In Sanaatana Dharma we do not tip toe around our desires. We state them with clarity and a powerful intention. In fact, the first section of the Veda is referred to as Karma Kanda. It is the most voluminous section on Karmas which includes mantras, different chants, the different materials offered unto different devatas, how to perform yajnas which are fire rituals etc.
What is interesting to note is that no yajna or fire ritual offering begins without a sankalpa. Sankalpa is a prayerful request stating the purpose for why you are doing a particular karma. A sankalpa can also be described as a heartfelt desire or a resolve to do something. Samyak kalpayate anena iti sankalpah – a well-considered, clear, thought. Only after the sankalpa is stated, then the rest of the ritual continues. These devatas or deities are prayed to for different kinds of desires – freedom from obstacles, a child, a partner, prosperity and so on.
A sankalpa is similar and different from just an intention that you release into the universe which works on the law of attraction.
A sankalpa is similar to this kind of an intention that is born of clarity or an affirmation and rides on the power of thought. It is different in that a sankalpa is generally spoken of in the recognition of all laws of karma as presided over Bhagavan.
In Sanaatana Dharma, sankalpa before a karma is very important – Clarity of why am I doing what I am doing. As an aside, the Gayatri mantra which occurs in all the four Vedas to initiate the child into Vedic studies does not ask for health, wealth, svarga, partner, children. The mantra just asks for brilliance of mind as it is the instrument that will help you achieve Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
A brilliant mind is clear about why one does what one does, utilizing iccha shakti and jnana shakti well and is fully backed with kriya shakti to achieve the desired results.
If indeed a sankalpa is so important, then when we pray why do we hesitate to ask for what we want? Because of some wrong ideas that have crept in – The idea that ‘One should not ask for what one wants’. And the second is ‘One should only thank the Lord’.
Let’s look at the first idea. Some people feel great about themselves for not asking anything. Then, I ask them, suppose everything that you have including the shirt on your back were taken away, is that ok? No..no..what are you saying? Well, then I wonder if you have taken Bhagavan for granted in that you will always be provided for. Sure, you ‘ve worked for it but the situations in your life are conducive enough because of the laws of karma to retain what you have.
If you do not ask for what you want, the question is – who will ask for what you want then? This false notion stands against our daily experience. Suppose you go to a pizza place, you don’t hesitate to tell the chef – thin crust with more cheese, no tomatoes and an extra topping of olives. Or you ask for bhelpuri and then tell the panipuriwala, thoda aur meetha, zyaada paani, You ask for what you want. Do you feel less about yourself? Not at all. In fact, you believe it is your right to tell the chef how you want the pizza done. If for a routine thing like eating, you believe you can ask for what you want, then why would you deny yourself the opportunity to ask Bhagavan for what you want? There is no use in having a desire and pretending to be desireless and resisting the situations that come along our way.
If indeed we were not meant to ask for what we wanted, it would render a good part of the Veda meaningless because a yajna or for that matter even upaasana, meditation cannot proceed unless our purpose for doing so is stated. Asking for something does not make you small, especially asking something of Ishvara.
Then, one of you says – Earlier I would ask for things but my prayers were not answered. So, I stopped asking. These statements are born of hurt and because of this we deny ourselves a relationship with Ishvara.
If a sankalpa of yours is not getting fulfilled, there are 2 possibilities: (1) there isn’t enough force of karma backing the sankalpa or associated action, (2) this sankalpa is at loggerheads with another sankalpa from the past that has built up too much momentum. I may wish for moksha in one moment and for fame in another. The chain reaction of fruits set in motion by the two sankalpas may be at loggerheads or the force of our previous karma is so huge that it is taking time for the wish to be fulfilled.
Sometimes we are afraid to ask because we are familiar with the fickle nature of our desire based fulfillment. We earnestly pray for something and once the desire is fulfilled, don’t care much for it.
Another false idea, is that you should only thank the Lord. Again, this stands against our experience. Do we only thank our loved ones?
Good morning. Thank you so much for all that you have given me. Okay. Bye for now.
Good morning. Thank you so much for all that you have given me. Okay. Bye for now.
Do we do this in the morning and evening with our loved ones, thinking that our job for the day is done or do we relate, ask, listen, speak our minds to our loved ones?
Our relationship with Bhagavan is deeply personal and hence limiting oneself to what one should or should not do, restricts us unnecessarily.
These ideas come to us because somewhere we still believe that it is wrong to desire. The Vedas reveal to us that the desire for wealth, pleasure, good for all and desire for moksha are all valid pursuits. There is no reason to feel guilty. The Vedas have laid a road map for us – the way to overcome desires is often through fulfilling our desires for dharma, artha and kama such that we feel fulfilled enough to pursue moksha. And the tools are given to us including the power of sankalpa.
Clarity of purpose and why you are doing what you are doing what you are doing is paramount. The word ‘Purpose’ sometimes feels overwhelming. Sometimes, purpose provokes us into declaring some grand mission for ourselves. But again, if we look at our lives, we don’t do anything without a purpose. If you get into the car or hail an Uber, you want to get from place A to place B or even if want to go for a drive, the purpose is to enjoy the drive.
When you drag yourself into the bathroom, you don’t say – Wonder why I am here? There is a reason, a purpose why you are there. Some purpose determines what you eat for breakfast, how you get to work, what kind of clothes you wear, what pastimes you enjoy, whom you meet with etc.
We don’t have to be obsessed about purpose in the way that this particular commercial showed a mother feverishly obsessing about using every single minute to educate her four year old child. See what we are having for breakfast, a for apple and b for blueberries which will give us all the vitamins and minerals we need to make us strong. Tell me the name of the fruits that you know. Every statement she uttered, was bombarding the child with learning stimuli.
When we wake up every morning, most of us reach for our phone to check emails and message as we are impatient to see what transpired while we were sleeping. A lot of us think about the key things we need to get done for the day.
Our sankalpa then becomes our to – do list or the list of tasks that we want to accomplish. Either we already start feeling overwhelmed because of all that needs to get done during the day or we heave a sigh of relief because today is going to be a light day.
New to do list and the days pass into weeks and years.
Nothing much changes as we reinforce our identity of being the karta, the doer.
However, if moksha is an important pursuit and I identify myself as a karma yogi, how about replacing the to-do list with a more meaningful sankalpa when you wake up in the morning.
Dear Devatas, Rishis, Mahatmas, Gurus and Pitr-s, ,
I have another day. Thank you for all your blessings and support in all my pursuits.
Bhagavan, may I live today with a deeper appreciation of how you pervade this glorious creation.
May I perform my duties as an offering to you. May I be open and gracefully receive different people and situations with equanimity.
May I becoming more loving and giving. May I see that all that is here is you, Isha Vasyam idam sarvam.
May I see how I continue to be blessed.
May I use all my shaktis – iccha shakti, jnana, shakti, kriya shakti in service of Dharma.
May I be an instrument of change and contribute to happiness and change for all I come in contact with.
Dear Devatas, Rishis, Mahatmas, Gurus and Pitr-s, May I live and embody all the learnings that have been imparted to me.
May I see that I am the Atma that includes all forms including this body-mind too.
You can make up your own sankalpa and set the stage for the day which will unfold with all kinds of situations – good, bad or ugly.
Since you are ready you will be able to sail through all situations because your readiness to respond supercedes any situation that will come your way.
Knowing that you have the support of your loved ones and other divine beings, definitely helps.
You will note that I use the word ‘May’ and not should…we want this understanding to grow in us such that it becomes spontaneous. We don’t need the extra pressure of a ‘should’. Also rather than say, I will not be stressed out, you could say May I have peace.
In the dense forest of thoughts in our minds, our sankalpa paves the way for a clear path of successive thoughts backed up by the willingness to do what it takes for the desired results.
I was talking to a student about her life priority related to work and she said that I want to be treated fairly and equitably in terms of the money I receive. This cannot be your priority, I said. Being treated a particular way is the responsibility of both people. From what you describe, your priority is to offer solutions to customers which improve the quality of their lives through access to technology. It was a light bulb moment for her! And she said Yes! Clarity in why we do what we do helps us articulate the right sankalpa for our day as well as for the different karma-s we do.
And if you are a karma yogi, then a sankalpa before a karma – whether it is a laukika karma or a vaidika karma is the way to go.
A sankalpa is just a thought and yet not just a thought.
I quote from one of my poems,
Just a thought
Although a subtle form
It has the power to transform.
Of the silly and sublime find
Some land in the mind
Thoughts don’t just sit in a corner
Some dress up as a reformer