[Advaita-l] Samskaras and Vasanas and sanchita karma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun Nov 14 01:44:00 CST 2010

In the recent tumult this post got a little lost but I'll make an attempt 
to answer as I think it is one of the less-covered topics in sadhana. 
(Though I think Shri Sadananda did touch on this in his last series of 
posts a while back.)

On Fri, 5 Nov 2010, raghavkumar00 at gmail.com wrote:

> What is the difference between samskaras and vasanas ?

The two words are similar but vasana is typically used for "inherited" 
effects from previous lives while samskaras are the effects of actions 
undertaken in this life.

> Where is the sanchita-karma (in some suitable "seed" form presumably) stored,
> given that it lies dormant for the duration of this entire birth ?

karma is action.  The effects of actions cause other actions whose effects 
cause other actions and so on.  Eventually the results become perceptibe 
as in at the time of death but they did not simply spring into being at 
that time.

> What is the
> difference between samskaras and the sanchita karmas. Both are created by our
> actions in previous births ?

The karma done in previous lives is done.  It is beyond our control to 
change it.  But the karma done in this life is (I hope to greater rather 
than lesser degree.) under our own control.  Jivanmukti ends the ongoing 
fructification of karma in the future.

> A karma done in a previous birth needs a Conscious All-knowing Principle 
> for it to fructify in another birth. This 'fructification is not 
> automatic, since karma is inert. So explains Adi Shankara in the 
> kenopanishad vakya bhashya.
>  Can anyone
> give greater elaboration on this role of Ishwara as the karma-phala-adhyaksha ?

The Mimamsakas believed that karma operated by an actual force like 
gravity called apurva.  This is why though astika, they are considered to 
be atheistic.  It is the agency of the individual self which is necessary 
to create this apurva.  However such a theory cannot satisfactorily 
explain how karma can persist over multiple lifetimes.  The canonical 
example is a thousand year sattra (sacrificial session.)  Obviously this 
is longer than the possible lifetimes of any yajamana so how can it have a 
result and to whom is the result applied?

Vedantins believe that Brahman as Ishvara creates, maintains, and 
regenerates the material universe.  Karma works Ishvara has created an 
ordered universe where actions have measurable and predictable effects.

> The phrase 'gahanaa-karmano-gatih" (parapharaseable as : deep/unfathomable are
> the ways and workings of karma)
> in Gita, I submit, should be only sparingly
> quoted and used. It is unfortunately used all too often to avoid answering
> probing questions on karma. 

Unfortunately you are right but that is not the idea the shloka means to 
convey.  Rather it is to prevent Arjuna and subsequent readers from using 
karma theory as a support for fatalism -- the idea that "my current 
actions are preordained by the events of the past."  You cannot definitely 
say event A was caused by action B because that may in turn have been 
caused by action C, action D and so on in infinite regress.  This is why 
the yogi, the sthitaprajna "sees action in inaction and inaction in 
action" as 4.18 says.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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