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CONTENTS6. How to Control Vasanas (Tendencies)  

 

 

 

 

               6. How to Control Vasanas (Tendencies)

 

 

 


     Sometime some impure thoughts and impure impressions arise from within the subconscious layer of our mind. If such unwelcome thoughts arise in our mind from the subconscious region, then we should say to our beloved Lord within, to our Ishtani: 'Oh Lord, I am helpless. These impure thoughts and impure impressions are not my thoughts, my impressions. They belong to you. You have given me all that I have. So I am helpless.' In this connection one is reminded of the story of Lord Krishna and the great poisonous serpent, Kaliya. It is stated that a terrible poisonous serpent called Kaliya created havoc, poisoning the waters of the Yamuna. Devotees of Lord Krishna implored Sri Krishna to kill the monster. Sri Krishna, as he is always compassionate, listened to the prayers of those sincere devotees and came to their rescue. He jumped into the river and danced on the hoods of the serpent continuously until in agonising pain it began to vomit blood - not ordinary blood, but poisonous blood. Now this Kaliya, in its previous birth, must have done some meritorious acts. Otherwise, how could it have got the touch of an Incarnation of God? Now, at the moment of terrible suffering, it was still in the presence of the Lord and it surrendered at His holy feet, saying, 'Oh Lord, I am not only surrendering myself at Your holy feet, I am giving You some thing else too. Devotees give You various things, but I have nothing other than this poisonous blood to give You; because it is You, the Creator of this Universe, who have given this poisonous blood. I am making an offering of it at Your lotus feet.' It regretted very much that it had nothing better to offer to the Lord. The spiritual significance of the story of Sri Krishna and Kaliya is that we have in us both good and bad tendencies. We must be prepared to make an all-out surrender to the Lord. We have to give good, evil and everything else to Him with total surrender. With such an attitude of total surrender, we should approach God.


     In a previous chapter, reference was made to the neutralising of worldly influences. The society in which we live and our environment are full of different kinds of unwholesome, worldly influences which we cannot escape. Unless we neutralise them, take pains and make special efforts to do away with the influences which hinder our progress, it will not be possible for us to realise the magnificent goal in this life. In order to neutralise worldly influences, we must spiritualise every moment of our working life. That means we have to look upon everything as Divine. This is a very helpful practice, though admittedly difficult. Vivekachudamani, gives us the way of doing this in the following verse (316):


     Sarvatra sarvatah sarvam
     brahma-matr'avalokanaih |
     sad-bhava-vasana-dardhyat
     tat trayam layam asnute ||


     Sankaracharya here points out that the way to destroy worldly influences lies in looking on everything, under all circumstances, always, everywhere and in all ways, as Brahman and Brahman alone. Under all circumstances, 'Sarvada,' always. Sometimes we take recourse to discrimination and the next moment we forget to do so. That will not do. Those who have read the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna must have noticed that the compiler of the Gospel, Master Mahasaya (Mahendra Nath Gupta), when he met Sri Ramakrishna for the second time at Dakshineswar Kali Temple, put to him four questions. These are all eternal questions. The first question was: 'How, Sir, can we fix our minds on God?' Sri Ramakrishna told many things in reply. The chief point he tried to impress on the mind of Master Mahashay is, 'Always discriminate.' He laid emphasis on the word 'always.' Here also Sankaracharya, says, 'Sarvatah', - under all circumstances, always, and 'Sarvatra', everywhere. If we do that, then to a great extent we shall be successful in neutralising the effects of worldly influences.


     Desires are serious obstacles on our journey towards the supreme goal. Now desire can also be augmented. If we constantly dwell on sense objects, if we hanker after worldly pleasure, then they will overpower us. If we constantly dwell on such things, they will create in us a desire to possess the sense objects, and we shall indulge in different kinds of sense gratifications leading to repeated cycles of birth and death. Now, desires or Vasanas are stimulated by two factors - internal thought and external action. First, there is a mental longing - I want to possess this, I want to enjoy this or that object. First the thought comes in the mind. What is at the thought level gradually comes later to the level of action. So, the longing is inside the mind, and action outside.


     These again can be traced back to a root cause, which is called Ahamkara. Ahamkara' is so subtle that it affects the intellect through internal longing first and then through the external act. Here also, Sankaracharya rightly points out that unless we make special efforts to completely destroy all kinds of obstacles that bind us, such as identification with our body, with our psycho-physical organism, we shall continue to be in this cycle of birth and death. So, what is the remedy? Sankaracharya points out in verse 314 of Vivekachudamani:


     Samsara-bandha-vicchityai
     tad dvayam pradahed yatih |
     vasana preryate hy antah
     cintaya kriyaya bahih ||


     - For the sake of breaking the chain of transmigration, the Sanyasin should burn to ashes these two - thinking of the sense objects within and doing selfish acts without. These two lead to an increase of desires.


     Here is a formula. What is our goal? We want to reach the Ultimate Reality. We want to manifest the divinity which is within us. We want to realise God. Now, to realise God we must snap, somehow or other, the chain of transmigration that drags us down to this vicious cycle of birth and death. Then what have we to do? Sankaracharya points out that one should burn to ashes these two - continuous thinking of sense objects and acting upon them. For, if we just dwell on them in thought, they will manifest afterwards as physical action, and that leads to further increase of desires. Therefore, Sankaracharya rightly points out that if we want to destroy all kinds of shackles, then we are to destroy both these which are our enemies. We should not go on thinking about sense objects, and we should also avoid acting on the prompting of sense objects.


     By these two - dwelling constantly on sense objects and acting upon them - what happens? We get more and more Vasanas. Now, sometimes it is seen that though we restrict for some reason or other, certain kinds of sense indulgences, we still continue to dwell on these very sense objects all the time. By so doing, our restraint becomes a mere pretence. It will, therefore, not solve our problem. Why? In the words of Sri Krishna (Gita Ch.3-6):


     Karm'endriydni samyamya

     ya aste manasa smaran |
     indriy'arthan vimudhatma

     mithy'acarah sa ucyate ||


     - The deluded man who restrains his organs of action but continues in his mind to brood over the objects of sense, is said to be a hypocrite.


     Subjectively, we go on contemplating upon these sense objects; mentally we may desire to possess them, although outwardly we avoid them. Such people are called hypocrites. Therefore, a strong foundation of character has to be laid, which consists in right action, which can in turn be built upon the right type of thoughts. In a nutshell, therefore, subjective thoughts and objective actions are themselves effects of powerful Vasanas, and these powerful Vasanas create fresh crops of Vasanas which drag the individual into innumerable births and deaths. Furthermore, on account of ignorance or Avidya, we continue to live a life of sense gratification bringing an endless stream of sorrows and sufferings. If we want to avoid this or if we want to get away from these two kinds of subjective thoughts and objective actions, then what are we to do? We are to practise spiritualising our everyday life.


     Sometimes it is also seen that after we have practised the spiritual technique that is given to us by our guru, there are moments when it seems that we have reached our heights. But we should not be so sure of it. It may be that we are labouring under a delusion. On this point it is worthwhile quoting the following passage from Swami Vivekananda's lecture on his Great Master at New York:


     'For the moment it seemed that the doors of heavens were going to be opened; for the moment it seemed as if wre were going to plunge into the Light Effulgent. But the animal man again shakes off all these angelic visions. Down we go, animal man once more, eating and drinking and dying, and dying and drinking and eating, again and again.'


     Sometimes it may seem that we have experienced a modicum of bliss and we are puffed up with pride. No, we should not do that because these may be only apparent heights, not real heights, and we may not be able to stay permanently there in perfect safety. We may slip again.


     So, what should we do? We should become very careful, mindful and alert. In our journey towards the great goal, once we allow ourselves to become extroverts, then there is a tendency of going down because the ego at once intervenes and the sense objects again crowd around us for attention. Terrible Vasanas will be created once more and we fall again. Our Sadhana becomes a sheer waste of time and energy. Therefore, we have to be very careful. It is like a chain, thought followed by action. Sometimes we shall have lustful desire or thoughts. Thoughts assail our mind, invade us and we then encourage such thoughts. Then we cannot avoid giving these lustful thoughts an expression in action. When encouraged, thoughts produce actions. Sometimes various kinds of evil desires will come, but if we do not encourage them by the exertion of our will power, then we can avoid their expression as lustful action. Suppose a bad thought invades our mind, we should not encourage it. Rather, on the contrary, we should take up the attitude of a witness and sublimate this lustful thought to divine thought and chant ardently the holy name. This point can be best illustrated from two incidents, one from the life of Lord Buddha and another from the life of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, both incarnations of God. In the life of Lord Buddha, it so happened that once a woman of ill-fame, enamoured by the beauty of Bhagavan Buddha, went to the palace at midnight with evil intentions. She wanted to tempt Lord Buddha and at midnight knocked at the door of the palace where he was living. Buddha stepped out and asked why she had come. He could immediately understand the evil intention of that woman who said, 'I have come with some fruits and offerings.' Obviously she wanted to tempt Buddha. He did come out, receive the lady with all warmth and affection, but also said, 'Mother, what can your son do foi you?' So, the poor woman, who had come to tempt him and was burning with passion inside, was struck by these words of Buddha - 'Mother, what can your son do for you?' The lady was frozen to death, so to say. Another incident of the same kind occurred in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. When he had just finished his first four years of Sadhana at Dakshineswar. Somehow a doubt about his condition came in the minds of Rani Rasmani and her son-in-law Mathur Babu, as Sri Ramakrishna was not behaving in a normal way. They thought that he was dwelling on a very high plane and living an absolute life of continence which perhaps had led to his abnormal behaviour, and that he should be brought down to the normal plane by breaking his vow of continence. Mathur Babu hit upon a plan to tempt Sri Ramakrishna through Lakshmi Bai and other women of bad character in a house at Michuva Bazar in Calcutta. But as the Buddha said to that lady, 'Mother, what can your son do for you?' Sri Ramakrishna also immediately saw the Divine Mother in these women of ill-fame and cried, 'Mother, Mother,' and they all begged his pardon and saluted him again and again.


     The more we proceed towards the east, the west recedes of itself. At present, we are living a life of identification with the unreal. Basically and intrinsically we are atman. We are Sat-Chit-Ananda, but we have forgotten our divine heritage. We are conscious of our biological heritage only and we live on the psycho-physical existence, on the plane of unreality. And we go on indulging in different kinds of Asat Vasanas (evil desires), which are predominant in our mind. These Asat Vasanas are to be removed by Sat Vasanas (holy desires). We have to ensure that we do not indulge in any kind of wrong and sensuous thoughts. We all have Vasanas. Some Vasanas are in the form of seeds which, if allowed, will grow wild, will increase and multiply. The individual would feel helpless and confess, 'Oh, I have so many poweful Vasanas which drag me down to a very low plane.
I just cannot escape out of it.' Now even when these Vasanas are in the seed form, we should take pains to curb and crush them and not allow them to come forth, as that will bring more of such Asat Vasanas. So Sankaracharya, who was a great psychologist besides being a philosopher, says in Verses 312 of Vivekachudamani:


     Karya-pravardhanat bija-
     pravrddhih paridrs yate |
     karya-nasat bijanasah
     tasmat karyam nirodhayet ||


     - It is seen that when the effect is developed, its seed also is developed. When the effect is destroyed, its source also is destroyed. Therefore, one should subdue the effect.


     When the 'effects' flourish, the seeds are observed to increase and when the 'effects' are destroyed, the seeds also are destroyed. Therefore, the effects are to be destroyed and subdued. When the seed is allowed to germinate and grow into a big tree, we get a fresh crop of millions and millions of seeds from it. If the tree is destroyed, no fresh crop of seeds will be there. So, what are we to do? We are to stop the effect, then the cause ends. The cause-effect chain is never-ending. When this body becomes incapable of expressing the Vasanas, then we have to take the help of a new body. A new body means again fresh Vasanas and again another body, and so it goes on. To break the vicious circle, we cannot do much directly with the Vasanas. Even if we attempt to do so, we shall ultimately find that unless they are removed with their very roots, there are chances of their reappearing. An illustration from our everyday life will make the point clear. Say, gardeners are employed to uproot the weeds in a flower garden. They are going on plucking out and uprooting the weeds. But the next morning, the gardeners feel helpless. For, more sprouts, more weeds have come out. Then what is the remedy? We are to remove carefully the weeds along with their roots. Even after removing the weeds with their roots, we find that in some corner of the lawn we have some fresh weeds. Perhaps there were some seeds lying scattered, ungrown. So also even though we take pains to channelise our different kinds of Vasanas into useful thoughts, we may find that some undesirable Vasanas again somehow crop up, because there were some lurking Vasanas, lying dormant. On getting a chance to grow under favourable circumstance, they appear again.


     Therefore, we should never, never relax. We should go on weeding out and at the same time we should also see to it that the legacies of the past with all our bad impressions are reduced. Therefore, along with the effort with which we remove the weeds, we should also cultivate some positive attitudes. When the lawn is freed from weeds, we should plant in their place some good flower and fruit-bearing vegetation. In the same way while all sensuous thoughts are eliminated, along with that positive virtues must also be cultivated.

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Dash-avatara or the ten incarnations (detail). Painting. Deccani school. 18th - early 19th century A.D.
Dash-avatara or the ten incarnations (detail). Painting. Deccani school. 18th - early 19th century A.D.


 

 

 

 

 


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