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How can something not be God? That is, how is the ego separate from God as it makes it’s unwise choices? Is it not part of Maya, or Ishvara, and isn’t it all Brahman?

What is real is real; what is unreal is not real. To put it in Sri Krishna’s own words, “The unreal never is; the real never ceases to be.” Is the reflection of the moon in a puddle the real moon? It is not. But it is part of Brahman nevertheless — a part of Brahman’s maya. A snake in a rope, a man in a post, a hornedhare, silver in the shell, the son of a barren woman — all these are not actual. A dream is not real; only the dreamer is real. But so long as the dreamer dreams he will be thinking his dream to be real. He needs to awaken in order to see what is real, the Reality. And when he awakens all the fantastic projections of his vibrating mind, aided by the deft machinations of Maya, will fall away, leaving Brahman revealed. This is what we call Samadhi. There may be other moods, bhavas, bliss experiences, but these are only murmurings of the mind/ego complex that senses inwardly something much more immense beyond its pale. That is why the lower samadhis, as described by both Buddhism and Yoga, are accompanied by bliss. The higher ones are permeated by equanimity, transcendence, and all-pervasiveness.

 

A question I have been pondering lately is what is the interaction of samskaras vs. karma; what is their relationship? Causal? Can you have one without the other? For example, can someone ‘clear/neutralize their karmas’ but still have ‘negative’ samskaric patterns in their mind?

Karma (repercussions from actions done) and samskaras (mental impressions formed by one’s experiences) go together. You will find some excellent information on these two and their interaction in SRV’s new book, An Extensive Anthology of Sri Ramakrishna’s Stories. There I have likened them to a waterfilled barrel containing many new and rusty nails. The mind is the barrel, the water is the realm of karma, and the nails are the samskaras/mental impressions accumulated and stored up there.

In order of manifestation, roughly speaking, the karmas (sanchita) must appear first, before the brain has been formed by nature. Later on, the karmas (prarabdha, agami) then further formulate and condition the mental layers over a series of rebirths. When actions are perpetrated in the cause and effect atmosphere of relativity, they store up as mental impressions in the subconscious and unconscious mind — like a workman throwing extra nails into the water-filled barrel upon completion of this and that odd-job. If these karmas go unresolved, they will eventually form into samskara-skandhas, which are whole collections of mental impressions, massed together like a clump of rusty nails these samskara-nails remain separate, while others attach themselves to others to form groups. These latter samskaras usually form around one major thought-impression that impacted the mind heavily, positive or negative. When you have a problematic person or a person with problems, the samskara is one of pain, suffering, violence, etc., and when you have a positive person, the samskara is often one of pleasure, success, prosperity, and the like. Both bind.

Now, “unresolved” samskaras are more or less understandable, but “resolved” is crucial for our understanding. One who acts on the field of relativity must not fight merely with only one sword (action), but must deftly incorporate a second sword (wisdom/ knowledge) in the process. This second sword is useful in destroying karmas as they arise, and/or keeping them from forming in the first place. Yet some karmas may get through nonetheless, and for that there is a third sword. This third sword is called sadhana, spiritual efforts and exercises, which enables one to sense or intuit the presence of subtle karmas in the mind, locates them, and subjects them to neutralization. It accomplishes this in accordance with the capacity and ability of the mind in question, conjoined with the nature of what the particular karma or samskara consists of. If the karma is of a gross nature, allocated to the physical alone, a change in the mind’s awareness around work and activity is enjoined (karma yoga). If the samskara or single karma abides in the intellectual plane, tied up with issues of egoism, narrowness, and blocks of that type, a good infusion of study of the science of Self-Knowledge (jnana yoga) is needed.

Then there are samskaras and karmas of a very subtle nature, that do not necessarily impede life overall, but which nevertheless will impede the full and ultimately desired attainment of spiritual realization. Here is where your second question comes into play. One can clear basic karma, and even purify the mind to a great extent, but the subtle samskaras that cause rebirth in ignorance can still persist, unbeknownst to the seeker. Here is where meditation and the higher yogas like jnana and dhyana play a crucial part. Meditation, practiced and guided properly, and implemented into a well-rounded spiritual life and regimen — “all constantly cultivated” — will get to the subtlest root of samskaric presence in the mind, destroying them all completely.

It is to be kept in mind that we are living in and talking about an age (Kali Yuga) where beings have very little original knowledge of their true Self left in awareness, and also where they have already lived a series of lives based upon root-ignorance. Most beings in this day and time are ignorant coming from the womb, are ignorant of their divine origin, remain ignorant throughout their lives, and go to an assumed death still in ignorance. Conventional religion does little to help, and even those who are “saved,” though they may have gained some “salvation,” are not liberated. They only pile back into relative existence again in droves of souls (samsara prag-bhara) to fill the congregations of fundamentalists, dualists, and the societies of moralists and religious elitists. Thus, from the maternity ward to the tomb, beings engage in dream-travel, dragged from birth to death and death to birth never knowing that birth and death are both unreal and self-imposed. God, The Reality, stands back uninvolved. If It had eyes and a mind It would be shocked at what root-ignorance, originally provided to allow for a playful sense of separation, had evolved into at the hands of spiritually stunted human beings. Ironically, human beings even teach Mahamaya some new twists on the principle of ignorance.

To destroy this mind-barrel full of the waters of relativity/karma, to dissolve the nails of stodgy and limiting mental impressions and the rusted crystallizations of multiple nails symbolic of compacted mental impressions, one will need to secure the sharp and strong metal cutters of sadhana by the grace of God and Guru. The strong-arms of family and friends, the screwdriver of conventional religion, and the pliers of therapeutic counsel will all be ultimately ineffectual to the real task at hand. This barrel of ignorant mind is covered with an air-tight cover, nailed shut by mental and egoic misconception. What is inside is seldom ever admitted, or even seen. Approaching the mind-barrel with the metal cutters of well-guided spiritual effort, the sincere seeker will then cut in twain the metal bands of cosmic laws that bind the well-fitted boards of collective and individual human-dreaming together, and the barrel will burst wide open, spilling its contents upon the ground of sobering self-exposure. Then, as the waters of relativity and karma leak away, leaching back into the soil of maya from which they sprang, the aspirant can easily gather up all the individual nails of immediate karma and dissolve them in the vat of acid called Nondual Truth. Finally, with the hammer of deep meditation upon Absolute Reality, the fortunate seeker can smash the compacted conglomerates of rusty nails lying about, symbolizing samskara-skandhas,breaking their crystallized hold on the mind once and for all. This is the path to true Freedom which all must and will follow, to one degree or another, some time or other.

 

What happens to our senses as we evolve in spiritual understanding?

They become purified, which means that they gravitate more and more towards seeking refinement and leave behind gross preoccupations having to do with passions and base emotions. Moreover, they come to deify everything they see, touch, taste, smell and feel. This is a major step forward along the path of seeing God in everything, which Sri Ramakrishna called the highest attainment possible in this world. But there are attainments that go beyond this world, too....

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