Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burning Away Karmaic Seeds from the Subconscious Mind

The Buddha, in his teaching about the 12 interdependent factors that cause the chain reaction of sorrow, detailed how karma plays out in our lives. One of the 12 factors is called a "samskara" which is a thought impression that is stored in our subconscious mind. It is a unit of psychological conditioning which when the right stimulus is experienced will cause us to react to an event according to a habit pattern. The 12 factors form a kind of circle of causation which constantly renews itself. The circle can be broken at three points. One is to become awake and aware. By doing this, we remove the root of "unconscious ignorance". The other is to "remain with the sensation" when we are activated and not give into the impulse to do that keeps the chain reaction going. The last is to commit to living the ethical precepts which define an altruistic life, so that we do not plant more karmaic seeds as habits. If we are totally aware, which means being aware without any resistance to what is seen, and do not react to what is happening, then a karmaic seed can be wiped out in the moment of its arising and the karmaic pattern completes itself and disappears. We can also resist the event, feel life is unfair, and retell our ego story, replant the seed, and program ourselves to have future painful events. Part of the understanding of universal law is that everything happens for a reason. There is order and there is cause and effect, and all events unfold within this order. There are no accidents. Because of this, the Buddha taught people to take all painful events as old karma ripening and completing itself in the moment. If we surrender to this way of understanding the event, then karma completes itself and the karmaic event is finished. Nothing more is programmed to happen to us. There is a kind of completion of a polarity, where we experience an event as both abuser and victim, and then transcend this polarity. When doing this process, meditating on the sensation of pain that echos from an event, I would sometimes have memory flashes from either a past lifetime or from an event in this lifetime where I was on the doing end of what I was receiving in the recent event. After having worked through many karmas this way, I found it was faster to just assume that I was on the doing end of everything I have received. This would either allow me to find the memory faster or just release the event without needing all the details. I would empathize with the victim point, resolve never to cause someone that kind of pain, have compassion extend to everyone who was feeling like I did, acknowledge any memories of me doing the same, and then letting the whole energy go. I found that the key is "completing the polarity" feeling both sides of the polarity simultaneously, and then releasing the whole thing. The energies of craving, negativity, and delusion are replaced by love, creativity, and wisdom.

It is possible to meditate deeply enough to go into the subconscious mind and uproot karmaic seeds before they manifest in a physical event. The hardest and slowest way to release a karmaic seed is through having it manifest in a physical event. It is more proactive to meditate deeply enough to feel the karmaic seeds in meditation and uproot them in meditation. Chanting, visualization, and breathing are useful in this regard. Running energy into blocked areas of our subtle energy body is helpful too. When this is done, then we can complete the polarity through a subtle activation and move through inner experience until completion. The same process that works for karmaic events that play out in physical life also works for a karma playing out energetically in meditation. You remain with the sensation and allow the polarity to complete itself. The advantage is that it is easier, more rapid, and more peaceful to energetically complete something than it is to play it out physically. For instance, if I have an dream where I am battling someone and learn to forgive this person, then I can wake up and feel refresh that something is complete. But if I have to battle the person in a physical experience, then, even if I forgive the person, I may have actual wounds to that will need time to heal and probably a lot of damage to repair. Energetic completion is less messy. If I am sensitive, I can complete more things immediately inside myself, rather than letting something get dense enough to manifest in physical experience. For instance, someone says something at a party that annoys me, I want to say something back to this person. I can finish the whole thing right there by full feeling what is happening, seeing it as a karma completing itself, and let it go, or I can say what I am going to say and then the person reacts to what I say and we have a fight. Even if forgiveness happens in this senario, the blows cause extra pain that did not have to happen. In other words, I can deal with the whole activation as an emotionally charged thought and complete it there or I can let it become hurtful words. Or I can deal with the event as very intense words and let it go on this level or I can let it become actual fists. I can even let it go on the level of fists or hold resentment about what happened and program more events to happen in the future, more fights, more hostile words, and more angry thoughts.

When a samskara is felt in meditation, it is like a magnetic vortex that is pulling energy according to like attracts like. The magnetic attraction of north pole to south pole is like the attraction that victim and abuser have for each other. The polar shifts are how victim becomes abuser and visa versa. By feeling both simultaneously at the point of activation, the process can end. It seems that it is not possible to release the event without feeling both polarities simultaneously.

There are chants and visualizations that help release samskaras internally. The Buddha taught people to use conscious breathing to access and release these samskaras in meditation. The key is that samskaras are not merely passive items waiting to be activated but energy vortexes that are gathering the energy to manifest an event. They can be felt in the energy body as energy blocks or knots and can be felt in the physical body as chronic tensions and breath inhibitions. When the tensions or knots are released, then an emotional wave is felt. Then we can complete the karma internally and move on. The key is to experience what is arising with no clinging, no identification, and no resistance.


  1. Could you give some more tips how to 'not become enmeshed in the thought impression' (that is stored in our subconscious mind/ body ) when it does finally come to the conscious mind? Saying no clinging, no identification, and no resistance are good general descriptors but, for those of us who have never considered examining our emotions as such, even more specifics would be useful road maps. How can I not (feel/ become enmeshed) fear/terror when the emotion appears in my conscious mind?

  2. Dear Deb, thank you for your post. Our natural mind or true nature is radiant awareness. Chogyam Trunpa called it "panoramic awareness". It is like a vast sky that can have a lot of clouds floating within it. When we are enmeshed in a thought or emotion, it is like the sky awareness gets narrowed down and only notices the thought and/or emotion. It is also invested in trying to do something with the thought and/or emotion. It cannot merely look at, accept it, and be with it. There is an investment is resisting what is present, a subtle fight going on, a trying to be happy, rather than being with whatever is. This subtle aggression keeps us enmeshed in an emotion. Paradoxically, it keeps us stuck in the emotion. It makes the emotion feel solid, dense, and heavy inside us. Our usual state of consciousness is to be enmeshed in everything that is happening, with our ego struggling with all our experience, constantly clinging and wanting to hold on to some things, and constantly trying to push away and not feel other things, and feeling other things as part of its identity. So we are already enmeshed in phenomena and identified with certain phenomena as defining who we are and associating certain thoughts and emotions as part of our identity, what we believe and feel ourselves to be. This is how we are when we start meditating. We are not really meditating in the beginning, but softening and relaxing some of our patterns, lessening our struggle with our experience. One way to learn how to not be enmeshed in our experience is to feel the space surrounding our thoughts and emotions or to notice how they are not the same from moment to moment or to notice the breathing process and make this more important than our thoughts and emotions. A way out of being enmeshed is to first notice that this how we are with our experience and accept this. Whenever we accept what is, we relax some and let go of our struggle.