Sankalpa – A Fresh Perspective on Bucket Lists

“How do you know what’s evolutionary? You don’t have to intellectualize it. You’ll find it charming. You’ll find the process of moving in the direction of greater charm to be one with the process of evolution.”

Thom Knoles

Desire is one of the most demonized characteristics of human behavior. Some schools of thought argue that desire is the cause of all our suffering, and that the path to enlightenment is to become detached from them. 

Thom sets the record straight in this episode, using the concept of Sankalpa to clarify both the function and importance of desire, and giving us a primer on how to ensure our desires remain relevant to our evolution and aligned with Nature’s intention.

And if you want to take the subject further, you might also like to explore Thom’s online course, The Art of Charm This course is open to all graduates of a qualified Vedic Meditation course.

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Episode Highlights


Sangha Kalpa



Misconceptions About Sankalpa



The Origin of Desire in Vedic Philosophy



Buddhism vs. Vedic Worldview on Desire



Desire and Suffering in Buddha’s Teachings



Authorship of Desire



Ruchika: The Element of Charm



Fulfillment as Inner Contentedness



Charm – Nature’s Compass for Desires



Desires Over Time: The Sankalpa Accumulation



Transcending Unfulfilled Desires



Embracing Fresh Desires and Letting Go of the Old



How Meditation Refreshes Your Desires



Old vs. New Desires



Explore the Charm Course


Jai Guru Deva


Sankalpa – A Fresh Perspective on Bucket Lists

[00:45] Sangha Kalpa

Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

Today, I want to shed light on the subject of Sankalpa. The proper way of pronouncing it in Sanskrit is on the antepenultimate syllable, as with about 90% of words in Sanskrit. Instead of the way that we do in English, which is to say Sankalpa, the proper pronunciation is Sankalpa [sun-kull-puh]. Sankalpa.

Antepenultimate means, ante means the third from the end. Penultimate means the second from the end. Ultimate means the final. Final syllable, ultimate syllable. Second from the end, penultimate syllable. Third from the end, antepenultimate, A-N-T-E, penultimate.

So, Sankalpa is a combination of two words: Sangha, Sangha, S-A-N-G-H-A, and Kalpa.

Sangha means togetherness, or the bringing together. The togetherness of many, the unity of diversity. Kalpa, in one of its ways of understanding it, refers to the sequence of events or time. We can think of it as time, or we can think of it as event sequence. Sankalpa.

Sangha turns into Sangh because of the final “a” soft “a” as in most Sanskrit words. If there’s a final short “a,” then that’s swallowed. So Sangha turns into sangh, and then kalpa is added to it to make the word Sankalpa. Sankalpa.

And what is that? Well, We hear people bandying this term about in the worldwide yoga, and Eastern philosophy, and new age communities in a vast variety of ways. And so, I thought it would be good to shed some light on it and describe what it actually means.

[03:14] Misconceptions About Sankalpa

Sometimes, people think of it as, once again, the way in which our individuality can make a decision to rule the roost by having certain intentions. So, very often, it’s just described as intention. And if you hold a particular intention in your awareness, then that intention will come to be.

So, I decide I need a deposit for a house. And maybe the deposit is a quarter of a million dollars. And so if I hold that intention of a quarter of a million dollars in my awareness, then house will come, or deposit for house will come, so my Sankalpa, my intention is to hold that in my awareness.

Actually, this is an incomplete idea. Not a correct idea. It’s akin to the way in which people misuse the word manifestation. I, the individual, the little self who feels needy and is wanting of certain things, as far as I’m concerned. “I want this.” I want a certain number of dollars for a deposit on a house, for example, or I want somebody to pay attention to me, or I want a certain experience.

And so making up the idea that, if I have that thing, that house deposit or that attention from somebody or lots of likes on my Instagram or whatever it may be, then, I’ll gain fulfillment, and the fact is that we know this isn’t true. We can’t gain fulfillment by fulfilling a desire.

[05:06] The Origin of Desire in Vedic Philosophy

And so we have now to come back to, in order to understand Sankalpa, we have to come back to the fundamental understanding in the Vedic Worldview about the origin and purpose of desire.

Who is the author of the desire? This is the big question that has always to be answered and dealt with. Who is the author of desire? And we can even say, what is the author of desire? The who and the what.

It would seem that an individual becomes aware of how things could be better. It would be better if I had a better hot water heater in my house. And because the old one isn’t allowing me to have a hot shower for longer than two minutes. And so, I need a hot water heater. And so, I’ve decided that’s my need. I’m going to put my attention on a hot water heater and get the hot water.

The fact is, the way that desire actually works is not born of individuality. Individuality is not the author of desire.

Once upon a time, many years ago, in meeting with what effectively was the head of the Buddhist religion in Thailand, the Abbot of the Thailand Buddhist community, who wanted to let us use, us meaning the Vedic Meditation community, use one of his retreat facilities.

But he wanted to test me first and see what it was that we stood for with our Indian Vedic worldview compared with the Thailand Buddhist worldview. We had a long conversation. He was an aged old man.

[07:13] Buddhism vs. Vedic Worldview on Desire

One of the surprising things about meeting him was that I expected for him, when he opened his mouth to speak English. Of course, I knew he could speak English. I was told he could, with a Thai accent, but instead of that, to my surprise, when he spoke with me, he spoke in a beautiful clipped Oxford English accent, something akin to that that you’d expect to hear from a BBC announcer.

And this was in the 1970s, and so. He was an ancient old man at that time. I would guess that he was 90, at least. And it turned out that he had been educated at Oxford University, and had spent a fair amount of time in England. And explained why, when speaking English, he spoke with such an English accent. Very interesting.

That was just a side note to flash out a vignette in which he and I were bantering back and forth about the difference between the Vedic worldview and what had become the Buddhist worldview.

The fact is, Lord Buddha, the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Shakya— who was the former crown prince of North India, and then who became known as the Buddha, the Shakya Muni. Shakya is his family name, and Muni means a saint or a sage— had given many lectures during his 50 years of teaching.

[08:59] Desire and Suffering in Buddha’s Teachings

He gained his enlightenment, his Nirvana, at the age of 30, and then taught actively in a circumference of about a hundred miles of where he lived for about 50 years. And it is said that he had 800 of his disciples experiencing and living in Cosmic Consciousness as one of the legacies of his teaching activity of 50 years. And many of his lectures or speeches were retained.

So the Abbot said to me, “In Buddhism,” and I’m here putting it in parenthetically, as it became, as it spread all the way over to Thailand, “we believe that desire is the source of suffering.” Desire.

And I said, “In the Vedic worldview, we believe that desire is the mechanism that Nature uses to bring about life-supporting evolution.”

And so then, we have a quandary, “Desire is considered to be the thing that has to be stamped out or rubbed out. If you can somehow transcend desire, then you won’t have problems. Suffering comes from having desires.”

And I said, “Where does it say so?”

And he said, “In the Shastras.” Shastras are one of the names for the original lectures given by Buddha, has passed down since 2,700 years ago, long time, long passage of time.

We looked over these Shastras together. They’re written in Pali. Pali is a language which is one of the first children of Sanskrit. It’s very Sanskritic in its look. And a lot of the Buddhist texts are maintained in Pali.

[11:12] Authorship of Desire

And he was able to translate Pali directly to me into English from the Shastras. And in one of the Shastras, Buddha is reputed to have spoken these words, that: “Authorship of desire is the source of all suffering.”

And I pointed out Abbott, “Authorship is the noun of this sentence, authorship of desire. What does that mean?”

It doesn’t mean that if you come up with a desire, you’re going to suffer. It means that if you decide that you’re the author of your desire. It is the assumption of authorship, assuming authorship, authorizing a desire that causes suffering.

From our point of view, from the Vedic perspective, we say that desire is actually not something that is born of individuality. Desire is Nature’s way. It’s a mechanism that cosmic intelligence uses to get individuals to move. To move from A to B, in a way, that is going to bring about Kriya, spontaneous right action.

And if one has that consciousness of a meditator where individuality merges with universality twice every day, morning, evening, Vedic meditator, settling down into that least-excited state, then one will, with greater and greater frequency, experience desires bubbling up from deep inside the Self.

And instead of one thinking to oneself, “I’m the author of this. And this is what it is I am wanting. This is what it is I am missing. This is what it is I lack. And if I fill that hole, then I will gain fulfillment.”

[13:27] Ruchika: The Element of Charm

No, Vedic meditator point of view is, I am the fulfillment field at my baseline. My fundamental status is that of fulfillment. And that which I find myself desiring is Nature’s way of telling me where to move, when to move, how to move. Cosmic intelligence uses the instrumentality of desire, which we call Ruchika, Ruchika, R-U-C-H-I-K-A. Ruchika.

Ruchika in Sanskrit means charm. It’s the element of charm, the element of desirability. Ruchika. And when Nature causes a thing to become charming, it causes a particular action or a proposition to action to become charming. This is a cue to the Vedic meditator that this is the direction in which you should move.

Why does Buddha say that authorship of desire causes suffering? If you decide that you individually are the author, then you’re committing theft. Theft is Steya, S-T-E-Y-A, Steya. In Sanskrit, it means theft, to steal, where we get our English word steal is from Steya. And Asteya means not stealing, not theft.

In other words, let’s not put our individuality in a position where we plagiarize, where we decide that a desire that bubbles up from deep inside has its source in my individuality, or it has its source in my neediness, and then, if I fulfill the desire, I’m going to gain fulfillment. Well, we know for a fact that’s not true.

You were a child, and you wanted a little dolly or a little toy or a little Transformer or a little whatever it was, and you got it. And then next thing you know, it’s over there in the corner, and you want the next toy. And then you want a bicycle. And then you want to go to parties. And then you want relationships. And then you want property. All of this change, change, change, change, change, and desires.

[15:59] Fulfillment as Inner Contentedness

The fulfillment of a desire is not the fulfillment of individuality. Individuality finds its fulfillment in transcendence. The fulfillment field is the underlying field of transcendence. That which lies beyond thought is a state of supreme inner contentedness. Bliss. Ananda. Ananda means bliss.

But this kind of bliss is not ecstatic bliss. It’s that supreme inner contentedness where the mind is experiencing its total potential, full creative intelligence in its unmanifest, quiet, 100% potential form.

We touch on that during our meditation when we go beyond thought. We experience oneness with the fulfillment field, and we make a wonderful discovery.

I am the fulfillment field. And so I don’t have to do a thing in order to gain fulfillment. Fulfillment cannot be acquired. It’s not an acquisition-based thing. “If I have this, if I have that, if I experience this, if I experience that, then fulfillment comes.” No. Fulfillment is the baseline.

But fulfillment wants to go on an excursion. Fulfillment wants to find itself in action, bringing itself to the needs field. What is the needs field? The field where there is evolution needed, where there is movement from less sophisticated to more sophisticated needed.

The fulfillment field goes into action. It goes on an excursion. And the way that it gets itself moving is to get all of its individual selves— the individuals, all individuals, come from that one individual whole consciousness field— to get the individualities to move. And the way that it gets the individualities to move is to make the proposition toward action charming.

[18:29] Charm – Nature’s Compass for Desires

Now, let’s get back to Sangha-kalpa. Sankalpa is the totality over a period of time of that which was desirable that’s been postponed that is either due or overdue. So when I look at an individual, I am seeing their Sankalpa.

What am I seeing? We can think of individuality that has not yet had the benefit of transcendence. Individuality is a lot of unfulfilled desires.

Someone arrives on the scene. I meet them for the first time. I’m experiencing the unfulfilled desires. A conglomeration of unfulfilled desires. Unfulfilled desires: this is Sankalpa.

Sankalpa, the togetherness over time of all of those things which are due, that is to say, Nature wants the individual to experience this, or overdue. Due desires or overdue desires, this is Sankalpa.

And Sankalpa is not something that I can use as an individual tool to bring about temporary fulfillment for myself. Sankalpa is that which Nature wants individuality to do. So, we think of someone as being a parcel of unfulfilled desires. That’s what individuality can be thought of as being.

When individuality does not yet have the benefit of contact with the underlying fulfillment field, then individuality is made up of Sankalpa, unfulfilled desires. Desires that should be and could be fulfilled, some of them now out of date. 

Some of them, because of hesitation, or because we didn’t possess the creative intelligence to bring fulfillment to a particular desire at a particular time when it was relevant. Now, that desire is out of date, and yet one is still holding on to it.

[21:11] Desires Over Time: The Sankalpa Accumulation

Because back in 1990 or something, I had a desire to go to France because my friends went, and I never went to France. And because I was a little bit afraid of the idea of traveling to a foreign country, if France is a foreign country. Sorry to the French, it’s not a foreign country to you, of course.

And so I didn’t go to France. And as I have it on my bucket list. I wanted to go to France when I was 19 or something. And I didn’t go. And now I’m in my 40s. So I’m going to get to France and see what that France desire from my age 19 is all about.

And we can go to France and experience all the beauties of France, wonders of the culture, the atmosphere there, the uniqueness of that place, and those people, and their wonderful cuisine, and their wonderful way of thinking and moving and expressing themselves, all of that lovely stuff.

And at the end of whatever period of time you spend in France, you can think to yourself, “I don’t really know what this was about. I got France off the checklist. And now I still feel unfulfilled. I don’t really understand why I needed to go to France.”

And that’s because France was in the Sankalpa. It was something that once upon a time would have been relevant if you hadn’t hesitated, and if you had acted on it when it was highly relevant.

But now it’s just one of those unfulfilled desires left over from the past. And over a period of time, Kalpa, over a period of time, this is the Kalpa part of Sankalpa, we accumulate unfulfilled desires.

[23:13] Transcending Unfulfilled Desires

And so what I see before me is a parcel. This is an individual, a parcel of unfulfilled desires. And those unfulfilled desires are having an impact on that individual. Some of them need to be transcended.

If I teach the individual Vedic Meditation and they practice it properly, sitting quietly twice a day, with eyes closed for 20 minutes, the mind settles down beyond all of the individuality and experiences Universality. One of the things that this does is it causes irrelevant old Sankalpa, old unfulfilled desires to be transcended.

One transcends old unfulfilled desires and you find that those things that once upon a time gripped you as, “I really should have gone to Paris when I was 19, and I didn’t and I really need to get over to Paris,” it may be that that’s no longer relevant as a priority for you. And you find you can let go of that.

I should have had a romantic relationship with this particular person when I was 20, and now I’m 50, and I can’t stop thinking about her or him, or them.” And now you learn Vedic Meditation, and if that experience no longer is relevant to your evolution, you’re able effortlessly to transcend it.

Sankalpa, the conglomeration or gathering together over time of unfulfilled desires. Individuality is made up of Sankalpa.

And then when you add the baseline of fulfillment to the experiencer, those things that were gripping us, to which we’d had a degree of attachment, no longer grip us. Things that are no longer relevant for our evolution, or spontaneously let go of and easily forgotten. And instead, in their place, rise new desires, new Sankalpa.

[25:49] Embracing Fresh Desires and Letting Go of the Old

New Sankalpa means the desirability toward action, which is now relevant. Relevant Sankalpa, not old dusty Sankalpa, which you didn’t act on, and so now it’s not relevant anymore. And you could go around doing your bucket list all you like and still wonder what it’s all about. “Been there. Done that. I don’t really understand why I needed to experience that thing.”

Now you have fresh Sankalpa. Refreshed Sankalpa means the ability to recognize what it is that Nature is intending for its individuality. That’s you. What it is that Nature is intending for you right now?

Given your current circumstance, given your capacity to make a contribution to the global activity of evolution, what is it that is the best thing you could be doing right now to make a contribution to the fulfillment of the world? Rather than, “What is it I want, what is it I need, what is it I’m lacking?”

One begins to experience impulses of charm, impulses of desirability to move in a particular direction and to have certain experiences. And essential to all of this is recognition of who or what is the author of desire. We get back to Buddha’s statement.

Assuming authorship. When an individual assumes authorship of desire, then the assumption of authorship, let’s call that authorizing a desire, that means my individuality takes control of it.

And I commit steya. I commit theft. I decide that a desire has bubbled up, and it’s mine, and if I fulfill that desire, then I will gain fulfillment, something we know not to be true from our direct experience, then we mess the whole thing up.

So instead of doing that, as a Vedic meditator, we transcend desire twice every day.

[28:22] How Meditation Refreshes Your Desires

What do I mean by transcend desire? Those of you who practice Vedic Meditation know about this. You close your eyes, and you commence the technique. And as the technique progresses two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the mind begins to experience deeper and deeper layers of more and more satisfying consciousness states.

And within minutes, all of those things to which you had rigid attachment, all those things that gripped you, are easily forgotten as your awareness expands and expands and expands to become one with that Totality consciousness, the fulfillment state.

This is how, when we meditate twice every day, we learn how to go into the unboundedness and then come back into the boundaries. We go into the unboundedness during meditation, and then, at the end of our meditation technique, we come back into the boundaries.

And we may find that we’ve changed our mind. Certain things that seemed so deeply important to experience and achieve, now don’t seem so important anymore.

Other things which are now in our refreshed Sankalpa, our refreshed state of awareness, now we have a refreshed list of things which our higher Self, Nature wants us to be doing, and we find those things desirable. And in this way, Vedic meditators avoid getting rigidly attached to specific timings and outcomes of old, now obsolete desires.

[30:20] Old vs. New Desires

So Sankalpa being refreshed means old, obsolete Sankalpa is being depleted of individual rigid attachment to obsolete desires, is being disintegrated, and our consciousness refreshed is now on the ball about detecting that which is evolutionary.

And how do you know what’s evolutionary? You don’t have to intellectualize it. It will be charming. You’ll find it charming. You’ll find the process of moving in the direction of greater charm to be one with the process of evolution.

So, evolution always involves change. And when change is desirable, then this is evolutionary progressive change. Instead of being caught in old obsolete desires, old Sankalpa, we have refreshed Sankalpa.

So Sankalpa basically is that package of desires, some of them old and obsolete, some of them new and evolutionary, which make up the individuality. Individuality always wants to do something. What’s next? What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?

And that whole mentality that we have of the mind hopping from one thought to the next, to the next, to the next. Some of those thoughts represent obsolete Sankalpa, and a few of them represent relevant Sankalpa. We want our Sankalpa to be completely relevant. We want it to be refreshed on a daily basis. 

[32:26] Explore the Charm Course

So, this is the true meaning of the word Sankalpa. What its etymology is, how it fits into the Vedic worldview, and how do we use Sankalpa?

Just be aware that if you’re a Vedic meditator, this kind of thing doesn’t work for people who don’t meditate, who don’t transcend, but if you’re a Vedic meditator and you know how to transcend individuality twice every day, then you can rely upon desirability to be the navigational tool for evolution.

And for those of you who would like to study this with greater detail. I’ve created a course on the subject of charm, which you can participate in by visiting my website and making arrangements there.

And we don’t use the word Sankalpa in that course because I didn’t want to complicate it with too many Sanskrit terms. But basically, this is the course all about Sankalpa, the course on charm.

Jai Guru Deva.

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