Definition - What does Samskara mean?

In Indian and yogic philosophy, samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions and intents that an individual has ever experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.

Through yogic practices, such as meditation, it is possible to look within and come into contact with one's inner samskaras, below the threshold of consciousness. Samskaras are considered to be evidence of rebirth and the root of both our pleasurable and painful experiences.

Yogapedia explains Samskara

It is said that a samskara is created after a vritti, or thought wave, arises in the mind. Once this thought wave has left normal consciousness, it sinks down into the subconscious or unconscious mind, where it remains in the form of a samskara. In this model, the samskaras also serve as memory stores that hold all past experiences in perfect detail. When memories are recalled, the samskaras come back to the level of the conscious mind in waves of recollection.

Samskaras supposedly have the potential to influence a person’s future because they house hidden expectations and unconscious ideas that are waiting to come to fruition. They have what is called a residual potency in this regard.

According to Hindu beliefs of reincarnation, every person is born with samskaras already, which are embedded and imprinted in their minds from past lives. During a person's lifetime, they will gain many more samskaras. In this way, samskaras are associated with karmic theory. The actions and karma that one accumulates in one lifetime will be passed on to one's future reincarnation through one's samskaras.

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