H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Eliminating Disturbing Thoughts

By Matsyavatara Dasa

From toxic psychic contents to healthy psycho-ecological energy

The phenomena of Perception can be described as follows. An external object, constituted of five basic elements or bhuta (earth, water, fire, air, ether) stimulates the senses (indriya) which respond by activation. Segments of information, previously external to the subject, in this manner, penetrate the conscience as vrittis, especially in the form of names (nama) and forms (rupa).

Upon entering conscience, sensory data move quickly into the subconscious to build a new samskara or enforce an already existing one.

This new sensorial experience in fact aggregates with other similar previous experiences, building sets of samskaras loaded with a power directly proportional to the number of agglomerating experiences.

Subordinately, on the physiological level we can see this process at work by observing the enforcing of the synapses related to certain sensorial experiences. Synapses are transmission areas for nerve signals.

These messages ensure communication between the different parts of the body that are represented by the single nerve cells.

A synapses is a conjunction that happens, most frequently in human beings, between the dendrite of a neuron (bunch of fibers that receive information) and the axon (bunch of fibers that deliver information) of another neuron.

There are also synapses between dendrites and somas of different neurons or between the dendrite and the axon of the same neuron, but these are rare cases, especially the latter. The sensorial stimulation happens by transmission of electrical impulses, that is as transduction of a sensorial stimulation into electrochemical energy (synapses level). The nature of the impulse transmitted by synapses can be electrical or chemical, with exciting or inhibiting functions.

The number of neurons present at the moment of birth will tend to be more or less constant for the rest of one’s life. The number of connections however, will multiply exorbitantly during the first few years of life. For example at the age of 3 the number of synapses for each neuron is around 10,000.

Experience strengthen some synapses and inactivates others, while those in excess are eliminated. Some will remain dormant because they are underutilized, but they are ready to emerge in case a pathology or a cerebral illness causes malfunction in the other ones.

In a human being there are between 1014 and 1015 synapses: they can be rearranged until old age, as demonstrated by recent researches on cerebral plasticity.

Previous experiences bring about patterns and views of the world, grids of preconceptions and prejudices, which coercively move wishes, thoughts and actions from the subconscious, densely populated with samskaras, as new samskaras form during the existential cycle of the conditioned personality.

The structuring of samskaras and their interactions originate automatic responses (vasana), which the subject passively endures, deluding himself over believing he is the actual author of his choices.

Actually the person is not free but enslaved by an automated process of thoughts caused by the new samskara which interacts with the old ones to produce a returning vritti. Emerging on the conscience, returning vrittis determine thoughts, choices and decisions for the unaware puppet which is the conditioned ego.

This way it is possible to explain the differences in the personality of individuals as birth default configuration of a different synaptic apparatus, dictated by guna and karma, which is later rearranged under the effect of individual experiences as explained above.

The above described process produces pathologically settled neural circuits, in which the subject is entrapped like a mouse in a cage: scenarios and protagonists alternate but reactions and automated thought mechanisms remain the same: compulsory, coercive and reiterated, because a samskara always produces the same results.

In a broad comparison, we could say that on the mental subtle level we find what the Behavioral School has widely described for observable, physical behaviors, particularly in the Skinnerian Operating Conditioning Theory.

In fact it is possible to say that, if adequately reinforced, a certain behavior tends to repeat itself irrespectively of the context and initial stimulus which triggered it. In the same way, sense vrittis joining with old samskaras or forming new ones tend to feed themselves on the coercive behaviors that they produce, as in a circular trap.

It is however possible to free ourselves from such pathological neural circuits following the method suggested by Patanjali1: meditation on the opposite thought.

Meditating on the opposite thought is not limited to thinking rationally and superficially only on the level of nama and rupa; it means living in the opposite thought (bhavana), lingering on it, by going in the depths of conscience and at least reaching the bio-energy level (vibhuti).

Only by developing a strong sentiment and emotion connected to the opposite thought we can oppose the latent samskara, the fixed, pathological and enslaving idea, de-potentiating the synapses which formed it while feeding other more positive ones.

In reality, this process of inner representations, apparently difficult, is exclusively the fruit of training and practice: learning to visualize is possible through the evocation of constructive and evolutionary emotions. These emotions allow us to ascend to higher levels of conscience. We might have sporadically experienced them during our existence but, due to their rarity, they have had no chance to adequately strengthen, as instead did more frequent negative experiences or general sensorial experiences. In fact samskaras are not necessarily negative, the moral character of good-bad (shuba-ashuba) pleasant-painful (sukha-duhkha) of such experiences does not alter their conditioning effect: they will nonetheless tend to produce automated responses and in this automatism lies the deprivation of freedom and spontaneity for the conditioned personality set. The conditioned personality could free itself from such slavery only by a deliberate act of will in search for an experience in contrast with the disturbing thought.

Besides generating disturbing thoughts in one’s psyche, the cultivation of harmful intentions, sentiments and thoughts (envy, hatred, rancor, revenge or similar), unloads these thoughts in the collective unconscious which connects us all, and engenders these evil sentiments also in those they are addressed to. The latter will consciously or subconsciously react by producing similar sentiments, therefore the sender will receive virtually endless damage in return.

This is why, in order to eliminate the toxic causes of a disturbing thought, it is opportune to meditate on opposite thoughts.

By cultivating and visualizing constructive attitudes for himself and others, the individual can gradually apply the principle of not hurting anyone (ahimsa) and thus exit the prison of the unconscious matrix, free from the painful sense of guilt for harvesting a destructive and harmful will directly and indirectly towards others.

Only he who is free inside, by the application of abstinence (yama) and prescriptions (nyama), can think independently and freely decide, acting with emotional detachment and with no interest for the result of his actions but only constructively in favor of all creatures.

1 Patanjali, Sadhana Pada, sutra 34

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