Each one of us is born with a unique genetic makeup, which provides a basic template for our general behavior. This behavior is further modified by the surroundings that one encounters in life. These interactions especially in early life imprint powerful memories in our brain. Our mind is nothing else but the total sum of our lifetime memories. These memories which provide the makeup of our mind govern our actions. Thus we react to events and circumstances according to this makeup. Our actions then reinforce our memories in a feedback loop-type mechanism. These memories or Sanskaras as Patanjali calls them in his Yoga Darshan, are the genesis of Karma.
Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action. However it embraces the whole meaning of living. Thus according to Indian philosophy we are because of our Karma. Thus our Karma or actions or deeds (both good and bad) decide our future in this or the next life. Law of karma occupies a central position in Indian philosophy.
According to some commentators the law of karma is very deterministic. They claim that you are born according to your Karma, things happen to you in your present birth because of your past Karmas etc. According to them because of past Karmas it is not possible for one to change the present life. This however negates the whole basis of Yoga which claims that one can change the Sanskaras (memories) and hence ones life. All the four systems of Yoga - Jnana, Raja, Bhakti and Karma teach us to live positively in thought, words and deeds. This helps us in producing positive memories and hence good Karma.
I therefore believe that each one of us has the power to change our destiny and our memories by our actions in this life. Our actions change the neural pathways in the brain and hence the mind, which guides us to our future course of action. Thus we can change our memories or Sanskaras through Yogic process and cultivation of deep thought. This can subsequently change our Karma. Deep thought on any subject for a long time is the essence of Yoga and is referred to as Sanyam in Patanjali Yoga. Sanyam allows memory removal or sublimation of existing memories into new ones. Thinking deeply about a subject for a long time requires tremendous processing capability of the brain and it can only be achieved if the mind gets rid of some of the existing memories. This is the genesis of removing Sanskaras.
Modern brain researches do show that brain is pliable and is capable of developing new neurons, neural pathways and hence memories. The intensity of an experience dictates the quality of memory formation. Deep thought allows a very intense experience. When we think continuously and deeply about a particular thought tremendous processing takes place in the mind, since the brain is evaluating millions of alternatives. This processing can be thought of as a cyclonic activity, which embraces other thoughts in its wake to produce the energy to focus on a single item. This process when continued for a long time helps in memory sublimation.
Why are we interested in getting rid of our memories ? Our lives are full of happy and sad events. They produce happy and sad memories. Unhappy memories in individuals lead to violence, hatred and general unhappiness in the world. If we can willfully remove our unhappy memories, it will help us live a more fruitful and happy life. Besides it will also help us in liberating ourselves from the cycle of birth and death.
Sometimes people feel that the the old unhappy or unpleasant memories which do not surface may have been removed or sublimated. However they surface again when we start thinking about some unpleasant events. Somehow the brain has the capability of bringing out certain type of memories as if they are stored in a certain section of the brain. Thus if one thinks of unpleasant thoughts all the unhappy memories start coming out. Similar is the case with pleasant and positive thoughts.
How can we remove the unhappy memories ? Besides the yogic process another way is to think continuously about happy events so that this process reduces the intensity of unhappy memories. Sometimes they can also be removed completely. Initially it is difficult to do so but with practice and patience it can be achieved. This process is much superior to that of suppressing the unhappy memories. This is also the way nature evolves where it makes the negative things irrelevant rather than suppressing them. If we try to suppress the negative feelings and memories they come back with much greater force.
Thus by positive thoughts, words and deeds or Karma we can change our memories and can become happy.
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