At Brahma Kumaris, you must have heard about ‘Sanskar’ and ‘Sanskar Transformation’. Let’s look at these in detail here.
What is a Sanskar?
There are various ways to define it. Deep-rooted habits, old habits, attitude, nature, etc. In short, it is a learned behavior repeated over a long period of time. Example getting angry, jealous, upset or sulking. You would like to change these sanskaras. There are good sanskars too. Remaining calm in chaos, contentment singing, driving, etc. You would not like to change.
What is learning?
Suppose today you learn how to bake a cake. What happens tomorrow? You forget it. Only when you bake a cake repeatedly do you learn it. So, the first step is to acquire the information and the second step is to store that information.
Learning is, how you acquire new information and store that information in your memory. Both acquiring and storing it over a period of time are important. Even if one of them is not there you can’t call it learning.
Neuro-Biology of Learning & Memory
Inside the brain, there are about a hundred billion neurons. These are the workhorses that help in remembering something.
The above diagram is the primary functional unit of the brain. Three parts of the brain – cell body, axon(long-tail), and dendrite.
The brain comprises of 100 billion neurons. Each neuron can get connected to about 10 thousand other neurons. There is a small gap called a synapse between any two neurons. When information starts getting exchanged that is when chemicals start flowing between two neurons and we say that there is a connection established. And only when a connection is established it means you have learned something. That is, a bit of information is stored in the memory. So, you have learned something only when the corresponding neural networks are formed inside the brain. Whenever you learn something new, a new set of connections are formed inside the brain.
Have an interest in the subject
To form a new set of connections it is very important to have an interest in the subject. If a student reads a book for two hours without any interest will anything get registered? You can fake everybody but not your brain. If there is no interest nothing gets registered. It is only when you have interest that the signal actually crosses that synapse and establishes a connection.
When students ask me how to improve concentration I tell them that they are asking the wrong question. When you watch your favorite movie there is the absolute focus. Even in the intermission, that same focus continues. Also, how does the assignment become interesting when you prepare it while watching your favorite TV show? Where did that concentration and immersion come from? from the interest. Interest is the result of the love you have. If you have a love for something you will have the concentration. So if you are not able to focus on an activity you should check yourself. Do you actually love this? Interest and love will help the brain absorb and retain information easily.
When you learn something new, you create new neural networks/circuits inside the brain. The information that you easily recall is the circuits you use continuously. These are strong and are strengthened due to constant usage. The ones that are difficult to recall are the ones that are weak because of lack of usage.
The three insights for sanskar transformation
New information leads to new neural circuits.
The more you use a neural circuit, the stronger it becomes and easier it becomes to recall the same information later.
Having interest is needed to form the connection.
How does a sanskar form?
Consider your brain as this simple green patch of land with grass. When you start learning something new your brain is like this patch. When you keep repeating slowly a rudimentary path gets formed.
As you keep continuing, it becomes like the picture above
On repeating it further it becomes like the picture above
Then the path takes the form above.
Finally, it becomes like the above. Now the sanskar is formed inside the brain.
The fascinating part of sanskars is that the road is not only formed but is also tilted. So once the car gets onto the road, you can’t stop it. I saw the gulab jamun. I knew I should not eat it but I could not stop. Only after the car travels the whole path it stops. Sanskars are very powerful. By the time you realize you are making a mistake the damage is already done. It is because you have repeated it so many times. It’s ingrained inside the brain where this neural network is not only formed but is also tilted.
Try stopping yourself when you are angry. Is it easy? It is very little you can do once the car is on the road. It is because of the strong neural networks inside the brain. You can do anything only before the car gets onto the road but once it’s on the road you can’t stop it. So, how can you stop it?
What is triggering the sanskars?
Inside the brain, there are already formed neural networks or memories. But the good thing is that the car does not get onto the road on its own. That is the sanskar does not start playing on its own. There is always a trigger. Will you get angry just like that?
On the road, for unlearning or sanskar transformation you can’t stop the car, once it gets onto the road. You can always reflect on what is it that is pushing my car onto the road? There is always a trigger.
Triggers can come only in six forms. The five senses and the sixth one is the mind. You heard something, you smelt something, you saw something, someone touched you or thought about it. Only six pathways to these triggers.
Usage of neurons is their maintenance.
Your neural networks need no maintenance. Their usage is their maintenance.
That is if you are using the sanskar you are maintaining it.
This is all about the neuroscience behind any sanskar. In the next article, we will explore how to overcome or transform these sanskars.