What do you mean, after all what is Samskara…. Sounds sanskrit and must be something to do with Hinduism!!!!
Well you know what, if you google the word, the result displays that it is a noun, it is hinduism, and means purification ceremony or rite marking a major event in one’s life; and then it says the origin of the word is sanskrit and means ‘an act of making perfect, preparation’.
We can simply define “Samskara” as imprints left on the subconscious mind of the individual by experience. Now you could ask “So is it only experience?” not exactly.
Let’s look at a sanskrit shloka which describes “Learning” –
आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।
सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः पादं पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥
AchAryAt pAdamAdatte, pAdam shiShyaH swamedhayA |
sa-brahmachAribhyaH pAdam, pAdam kAlakrameNa cha ||
roughly translates to “one fourth or quarter from the teacher, one fourth from own intelligence, one fourth from classmates, and one fourth only with time.” So we can see that the initiators of learning is the teacher which, can be parents, siblings, relatives, social contacts and of course the teacher’s at school. This means the foundation years of the individual has a huge part to what happens later. In the early years of civilization life itself was much simpler. The compartmentalization of life in its whole was minimal, arts, science, beliefs, sentiments and social institutions etc were close knitted or rather interwoven. Religion if there was something in the ancient world was used as a binding force to bring some kind of sanctity and stability for different incidents in a person’s life. So if we step back a bit ” purification ceremony or rites marking a major event in one’s life” was a necessity, for e.g. if we take marriage as one of the events, we are all aware that this is an event which has a huge impact in the lives of two individuals, their immediate families, their extended families, friends and to some extent to all the people associated with the event. Hence marriage is a “Samskara”!
We can kind redefine “Samskara” or rather we can say that the aim of “Samskara” was to create the conditions for the development of an integrated personality of an individual, who can adjust himself with the world around him, a world full of human and superhuman forces.
If we retrace the life of an individual back to their childhood, a time when the individual started to un-consciously1 gather information from around both visually and auditory, we can agree upon that the information did get imprinted somewhere in the conscious of the individual or let’s put it as stored in the brain(for the scientifically inclined)2. This information that has been converted to memories when stimulated at a later age or older age can act positively or negatively for the individual.
An individual’s naming ceremony is also a ‘Samskara’ that is common to any individual in the world. We have names for ourselves and everything else. Maybe that’s why we have less harmony amongst us than the other worlds of plants, insect, animals or whatever. I am sure when a tiger sees another tiger it must be saying ‘Ah, there you are tiger’ after all they don’t have naming ceremonies to address the other tiger by name 😉
So samskaras are essential for every individual, after all it contributes to the development of the individual. Today most samskara’s have tags attached to them in the form of religion or otherwise. Like I said before religion is something that bound a group of people in a certain form and sets of belief. Sounds strange!! Well the word religion has its origin from old French and Latin – ‘religare’ which means to bind, subsequently ‘religio’ which means obligation, bond, reverence. From that to today’s meaning of ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods’. I guess this is why there is a saying ‘Time changes everything’!!!
I was reading somewhere the other day that religion could also mean realisation. I hope we all realise that there is something called ‘Life’, and as humans we are accountable (not just responsible) for our own ‘Life’ and ‘Life’ around us, that which is visible or not!!!