Samskaras and Vasanas

As readers if this blog know, I recommend a book by Joan Harrigan called Kundalini Vidya. While I don’t agree on all points, it is an excellent overview of Kundalini science.

Recently, Rick Archer of Buddha at the Gas Pump interviewed Joan. She is both a PhD in Psychology and the lineage holder of Kundalini Vidya for the west.

I quite enjoyed the interview but I noticed a few inconsistencies in terminology. For example, her graphic had Atman in the centre as the One, but later she referred to Atman in terms of the small self and Brahman as the absolute, the true non-duality. While I fully agree that stages of development change perspective, a definition should hold up through the stages. Reality doesn’t change, only our perspective of it.

Readers of this blog know I also use the 7 kosha model, not just the 5 she uses. With the Brahman shift, it is recognized that even Atman (in the large Self sense) is also a kosha.

At one point, they get into a discussion of drug use as a spiritual practice. I thought she handled that well. There are occasional people that get results but such results come with energetic residues. And some get quite messed up by drugs. It’s playing a dangerous game, seeking a quick way that’s not really. It’s playing with fire, whatever the tradition.

Common to many traditions in India, she expressed an emphasis on meditation by concentration. I, like Rick, have found an effortless practice much more effective. Also, there seems an over-emphasis on a monk’s approach. As I’ve noted prior, you don’t want to mix dharmas. While it can certainly be useful to have a periodic retreat, if you’re a householder, that is your path. Playing at being a monk will cause you to fail at both.

That said, it was interesting that they offer to cater your practice to your needs at your specific stage of development. That’s much less common in the west as it requires someone with advanced skills. As she describes, determining your level of development and the appropriate practices is partly done by training and partly by intuition. Ideally in such a circumstance, you’d want the teacher to be enlightened. In the interview, she appeared to indicate she’d reached makara but was still unpacking. But she also has a LOT of experience at this.

Some objected to her not offering emergency services. But that requires a very different set-up than what she describes Kundalini Care offers and she noted someone else offers this. I would also note that with this interview, I’m sure her office will be overloaded for awhile.

The people I know who have consulted her (I have not) used the recommended practices to address their specific issue, then reverted to their usual practice.

Another point I would explain differently. She speaks of the chakras and energy as being on the 2nd most dense and Shakti as being down in the 5th. But how does kundalini rise up the chakras if they’re on a different level? My experience is that the chakras are universal on the Anandamaya kosha (5th) level (one set shared by all), then express progressively into the other layers through to the 2nd. Experienced on different layers, people describe the chakras as a vortex, as a flower, as a geometry, and so forth. In other words, they function on several levels concurrently. Specific ones tend to dominate more on specific levels due to the energy they support.

She spoke of makara at several points. This was a key detail for me from her book as it explained a process that started in the mid-70’s. Makara came online with a blinding white flash during a long retreat. I witnessed full-time thereafter. The tradition I have studied most didn’t cover this except in the broadest of terms and the experience conflicted with one one of their key teachings. Understanding makara finally explained it. Some blow right on up to bindu but some pause to clean things up, like myself.

She also spoke some about how the kundalini process (it’s awakening) can begin in one lifetime but not come to fruition. Then something in the current life gets the process going again. Thus, not all spiritual seekers will have a kundalini awakening experience – it’s already happened. Further, she observed that the kundalini process may well be mild for the most part. We may notice little of the energy process itself but will likely notice some of the effects like releases.

One of the key topics of the interview is the conceptual framework she uses. With the koshas, she spoke of the 3 aspects of Manonmaya kosha or mind: chitta, manas (sense-directed mind) and ahamkara (I-sense or ego).

Chitta is the storehouse of impressions. Our baggage collection centre. It has 2 kinds:
Vasanas – desires and drives, addictions
Samskara – impressions or “grooves” from past experiences, the particular way we focus that desire.

She gives the example of hunger (desire) and chocolate (impression or pattern that follows).

Together, Chitta is our karmic material, our patterning. The I-sense identifies with this material and owns it. And thus we’re motivated to act it out through the mind & senses. To repeat those bad habits even when we know they’re not good for us.

Here we find the focus of spiritual practice. Disengaging the identification of the I-sense, resolving those desires, and washing away those impressions. This helps prepare the ground, clear the way, and purify the path.

She mentions that after makara (a stable rising to the 6th), we’re likely to spend some time unpacking this material. It’s worth noting that when we have inner peace and happiness at hand, and regular access to source, it meets and resolves a lot of desires.

Effective energy healing can also handle much of this. Rose Rosetree looks at it more from the mechanism or style of storage of Stuff and how to clear it.

As we clear the baggage, both our internal and external life become much simpler. There isn’t the internal noise but also there is much less to be done. We’re much more in a position to act from source rather than unresolved desires. We produce a lot less new karma plus are resolving more of the old karma energetically rather than acting it out.

Later in the interview, she says it gets more refined and more difficult. I would agree it gets more subtle and abstract in some ways so it can be more challenging to become conscious of. But I’m not sure I would say this is more difficult. When there is so much less baggage and more clarity, this isn’t increased difficulty. But yes there can be periods where you hit another wave of karma that can certainly be challenging.

Towards the end, she talks about the phases of development using the states of consciousness. Like Rick, I found that approach a little odd. But when she explained it in terms of layers, it made much more sense.

In this context, there is the average persons experience that is dominated by external things. (waking state)
Once kundalini process has begun (kundalini has opened), our inner life becomes more prominent and we’re more mind-oriented (in the sense of that kosha) and more aware of subtle body dynamics. (emotions, mind, etc.) (dream state)
With Makara, we reach a stable rising and an ongoing witness or observer. There is wakefulness during sleep and a sense of continuity of Self/ consciousness. (sleep state)
Then we get into “upper process” between makara and bindu. This is the process of Shakti merging into Shiva, the individual into the whole. We come to bindu many times, then cross the gap into universal. Here she uses the terms Turiya and parabindu. Turiya literally means “the fourth” and refers to the fourth state of consciousness or samadhi.

However, she also mentions we don’t reach turiya until makara. I would disagree there. It is true that after makara, it becomes easier and deeper and longer. But it is accessible throughout. This difference may be due to the type of practice, mentioned above.

But yes, what follows is Turiyatita (beyond the fourth) aka Jivan Mukta, otherwise known as Cosmic Consciousness or Self Realization.

I was surprised she considered this done. In her book, she talks about Advanced Process, when Shiva & Shakti descend together through higher post-awakening stages. To me, liberation is key but is the platform from which the real richness of enlightenment can flower.

Fascinating interview.
Davidya

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4 Responses to Samskaras and Vasanas

  1. Davidya says:

    I got an off-line question I thought worth sharing.

    “Could we say that samskaras give rise to vasanas? Can we also call vasanas tendencies?”

    I’d say it’s 2 way. Impressions give rise to desires to resolve or express them and desires tend to be expressed a certain way, leading to habits that can become impressions. If we get some satisfaction from a certain behaviour (eg: chocolate), it’s reinforced, even if future repeats don’t net the same result.

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    We might call vasanas tendencies, but this is tendencies in terms of what urges us, not tendencies as in habits.
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  2. Davidya says:

    Events with people I know also reminded me of a key quality of karma – it can come with a blind spot. As in the quote in the above comment, we tend to walk in our grooves and repeat our desires, even when we know it’s wrong, will have bad results, and won’t bring satisfaction. It’s simply the program.

    Happily we’re not doomed to repeat it.

  3. Davidya says:

    Tendencies?
    habit tendencies and desire tendencies = samskaras and vasanas

    Vasanas are desires that lead to behaviours. Samskaras are the form those behaviors tend to take.
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  4. Davidya says:

    Oops – the correct spelling is samskara.
    Fixed
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