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  • Acharya Shunya

Samsara: Don’t Get Locked Up Inside Self-Created Sorrow Prisons


Ten thousand years before Freud first forwarded the concept of psychoanalysis, the ancient Vedas from India were telling us to use the wisdom they impart, to self-analyze our own minds and tease apart the objective from the subjective, the rational from the irrational, the real from the non-real, and the actual from the shadow.

Did you know there are two kind of worlds?

One is the objective world, in which we all transact (called jagat in Sanskrit). It just is, and is commonly shared by all beings and objects, including you and me. The second is the virtual or subjective ‘world’, called ‘samsara’ in Sanskrit.

Thanks to our ego, which is estranged from our true spiritual nature or divine Self due to self-ignorance, each one of us is building and dissolving a private reality or ‘samsara’ in each moment, through our private subscription to myth-reality based thoughts, likes and dislikes, ideas, and deep-seated mental tendencies, propensities, and response patterns.

Samsara is the kingdom of your ego. Its towers and turrets of misperceived notions in duality are farfetched and far removed from the nondual reality of your true Self. If there are seven billion people on this planet today, for example, then we clearly have seven billion subjective worlds present alongside the one commonly shared physical, tangible, objective world we all share. Apparently, in relationships too, each one of us is an “object” for each other, and we elicit “subjective” responses. That is why, under similar circumstances, two people can have entirely different responses.

A simple example can be when two people are laid off from work. These two people are pretty much in the same economical situations when they lose their jobs. One can take it as a sign from the ‘Universe’ to try something else, perhaps even change their life path; and another may need to get on antidepressants due to an ensuing sense of failure, shame, and sense of being a victim of the previous work authorities.

Powerless or powerful; confused or all-knowing; stupid or smart; all these dual states of your mind emanate from your attached and deeply colored ‘samsara’. We are all walking around with our own sorrow-cookers attached on top of our spines, which are sending out hot steams of emotions, based upon the shifting, changing, transforming (sometimes-good, sometimes-bad) scenarios it is thinking about!

Clearly, the Vedic sages asking us to see through our samsara simply to begin breathing through the self-created mental clutter.

Samsara is then, quite literally, a sorrowful prison that we manufacture with our own projected myth-reality, since it has no “objective” basis in the objective reality. It is simply our individual assumptions about the world, self, and god, at a given moment in time. The objective world, on the other hand (yes, the same one the two people in the example above lost their job in), is neither full of pain nor joy. The world is simply an invitation to respond to it. The world becomes different things for different people depending upon what is going on inside their private samsara.

Without liberating Self-knowledge, the kind the Upanishads provide, we will surely remain trapped in our emotional samsara. And if we are trapped in our own emotional world (samsara), would we ever be free spiritually, or even psychologically speaking? Can we ever hope to awaken spiritually or even grow up emotionally? Something or the other would trigger our samsara (be it elections, boredom, the husband drinking one extra glass of wine, an unexpected fever, a traffic jam, or a random memory).

Bam! Our subjective-reality gets agitated, and our samsara starts precipitating with out of control emotions. Even if we manage to free ourselves from one issue, the next one crops up. For example, in the example mentioned above, even if the men get a new job, they then become preoccupied with getting promoted. Even though their employment issue got resolved, they are still not happy, because the money status, title etc., become new cravings in samsara. Is there no end to this cycle?

Fortunately, the ancient Vedas recognized that emotional and existential suffering sprouts from inside our own mind, in response to the circumstances outside us; but it doesn’t come from the outside per se. It is reassuring to know this at one level, because then we can hope to cultivate the wisdom to train our mind to respond differently. We can hope to find the strength within to do something about our suffering. We can hope to become free of suffering, if we so desire, and the Hindu Upanishads says, why not?

Bliss is your true nature – find it. Live it. Share it.

In my forthcoming book that I have tentatively titled “Everlasting Joy: The Vedic Path to Ending Sorrow and Finding True Happiness” case studies will help you see the step by step progression of the ‘spiritual disease of samsara.’

I teach my students in my Vedic Spiritual Studies Program an eight-step process to systematically dismantle the samsara, with real life examples of what constitutes our samsara, what triggers emotional suffering, and what we can do to train our mind differently (how can we dismantle the sorrow-causing samsara).

Fortunately, the Upanishads do not simply present a problem. They present solutions too.

The connection of enlightenment known as Moksha in the Upanishads with end of subjective, self-projected emotional distress is evident from the word “moksha” itself. This word is comprised of two Sanskrit sub-words, namely moha plus kshaya.

  • Moha means our mind-based delusions, misperceptions and erroneous judgments

  • Kshaya means the end of those wrong beliefs or delusory thoughts due to rise of Self-knowledge from the Great Vedic texts such as the Upanishads

Traditionally, moksha never happens in an instant. It is a process, over stages of learning and maturing emotionally. The first sign of the dawning of moksha is to gauge how you handle emotional conflict or sorrow-arousing situations in your life. Is your samsara overreactive? Delusional? Ready to fight or flee? Or have you begun to pause, discern and then decide your emotional response?

Emotional disturbances will not reduce or go away instantaneously. But don't let that disappoint you, as to be real, it has to be a slow and deep transformation; a gradual process. Through repeated application of spiritual wisdom in daily life, my students see reduction first in frequency, then length, next intensity of mental agitation. Finally, the recovery period from emotional disturbances is quicker and quicker. Ultimately, once moksha is achieved, one lives in inner directed joy, clarity and poise more and more versus losing one’s balance when faced with sorrow or challenges outwardly. Samsara free, you will have access to the infinite potential of your true Self - Atman, no less.

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Acharya Shunya is a Vedic lineage holder and teacher of nondual wisdom from the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, along with the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga. She is the spiritual preceptor of a global community of truth seekers. She teaches out of her wisdom school, Vedika Global, based in Emeryville, California, USA and lectures worldwide. She is the award-winning author of Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017), voted among the Top 10 Books in Alternative Medicine by Health Line (2017). To find out more and to explore studying the ancient wisdom from Vedic seers with Acharya Shunya, visit her official website maintained by her students: https://www.acharyashunya.com/school.

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