Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 73

Chapter 8
36. Accumulation Of Good Samskaras[1]

1. Human life is full of various samskaras. Innumerable actions are being continually done by us; there is really no end to them. Even if we take a superficial look and count the activities done during twenty four hours of a day—eating, drinking, sitting, walking, working, writing, speaking, reading—they would make a long list. Besides these, in the life there are various dreams, sentiments and perceptions like love and hate, honour and insult, joy and sorrow. All these make their impact on the mind and shape a man’s personality and behaviour. Therefore, if somebody asks me to define life, I would say that life means an aggregate of accumulated samskaras.

2. Samskaras are good as well as bad, and both of them influence human life. We hardly remember our childhood days. Samskaras from the former births are so completely erased that one wonders whether one had any previous birth at all. When we cannot remember even the childhood days, why talk of previous births? Let us, therefore, leave them aside and think only of this birth. Here also it is not that only those actions which we remember had taken place. Countless activities and the acquisition of information and know-how of a great many things is continually taking place. In the end, most of them get erased leaving behind only a few samskaras. If we try to recollect at bed-time all that we did during the day, we fail to do so. Only the most prominent incidents come back before the mind’s eye. For example, if we had a serious quarrel, we remember only that at night. That quarrel is the only thing in the day that is carried forward from that day in the account book of our life. Important and conspicuous events leave strong impressions; the rest fade away. When we write a diary, we note therein only a few important things. When we review the week, we note even less. While reviewing the month, only the most important happenings during the month are remembered. Many of those happenings too are omitted while reviewing the year.

Thus very few things remain in memory, and they form the samskaras. Most of the innumerable actions and much of what we have learnt ultimately fade away leaving only a small residue in the mind. Those actions and the information and know-how have done their work and disappeared. Only a few samskaras remain, and these samskaras are our capital. That is our net gain from the business of living. A trader keeps daily, monthly and annual accounts of income and expenditure and arrives at the figure of profit or loss. It is exactly the same with life. Addition and deletion of samskaras goes on throughout the life, resulting finally in a small net balance. When the end of life comes near, the self begins to think of the gains in life. Looking back, it finds that these gains are few. This does not mean that all that one did and all that one learnt have proved to be futile. They have certainly done their work. There could be thousands of transactions in a trader’s business, but a single final figure of either profit or loss is the net result. If there is a loss, his heart sinks. If there is a profit, he is happy.


References and Context

  1. Samskaras mean the imprints of actions, associations and experiences that remain indelibly engraved on our mind and mould our behaviour, personality and our worldview.