The Indian Philosophy Term That Is Running Your Life

“Your baggage dictates your life”.

The term Samskara is a word from Sanskrit which describes the stored energy patterns that are kept stored deep within us and that often dictate our entire lives, without us ever realizing.

Many people in the west, even those that are particularly well-read and well-versed on western philosophy, are completely unfamiliar with this powerful concept that comes from eastern philosophy.

A Samskara is a psychological or emotional impression that often resurfaces and affects our everyday experience, despite the initial experience that caused the impression to be long gone. It is the stuck or “frozen in time” past that often dictates our present.

In his book “The Untethered Soul”, Michael A. Singer offers a variety of examples of samskaras. He mentions that they can be both positive and negative and can completely dictate our lives if we aren’t aware of them. 

A positive samskara is a positive experience that we haven’t allowed ourselves to fully experience, process and let go of. It can be a certain positive memory that we cling to the image or feeling of and that resurfaces often. A negative samskara can be a certain negative memory, experience or impression that we pushed away and don’t want to experience ever again, no matter what. 

This clinging to experience and rejection of experience are what causes a Samskara to form within our being. “I hate the way this person made me feel, now everytime I see them I feel angry inside”. “Every time we win I replay the good parts over and over in my head”. And so we go on collecting samskaras, not allowing our experience to come and go. 

What many people call the search or struggle for happiness is actually just us trying to make the world accommodate our past – our samskaras – so that we are okay inside. We try to re-replicate the things that previously made us feel good inside and we try to push away anything that previously made us feel bad inside. 

Armed with our likes, dislikes and collection of samskaras, we are constantly at war with the current experience and other people. Our obsession about the future comes directly from our samskaras: how can I make the future okay for myself based on what I fear and/or what I desire, based on my past experiences?

What samskaras appear and re-appear the most in your life? Take a few minutes to reflect if you have the time.