Karma and Samskara

Action and it’s imprint

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Luke 6:31


Everything we do has a consequence. That is what this chapter is about in Bachman’s book, The Path of the Yoga Sutras.

Karma, Bachman writes, means action or activity that produces a results and leaves behind an energetic impression inside our heart-mind (citta). Karma’s origins can be thoughts, words, deeds, or something perceived with our senses. The consequences of these activities may be subtle or obvious. Karma is not only recorded in our own memories, but also in the memory bank of the universe.

Karma is truly a reminder that whatever it is you put out there, you help create, and you make it bigger. When Gandhi said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world, this is what he was speaking to. When Jesus said that you must treat others how you wish to be treated, he, too, was speaking to karmic energy.

We are all connected to one another on this planet, intricately and in a circle that never ends. What you do today affects those tomorrow and 100 years from now, and it also affects those on the exact opposite side of the planet from you. You are a powerful living being, and every single one of your actions, inactions, and nonactions affect this planet.

The more positive energy you put out into the universe, the more positive energy is echoed back to you in your presence and everywhere you have been. This is very evident in the recent Floatopia event here in Miami that has the entire city in an uproar over the state of our beaches. Floatopia participants on South Beach left thousands of floatables behind on our pristine beaches, not to mention thousands of pounds of extra garbage on top of that in the form of beer bottles and other rubbish.   The usually-perfect beaches were unrecognizable by the locals here who love the clean beaches we work hard to maintain, and the city works hard to maintain. The beauty of this world is that even though awful things like mindless littering on a massive scale makes those at fault vibrate at a very low energy, in a space of guilt, complaint, and making excuses, it gives those of pure heart an opportunity to step up and work together to right a wrong. Those who took a stand for the beauty of our beaches and the importance of our ocean’s health raised the vibration of not just Miami’s South Beach, but also that of the entire planet, with the power of social media: the police commissioner took a video of himself with the destruction behind him taking a stand for his community, committing to work until sundown to clean the beach up to the best of his ability, and his choices had already attracted others to help. They could be seen already cleaning up while he made his video to send into the world to let the world know that that behavior is no longer acceptable.

There is a higher vibration being achieved on this planet, and it is thanks to people like the commissioner on the beach, and all those who answered the call to help. Ever since my boyfriend and I began taking our dogs to the dog beach (which isn’t cleaned up by the city and many locals abuse this beach by leaving their trash, also, just not to the extreme of Floatopia) we bring rakes and trash bags with us and clean up our space. When my doggie, Princess, wants to go for a walk up and down the beach, I pick up plastic things of all kinds to throw them away. The more Al and I do these things, the more we see other people following us. We say nothing to others, we just lead by what we choose to do. We even bring food to eat to this beach with us, even in plastic containers sometimes, and are so, so careful to clean everything after us before we leave. Every plastic bag I pick up when I leave I imagine one more sea turtle smiling his thanks.

These are the selfless actions that karma speaks of.   To yoga philosophy, we are reborn as souls again and again to learn lessons we are placed here on this planet to learn. Once we learn these lessons, we, in turn, must teach these lessons to others. Our missions here are meant to help one another, and to connect each other with the divine acts of teaching and creating.

Bachman writes that inaction goes against the flow of the universe. This is absolutely true because the universe is constantly moving and changing. It is important for us to remember we, too, are a universe that perfectly mimics the cosmic universe in all ways. Inaction is the result of indecision, with the choice to not act at all when an action of some kind is absolutely necessary.

Nonaction is our goal. This means action from our unconditioned, pure inner self, with no attachment to the results. “This kind of actionis not directed or influenced by our conditioning (samskaras). Samskaras are habits. When acting in a selfless manner, it is by the will of the universe, because we are connected to the universe. The good we do for others does not happen because of us, it happens through us. This is like being a yoga teacher, where class does not happen because of the yoga teacher, class happens divinely through the yoga teacher. As yoga student, this shows up as when student-teacher connection is deep, the sensation is when it feels as though the student drives the practice and the teacher drives the practice with equal intensity and equal effortlessness. The class is equal parts challenge and inspiration.

Every time we receive a sensory input or produce a word, thought, or deed, a subtle impression is left on our memory. Our goal is to produce as many positive and wholistic experiences like these as possible. Dr. Travis is a medical researcher who specifically researches meditation and it’s affect on our brains, specializing in studying PTSD. He says that our brains receive traumatic or wholistic experiences. As soon as we experience a traumatic experience, it is our work as human beings to counter that as soon as possible with something healing and positive. This can be something as major as going to war or as simple as being bullied or getting angry at someone cutting you off while driving. Exchange your negative experiences and thoughts with positive. Samskaras are deep imprints on our psyches we must work to either change or maintain.   The more often we give ourselves positive experiences, the more optimistic we are to the center of our selves. This is why meditation, proper exercise of all kinds, eating well, sleeping well, speaking well of others, is so vital to our overall well-being and health, because truly anything we allow in that is unnecessarily negative is working to harm us in some way. The more we adhere to positive habits, the more we add in action to those things that move us forward positively and powerfully, the more we get into the effortless flow with the highest version of ourselves.

Repetition is powerful. Repetition is one of the most powerful tools we can use. That is why so many chants and prayers have been turned into musical things that we are meant to repeat over and over. That is why building physical strength in the gym, whether with weights or body weight exercises, is done over time with hundreds and thousands of repetitions completed over time.

The more we repeat the things that are good for us, the more likely we are to continue it. And, if we stop for any reason whatsoever, the more ingrained the habit was before, the more likely we are to pick it up again later, because it only benefits ourselves, which in turn benefits the planet.

Negative samskaras can be eliminated by knowing what their cause was. Tracing a samskara back to it’s origin (pratiprasava) teaches us how it began. There is a lot of healing to be done on the human plane by going over past experiences again in the form of speaking about them powerfully and letting those old emotions be felt again. Humans are funny that way, that we need to experience old events a second or third time in order to heal from them. This is important, but care must be taken so that a negative samskara does not occur in the form of habitually complaining about negative events that have occurred. Obsession over negative things is one of the more harmful things we can do to ourselves, which is why conversation with those who caused us harm works so well, and when that is unavailable, there are many outlets in the form of spiritual teachers and healers, producing works of art, or visiting a psychology professional who can help us take steps in order to heal. It is important to recognize that the only way to completely heal is the completely change the patterns-samskaras-you are bound to that are holding you back. The only way to let go of the samskaras that hold you back is to recognize what they are and see them, feel them, let them pass through you completely.

The only way out is through.

Bachman writes, “Every single thought, word, deed and impression affects us in some way. Working toward the goal of making our actions positive and helpful, all the time, will make us and those around us happier and healthier, and move us closer to experiencing that divine inner light of awareness.”



Any event we experience leaves an impression in our memory.

I can avoid disturbing events and participate in positive, uplifting ones.

I will act toward others as I would like them to act toward me.


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