I bought an expensive music system to play during classes when we moved to the new studio location. There were many issues setting up and running the system. Eventually, almost 6 months later, a stable implementation was put together.
I started to wonder if I could have moved straight to the successful implementation and avoided all the messing around with software, networks and hosting platforms that did not work reliably.
It’s possible. The working setup could have been selected right from the start, but there was – back then – no reason to do things that way. It “should” all work out of the box, right?
So although it was always there, getting to the stable setup was the result of small steps, each of which was made based on the results of the previous attempt.
It made me think about how we look at our life mistakes. There’s regret for doing or not doing something and that’s fair enough – sadness is a valid response to unfortunate outcomes. However, any self-reproach really is unjustified. The decisions made in the past were made for the reasons that were alive then – reasons that seemed important, at the time. It “should” work out of the box – right?
The point is that we have incomplete knowledge. Incomplete knowledge of our goal – we think it’s what we want, but we won’t know for sure until we achieve it, and incomplete knowledge about how to achieve it. Acting on this knowledge brings joy and fulfillment (eg getting this system to work) or sadness and frustration and another round of effort to try to sort things out. Regardless, we make decisions as if sure about these things because there seems to be no other way.
Yoga texts describe our incomplete knowledge as samskara. Tightness in muscles and joints can be seen as a kind of physical samskara – the body has incomplete knowledge about it’s own movement. Yoga describes the seemingly endless repetition of effort and partial achievement resulting from samskara as samsara.
The texts go on to claim that, through practice, we can unravel our own samskara – much as we unravel tightness in our bodies – and that when this is complete, our awareness will have changed. We will see things as they really are, not through the lens of our incomplete knowledge, and will get it right first time, every time. Samsara will be at an end for us.
Of course, this cannot be proven. A person can decide to try. If that person succeeds, and really sees everything as it really is, would she or he even tell anyone?