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ŚABDA-YOGA : The Language Of Yoga Demystified – Part 10.2


In this series, Yogic terminologies will be taken up and their –

  1. Etymological analysis,
  2. Lexical descriptions and
  3. Textual occurrences in Yogic literature and their commentaries, as available, will be presented. And finally observations will be made on the references.

Three texts – Yogasūtra ,Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā and Bhagavad-gītā are consulted for textual occurrences portion.

Śabda-yoga is intended to help students, teachers, and professionals of Yoga to develop a sound grammatical, contextual, and thereby an authentic and immersive understanding of Yoga terminologies.

List of Words

We will take up important Yogic terms from Sūtra-s 1.17 – 20.  The terms that will be analyzed in this Unit are –



सं + कृ + घञ् =  संस्कारः

saṃ + kṛ + ghañ=  saṃskāraḥ

The prefix ‘sam’ has been given a host of meanings in the dictionaries[1]. Among them सम्यक् – Samyak – well – is the meaning that has been utilized in the commentaries of Yogasūtra for the current word under consideration.

  • The root word is कृkṛ – to do
  • The suffix is घञ्ghañ. It is added as per the grammatical rule भावे (aṣṭādhyāyī3.18). As per this rule the meaning brought in by the suffix is – the act.

Based on the above, the derivate statement would be: सम्यक् क्रियते इति संस्कारःsamyakkriyateitisaṃskāraḥ– the act of doing well or simply refinement.


There is no entry for the term in Amarakośa

 Textual Occurrences 


There are 8 References to the saṃskāra in this text spread in all the four chapters.  They are summarized chapter wise.

 Pāda 1 

विरामप्रत्ययाभ्यासपूर्वः संस्कारशेषोऽन्यः ॥ १. १८ ॥

तज्जः संस्कारोऽन्यसंस्कारप्रतिबन्धी ॥ १.५० ॥

virāmapratyayābhyāsapūrvaḥsaṃskāraśeṣo’nyaḥ .. 1. 18 ..

tajjaḥsaṃskāro’nyasaṃskārapratibandhī .. 1.50 ..

The first reference (1.50) to the word saṃskāra in this chapter occurs in the context of the asamprajñātasamādhi. In this Sūtra it has been described as a state that is achieved by the practice of total cessation of activities of the mind. And in that state only the saṃskāras – the (weak) impressions/imprints alone remain in the citta. It is to be noted that – impressions/imprints left on the fabric of the citta by the experiences that it undergoes is called as saṃskāra in Yogasūtra.

In the second reference (1.50) it is stated that – the saṃskāras imprinted in the Citta by the ṛtambharāvṛtti has the special capability of rendering other (non Yogic) saṃskāras incapable. There by nothing other than the ṛtambharāvṛtti and its saṃskāras remain in the Cittta.

Pāda 2

परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिनः ॥ २.१५ ॥

pariṇāmatāpasaṃskāraduḥkhairguṇavṛttivirodhāccaduḥkhamevasarvaṃvivekinaḥ .. 2.15

The above lone reference from the second Pāda states that for a wise discerning person all experiences are suffering only. The Sūtra conveys that even while experiencing something apparently pleasant – the seed of suffering lurks in it. In that context we see that pleasant experiences of the present lead to saṃskāra-duḥkha. To explain –– Sadāśivabrahmendra, an 18th century Yogasūtra commentator clarifies–

सुखनाशे तत्संस्कारः सुखं स्मारयित्वा स्मारयित्वा हृदयं दहति


When a pleasant experience ends, it leaves saṃskāras in the citta These impressions give rise to memory of the pleasure of the past again and again and by this scorch the mind currently, as, those pleasant moments have already passed and such experience cannot be re-lived. This is called as saṃskāra-duḥkha.

Pāda 3

There are three references from this chapter to the word Saṃskāra. They are as follows –

व्युत्थाननिरोधसंस्कारयोरभिभवप्रादुर्भावौ निरोधक्षणचितान्वयो निरोधपरिणामः ॥ ३.९ ॥

तस्य प्रशान्तवाहिता संस्कारात् ॥ ३.१० ॥

संस्कारसाक्षात्करणात्पूर्वजातिज्ञानम् ॥ ३.१८ ॥

vyutthānanirodhasaṃskārayorabhibhavaprādurbhāvaunirodhakṣaṇacitānvayonirodhapariṇāmaḥ .. 3.9 ..

tasyapraśāntavāhitāsaṃskārāt .. 3.10 ..

saṃskārasākṣātkaraṇātpūrvajātijñānam .. 3.18 ..

The first reference discusses the nirodhapariṇāma – the changes that happen in the mind during the state of citta-vṛtti-nirodha. It is stated that in nirodha state – the

vyutthāna-saṃskāras (the impressions of the mind that opposed to the attainment of Samādhi)get subdued and the nirodha-saṃskāras (the impressions of the mind that lead to Samādhi/cessation of activities of the mind) gain upper hand).

The next reference (3.10) describes as to how the state of Nirodha is sustained in the mind. It clarifies that – by the virtue of the strength of Nirodhasaṃskāras – the peaceful state of the mind – sans-activity is ensured. Sage Vyāsa clarifies that the strength of Nirodhasaṃskāra depends upon the intensity/effectiveness of practice – to quieten the mind (निरोधसंस्काराभ्यासपाटवापेक्षा प्रशान्तवाहिता चित्तस्य भवति -nirodhasaṃskārābhyāsapāṭavāpekṣāpraśāntavāhitācittasyabhavati).

The third reference (3.18) is in the connection with the attainment of the power of knowing previous births. This Sūtra states that – by saṃyama (dhāraṇā,dhyāna, samādhi) on the saṃskāras (of one’s own Citta?) this capability is achieved.

Pāda 4

There are two references to the term Saṃskāra in this chapter. They are described below-

जातिदेशकालव्यवहितानामप्यानन्तर्यं स्मृतिसंस्कारयोरेकरूपत्वात् ॥ ४.९ ॥

तच्छिद्रेषु प्रत्ययान्तराणि संस्कारेभ्यः ॥ ४.२७ ॥

jātideśakālavyavahitānāmapyānantaryaṃsmṛtisaṃskārayorekarūpatvāt .. 4.9 ..

tacchidreṣupratyayāntarāṇisaṃskārebhyaḥ .. 4.27 ..

Sūtra 4.9 states that – impressions/imprints of past experiences (saṃskāras) and their manifestation as remembering/memory (smṛti) are homogenous in nature – even if they happen far apart in terms of birth, place and time. Hence for example – if a person has to take birth as a specific species in a subsequent birth eg.cow – his impressions during his cow life even in a remote past birth will be kindled by the fructifying karmas.

Sūtra 4.27 states even in a person who has a clear perception of the pure consciousness – sometimes due to previous Saṃskāras the citta may have other distracting thoughts that might lead the mind to worldly plane.


Term not found in these two texts.

Tabulation on Distribution of References in Yoga Texts 10.2


It is very interesting to note that such an important term like Saṃskāra is found only in the Yogasūtras. In the Yogasūtras also various interesting implications of Saṃskāras emerge. The inputs from the eight references can be arranged in the following manner

1) Saṃskāras have a role to play in suffering (2.15)

2) Saṃskāras invariably lead to smṛti corresponding to it. There will be no deviation or difference even when the two are separated by time, place, birth etc. (4.9)

3) Intensity of imprinting Yogic saṃskāras is directly connected to the duration of calm flow of the mind. (3.10)

4) The very state of experience of Nirodha is Saṃskāra centric (subsiding and manifestation non-yogic and Yogic Saṃskāras) (3.9)

5) Worldly Saṃskāras will always be there in the Citta – even during the state of Samādhi and even in the mind of an evolved souls who have perceived the consciousness (Saṃskārashesha & tachidreshu) (1.18 & 4.27)

6) Saṃyama on Saṃskāras will give special powers as that of knowing the previous birth of the given person. (3.18)

7) There are certain Special Saṃskāras that block worldy Saṃskāras – they are called as ṛtambharā-prajñā-saṃskāras (1.50)

Thus, the study of this term Saṃskāra in the methodology evolved through Śabdayoga has yielded these rich insights that give a better understanding role and implications of Saṃskāras in the Yogic context.

[1] 37 meanings of the word ‘Sam’ with examples can be seen in Avyaya kosha here –

Unit 10 To be Continued…

Links for previous posts in this unit

Śabda yoga 10.1

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