being burnt. Why? I in love is very feeble. Is it clear?
5 May 1937,
Aw 16:2 p53
A number of people had come to see Meher Baba, and were standing in line. One young man in the line was weeping. When he came before Baba, Baba looked into his eyes and asked, “Did you carry out all my orders?’ The man did not answer. Baba spelled out on the board,
An order is much more important than any amount of spiritual longing, or gifts of thousands of rupees.
There are seven colors of sanskaras. Red is the worst and the deepest. It is the most lasting impression, and takes the longest to be wiped out. These red sanskaras are caused by the sex act, hence they are a great check on the progress and advancement. The sex act is considered a grave sin on the Path, and prohibited to spiritual aspirants.
Thoughts of sexual desire may come, and even a rush of impulses, but one should not commit any action with another person. Even masturbation is better, though it is harmful to the physique. Sexual intercourse has the worst consequences. It attracts to oneself the worst sanskaras of ages past of one’s partner, hence it is most difficult to wipe out. It incurs immense ineradicable damage to one’s spiritual progress.
21 December 1937,
Now I will give you some very new facts concerning sanskaras. Truly, no philosophical books explain the term properly.
Sanskaras are impressions of duality which make the soul go through the process of duality to attain unity with God. The soul cannot attain unity consciously unless it goes through conscious experiences of duality, and these experiences of duality cannot be had but by impressions of duality.
Sanskaras in general are called prarabdha sanskaras. Prarabdha literally means ‘of destiny.’ These are applied to the whole universe in evolution from the state of a minute atom to the state of God-realisation. Prarabdha sanskaras are those that help the soul gain consciousness in order to go through evolution – from the very beginning to the very end – to attain unity.
For the Realised soul who does not return to normal consciousness, there are no sanskaras. But the soul who, after God-realisation, returns to normal consciousness, automatically gets a universal mind, and to be able to work through duality, gets superfluous unbinding sanskaras that are called Yogayoga sanskaras. The literal meaning of Yogayoga is automatic. Very few Perfected souls have these Yogayoga sanskaras because very few of the God-realised return to normal consciousness – to phenomenal consciousness.
Now the Avatar, being one always, and having his Circle of 120 always – the same each time – this Avatar gives to his Circle the Vidnyani sanskaras. Vidnyani literally means ‘the threshold to unity.’ The Avatar, when taking form, for himself and the Circle gives himself and the Circle the Vidnyani sanskaras before birth. It is similar to a veil being drawn, and exactly at the time appointed by himself, the Avatar experiences his original divinity, and then works with the Vidnyani sanskaras.
The Circle, until they are Realised, are under this veil of Vidnyani sanskaras, having all the ordinary signs of the ordinary sanskaras of duality. When the time comes, the Avatar gives the Circle Realisation. However, until then the Vidnyani sanskaras, though they remain with the person, are only an instrument for universal work, just as his have been.
Much of Christ’s teaching in the New Testament is symbolic, if rightly understood. Christ talked of evolution, impressions, reincarnation, exactly as in Vedanta.
The Prarabdha impressions which govern the whole universe of duality are of greed and its opposite; of anger and its opposite; of all bad and of all good thoughts, words and deeds. Good sanskaras, bad sanskaras – both are Prarabdha.
To be free from Prarabdha sanskaras, either the good sanskaras must overlap the bad sanskaras, either the good sanskaras must overlap the bad sanskaras, the individual ego must be annihilated by service, or the limited self must merge in love.
Good sanskaras and bad sanskaras are impressions, and both bind. Due to the evolutionary process, the soul gathers all sanskaras throughout, up to the human form – animal sanskaras, as they are called. Therefore in human form, when the soul is fully conscious, the bad sanskaras already overlap the good ones. If now the good sanskaras were to overlap the bad ones, what would happen is that both would disappear. Like the dream example I once gave:
If you see yourself in a dream in which you enjoy becoming the queen, it continues for a long time. And if, all of a sudden, you see in the dream a snake attacking you, you wake up – both good and bad dreams disappear. Here it was good at first – of enjoying becoming queen, and then the bad – of a snake attacking you. This is bad overlapping good. Both disappear on waking. So either the bad must overlap the good, or the good overlap the bad. But if already the soul has gathered impressions of greed, of anger, of lust – now they must be overlapped by their opposites – generosity, love, peace.
In the second instance, of service: when you think, not of yourself, but of others, the thought about your own ego is replaced by thinking of others, and gradually you forget yourself in serving others.
In the third instance, love: when the lover loves the beloved to the extent of losing the self in the beloved, then only the beloved remains. So naturally impressions then disappear.
It is so easy to do bad, and so difficult to do good. Why? Because bad is already there.
Returning to the first point, I will give you two examples: of good overlapping the bad, of bad overlapping the good, and how both disappear. A dish is dirty. You take soap and water, and overlap the dirt with soap. Then in washing it, both disappear. Here the water is you. You are always present in the process of overlapping.
The Indian way of cleaning a dish full of grease is with mud. Without water it will come clean. Both grease and mud disappear. In the overlapping of opposites – mud is the most greaseless thing, and therefore opposite – the object is for both to disappear and attain a clean dish.
When good sanskaras overlap the bad, and bad sanskaras overlap the good, then both disappear, and your mind is a clean slate with nothing written on it. All is wiped off.
Nothing is ever written on you – but on your mind. You, the soul, remain untarnished. Good and bad, everything is written on your mind. When the impressions go, then all is wiped out. Mind sees the soul – this is Illumination. When good and bad are written off the mind, mind sees the soul. Mind then tries to become one with the soul – this is Realisation.
Mind seeing the soul means you seeing God. But mind does not become you, you being God. Mind must merge in the soul for you to become God. When mind merges in soul, then you are God-realised.
22 December 1937,
on the train ‘Flying Rani’
en route from Bombay to Navsari
There are two aspects of human experience, the subjective and the objective. On the one hand there are mental processes, which constitute essential ingredients of human experience; and on the other hand there are things and objects to which they refer. The mental processes are partly dependent upon the immediately given objective situation; and they are partly dependent upon the functioning of the accumulated sanskaras or impressions of previous experience. The human mind thus finds itself between a sea of past sanskaras on one side, and the whole extensive objective world on the other.
From the psycho-genetic point of view, human actions are seen to be based upon the operation of the impressions stored in the mind through previous experience. Every thought and emotion and every act is grounded in groups of impressions which, when considered objectively, are seen to be modifications of the mind-stuff of man. These impressions are deposits of previous experience, and become the most important factors in determining the course of present and future experience.
The mind is constantly creating and gathering such impressions in the course of its experience. When occupied with the physical objects of this world, such as body, nature and other things around, the mind is, so to say, externalised, and creates Gross impressions; and when it is busy with its own subjective mental processes (which are the expressions of already existing sanskaras), it creates Subtle and Mental impressions.
Di v1 p36-37
… Because of these covers of the mind and body, the drop does not see the ocean.
Now, what happens? The body drops, but the mind remains. And when the body drops, its impressions immediately manifest, trying to spread themselves and assume a new body. They want expression through the body, and so another body comes into existence which is made up of these impressions.
Thus, with the dropping of every form, the sanskaras want to take another body. If these sanskaras are crooked, meaning evil, the body is also crooked – diseased, for example. If the sanskaras are evil, the body suffers pain; if they are good, the mind is happy.
So long as the mind is there, the impressions also will be there, and with these, the body also. The soul won’t see God until the sanskaras are finished.
Dropping of the body is therefore of no avail, but if the mind goes, then there are no sanskaras left. They disappear.
But the paradox is that the body’s falling and sanskaras asking for another body to spend themselves help the soul gradually to gain self-consciousness for the drop to see the ocean – the Oversoul.
Then, what is required? The mind must go; then alone can these impressions gathered automatically disappear. Then the body – the drop soul – sees the ocean. This was the original state of God. But at that time the soul (atma) was sleeping with its eyes closed.
(Baba closed his eyes, and then opened them)
Now the eyes are opened because the veil of the mind and body has disappeared.
If you listen carefully, your eyes will open too.
17 May 1943,
The same action can create different impressions according to the motive which inspires that action. A man who, out of the motive of doing good to another person, gives him food or clothes, at once catches his good impressions. The man who slanders another person with an evil motive, or steals his things, at once catches his evil impressions.
Killing an animal for sport or pleasure or food means catching all its bad impressions, since the motive is selfish. But no such bad impressions are caught from snakes and germs and the like, which are a danger to humanity, when they are killed out of philanthropic motives, and only when absolutely necessary. Such killing, where it is not a duty, will certainly create binding impressions.
Conversation, cinema, books, radio, meetings, travels, crowds and so on are various mediums through which there is give and take of diverse types of impressions on a stupendous scale. In short, the cycle of impressions is interminable, except when the aspirant slowly and patiently takes to the uphill emancipatory spiritual Path under the guidance of a Truth-realised Master and with his blessings.
The impressions in the ego-minds of all, whether Gross, Subtle or Mental, are largely similar. But their colors are different, and of innumerable variety, according to the spiritual position of different individuals. Consciousness gets committed to some illusion or another owing to these mental impressions, which are ever active in spite of the daily respite of dream and sleep…
The physical body is nothing but the Gross form of impressions. The Mental impression in the mind of the male parent first takes a Subtle form, which then is released in the Gross form of mating. The mass of sanskaras or impressions thus released ultimately reaches the mind of the female parent, and it is from the mind of the female parent that the process of physical incarnation starts. The soul which is awaiting reincarnation in the Gross body can descend only if, during the process of sanskaric or impressional exchange between the male and female, their minds have come as near to stopping as possible.
The physical body is produced by the working of many impressions, and it is the result of their very embodiment. It is therefore no wonder that it has a tendency to bind the soul which inhabits it. Love for the physical body is only a form of deep ignorance. The swine delight in the refuse – so do the ignorant ones take delight in the body…
Impressions are contagious. Eating meat is prohibited in many spiritual disciplines because therein the person catches the impressions of the animal, thus rendering himself more susceptible to lust and anger. Sometimes innumerable strong impressions are transmitted through the mere touch of the physical body of another person. A Gross body, even a corpse, can quickly impart numberless impressions to the person who touches it. Sex contact outside wedlock is the worst form of exposure to heavy and binding impressions of lust. In wedlock the impressions exchanged are much lighter and less binding.
But just as bad and binding impressions can be caught from others, good and emancipatory impressions can also be caught from others. Food or eatables prepared or given by others bring their sanskaras with them. The prasad (some sweet or fruit or drink given as a vehicle of grace) distributed by saints and Masters, gives to the recipient spiritual and emancipatory impressions.
The custom of touching the feet of the Master with the head is based upon the fact that the spiritual and emancipatory impressions from the Master thereby go to the very mind-heart of the recipient in a fraction of a second. The Truth-realised Master transmits dynamic impressions of faith and love for God through appropriate spiritual experience.
from notes dictated by Meher Baba, before 1948, ST p23-27
God manifests his presence when and where lust, greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, back-biting and selfish desires are totally absent. But, as they are the outcome of impressions (sanskaras) of past lives, and must necessarily be expressed, getting rid of them is ordinarily impossible. It would be like a rock trying to lift itself.
Nevertheless, past impressions must be expressed to be got rid of. But at the same time that these past impressions are being expressed and spent, new ones are forged, because of the presence and assertion of the lower self. If one is to be free of the endless chain of impressions, past and present, this assertive lower self must be abolished.
Only when one’s assertive (lower) self is removed can the impressions be automatically spent without incurring the binding of fresh sanskaras. One who has achieved this can never be bound by, or held responsible any more, for his actions, good or bad, which are the expression of his past impressions of virtue, patience, lust, anger, etc. Thus, with the cessation of new sanskaras, all past impressions naturally unwind to the finish, and one is free of all impressions.
To follow the path of the true yogas – karma yoga, dnyan yoga, raj yoga, bhakti yoga – is the remedy for the uprooting of this heritage of evils derived from past impressions, expressed by constant actions, and sustained by the continual formation of new ones.
In karma yoga, one tries to lose one’s self in selfless service for others. In dnyan yoga one tries to lose one’s self in contemplation and meditation. In raj yoga one tries to lose one’s identity with the individual self, and establish identity with the universal self by aiming, through constant mental poise and non-attachment, to be in the world and yet not of it. In bhakti yoga one tries to lose one’s self in devotion to God. Even in these yogas, only when the zenith is reached can the individuality of the lower self be lost, yet consciousness remain.
But the easiest and safest way to lose one’s self is by completely surrendering to the Perfect Master. Then the past, present and future of the one who has surrendered are drowned in the Master, and he is no longer either bound by, or responsible for, any of his actions, whether good or bad, expressed during his implicit obedience to the Master. Thus complete surrenderance to the Perfect Master is, in itself, freedom.
February or March 1954,
Also Gl Feb. 1978 p24