Printable version
Related Pages
Font Size    


by Swami Sivananda

The summum bonum of existence is the attainment of the Knowledge of the Self or the realisation of the one homogeneous Self. The Knowledge of the Self can only dawn when there is extinction of all Vasanas. This Self-realisation cannot be obtained without the complete giving up of all Vasanas. Extinction of all Vasanas alone is Moksha.

The subtle state of desire is called Vasana. Desire is gross, in its nature. A hidden Vasana is termed Kanksha. Some philosophers define Vasana as a tendency or inclination. Others say, “The blind clinging to sensual objects, through intense longing or craving, without deliberation or thinking, is known as Vasana.”

Vasanas are of two kinds, viz., the pure (Subha Vasanas) and the impure (Asubha Vasanas). The pure Vasanas liberate one from rebirths. Impure Vasanas generate rebirths. Impure Vasanas cause the mind to fluctuate, and produce agitation in the mind and affinity for objects. If you are led by the pure Vasanas, you will soon attain the immortal seat of ineffable splendour. Just as the seeds that are fried will not sprout, so also, the pure Vasanas will not bring rebirths.

The Vasanas which were generated in your past lives will cling to you in your future births. If the pure Vasanas cling to you, you will easily attain the Knowledge of the Self (Brahma-Jnana), and through Knowledge, Liberation (Moksha). If the impure Vasanas cling to you, you will experience pain and sorrow and you will get rebirths, again and again, in this world.

A desire arises to attend the cinema; a desire arises to eat meat; a desire arises to copulate; a desire arises to get hold of another's property by improper means. These are impure Vasanas. Anger, lust, greed, pride, egoism, hypocrisy, delusion, jealousy and hatred, are impure Vasanas. A desire arises to have Satsanga with sages; a desire arises to serve Sannyasins and Mahatmas; a desire arises to do charity to the poor and needy. These are all pure Vasanas. Mercy, love, tolerance, generosity, celibacy, truthfulness, forgiveness and courage are all pure Vasanas.

There are three kinds of impure Vasanas, viz., of the world (Loka Vasana), of scripture (Sastra Vasana), and of the body (Deha Vasana). Desire for name and fame, for honour and respect, for power and position, is Loka Vasana, i.e., Vasana that pertains to the world. A desire to become a reputed Pandit and enter into discussions with others for getting victory (Vijaya) is Sastra Vasana, i.e., Vasana that pertains to the Sastras. A desire to have a beautiful complexion, a healthy strong body, a handsome face, a desire to live for a long time by taking Kaya Kalpa, a desire to make the body bulky by eating butter and other things, are all Deha Vasanas, i.e., Vasanas that pertain to the body. These are all impure Vasanas that bind the man to the Samsara and bring him, again and again, to the earth-plane.

If you are a slave to a powerful Vasana, and if you are a victim to a very strong Vasana, you become that. This is an immutable law of nature.

There are two seeds for the tree, mind. One is Vasana, and the other is fluctuation of Prana. The seed produces a big tree, and the tree again produces seeds. So also, the vibration of Prana arises through Vasana, and the Vasana operates through the movement of Prana. If either of them perishes, both will perish soon. Egoism is the first born Asuric son born of Avidya or Ajnana (ignorance). Egoism has two Asuric daughters, Raga and Vasana; so there is intimate connection between Vasana and Raga. Where there is Vasana, there is Raga. Vasana and Raga co-exist. Raga is an old associate of the Vasana. Raga is attachment. Mamata (the idea of mineness) is due to Raga. If you want to kill Raga and Vasana, you must annihilate egoism; if you want to kill egoism, you must destroy Avidya. If you destroy Avidya first, egoism, Raga and Vasana will die by themselves.

The impure Vasanas are associated with egoism. They are of the nature of intense Ajnana (ignorance). He who is a slave to Vasanas is an ignorant man. He is very weak. He can regain his lost divinity and develop an irresistible and pure will by annihilating the Vasanas. He who has burnt up Ajnana, and with it, the impure Vasanas also, will never experience any pain or misery. He will enjoy the Bliss of the Eternal always.

Vasanas are very subtle. Just as the sprout or flower exists in the seed, so also, the Vasanas lie dormant or latent in the heart. They agitate the bed of Samskaras. Through agitation of Samskaras or subtle impressions, memory of pleasure comes. Through memory of pleasure, desire arises. When desire arises, the senses begin to function in conjunction with their leader—the mind. Man exerts to get possession of the desired objects and enjoys them. All these take place in the twinkling of an eye.

One thing which is sweet and pleasant to you at one moment produces the very reverse of that sensation in another moment. Who has not experienced this world of opposites? Objects, when longed for, are pleasant; but are bitter if not longed for. Hence, Vasanas are the cause for the sensual pleasures. Pleasures will stop when you get satisfaction in the same. But if Vasanas cease, the mind will perish, and all else will be destroyed. Therefore, annihilate these Vasanas, the enemies of Atma-Jnana and Immortality.

Mind is the cause for bondage and freedom of a man. A mind that is filled with impure Vasanas tends to bondage; whereas a mind that is destitute of Vasanas tends to freedom. Mind is no mind when the Vasanas are destroyed. You become mindless. When you become mindless, intuition dawns, and you are endowed with the eye of wisdom. You will enjoy indescribable peace.

Mind is Vasanamaya (full of Vasanas). This world is Vasanamaya Jagat. Mind clings to sensual objects through Vasanas and constantly thinks of the objects. If the Vasanas perish, the mind ceases thinking of objects, and we attain the state of thoughtlessness.

Mind is like a cloth. If you colour a cloth with yellow colour, it appears as yellow; if you apply red colour to it, it appears red. Whatever colour you give to it, it bears that colour. Even so, the mind takes on whatever colour that is imparted to it by the Vasanas. Sattvic Vasanas give to the mind white colour; Rajasic Vasanas impart a red colour to it; Tamasic Vasanas give a dark colour to the mind. As is the Vasana, so is the mind.

As long as the mind is not annihilated through Atma Vichara (meditation on the Self), so long the Vasanas will not leave you. They will attack you again and again. They will wage a guerilla war with you. Sometimes they will come through the front door (sense-avenues), sometimes through the back door (Samskaras), and sometimes through the windows (eyes). You will have to be vigilant to detect their presence—the way through which they enter.

If your mind is perfectly free from impure Vasanas, you will keep a balanced mind despite many obstacles or adverse circumstances. Mind becomes calm and serene when the Vasanas are eradicated. Vasanas perish through dispassion, discrimination, control of senses, enquiry of ‘Who am I?' and meditation.

The impure Vasanas persist and resist. They will lurk in the corners of the mind in a mysterious manner. They will play tricks with you. They will change their forms like a chameleon. They will get suppressed for some time under pressure of Yogic practices. If you are not regular in your meditation, if your Vairagya wanes, they will again attack you with redoubled forces. Reaction will set in. You must have a sharp intellect to detect their presence. These worldly impure Vasanas have arisen through enjoyment in many thousands  of lives. So they are very potent. They can only perish, through constant and protracted spiritual practices, such as, Japa, Kirtana, meditation, Atmic enquiry, discrimination, Sama, Dama, Pratyahara and Pranayama.

There is conflict between pure and impure Vasanas in a neophyte in the beginning of his spiritual practices. The nature of thoughts depends upon the nature of the Vasanas. If evil thoughts arise in your mind, there are impure Vasanas in your mind. If the pure Vasanas are more powerful, they become victorious, and vice versa. Therefore, you will have to direct all your efforts in the beginning in increasing the pure Vasanas to a maximum degree.

He who has annihilated the Vasanas (Vasanakshaya) will be able to concentrate and meditate. Annihilation of Vasanas produces annihilation of mind. Mind is nothing but a bundle of Vasanas. Many aspirants complain: “We are practising meditation for the last fifteen years, and yet, we have no good concentration or meditation.” The reason is quite obvious. They have not annihilated the Vasanas. The Vasanas are still powerful in them. They should direct all their efforts in the annihilation of Vasanas—the enemies of peace and meditation. If you are established in the Nitya Drishti and if you have very strong conviction that this world is unreal, Vasanas will gradually perish. A worldly-minded man is a slave to impure Vasanas. In a Sadhaka, impure Vasanas will arise occasionally; but he controls them at once through the force of his spiritual practices and strong will-power. In a Jivanmukta, the Vasanas are in a burnt state. In a householder, they are in an expanded state. In a Sadhaka, they are in an attenuated or thin state, and so they cannot do any havoc.

Suppression of Vasanas will not help you in any way. Vasanas must be eradicated in toto just as the poisonous fangs of the cobra are rooted out. Then only you can attain the imperishable seat of Brahman.

You will have to transmute the impure Vasanas into pure ones, through constant efforts. You will have to change the current of impure Vasanas and allow them to run in the channel or river of pure Vasanas. There is no harm if you have an abundance of pure Vasanas. Pure Vasana also is a fetter. It is a golden fetter. Yet, it is a fetter. Just as you remove a thorn with the help of another thorn and throw both of them when the thorn is removed, so also, you will have to destroy the impure Vasanas through the help of pure Vasanas and then abandon these pure ones also. The desire for Liberation, or Moksha-Vasana, also must die eventually. Then only you will become THAT.

To attain the Knowledge of the Self, you must practise, at the same time, Vasanakshaya (annihilation of Vasanas), Manonasa (annihilation of mind) and Tattva Jnana. The practice of one item alone will not bring the desired fruit, i.e., Moksha.

He who has a heart devoid of all Vasanas is the most happy man in this world. He is a Jivanmukta. All Devas adore him. Men of this world revere him.

Prahlada, after attaining Knowledge of the Self and becoming merged in Brahman through Samadhi, came back to physical consciousness at the touch of Lord Hari, through a residue of pure Vasanas. In the Jivanmuktas, these pure Vasanas exist like burnt seeds. They cannot produce rebirths. Just as Vasanas exist in a seed-state in deep sleep, so also, these pure Vasanas that are associated with Sattvic Jnana, full of pure meditation on the Self, exist in Jivanmuktas. So long as body exists the residue of the pure Vasanas will be latent in the heart of the Jivanmuktas. They will melt away gradually. The Jivanmuktas behold the objects of this world through the pure Vasanas.

Through pure enquiry and discrimination, you should separate yourself from the objects. In the absence of objects, the ‘I' does not exist; and these objects do not exist in the absence of ‘I'. Have the strong certitude of conviction and deliberation that ‘I' does not belong to the objects, and objects do not belong to the ‘I'. Identify yourself with the infinite ‘I'—Satchidananda Brahman—and abandon the burden of the physical body. Become a Videhamukta or Videha (bodiless), like Raja Janaka. All Vasanas will perish now.

The Karana Sarira (seed-body) is Ajnana. It is full of Vasanas and Samskaras. There is no Vasana in Brahman or the Self. He is ever-pure, sexless, passionless, bodiless and mindless. He is without senses and Pranas. By constant meditation on this Brahman, all Vasanas perish. Impurity cannot stand before purity. Positive always overcomes the negative. This is the immutable Law of Nature.

Slay this mind through destruction of Vasanas and remain immutably fixed in Satchidananda Brahman. Attain immortal Brahmic seat of supreme peace, perennial joy and eternal bliss, and rejoice.

Of all the factories in the world, the body is the most wonderful factory, because it is the factory of the Lord. It is not a man-made one. In this most marvellous factory, Vasanas are converted into desires, impure Vasanas are crushed, pure Vasanas are manufactured and thoughts are generated. Eventually, the most precious Vastu (article) of incalculable value, viz., the butter of Brahma-Jnana is churned out. Glory to the absentee Proprietor of this most marvellous factory! Victory to the hidden, Inner Ruler of this stupendous factory! Salutations to Him! Adorations to Him!


It is difficult to destroy Vasanas. Annihilation of Vasanas is harder than uprooting the Sumeru mountain. But, a man of fiery determination and iron will can eradicate them in no time.

Vasanas produce a tremendous influence on the minds of people. They overpower them and make them helpless victims or slaves. Vasanas are more potent intoxicants than liquors, cannabis indica and opium. The effect of these narcotics lasts for some hours only; whereas, the effect of Vasanas lasts for countless years. The effects are carried from birth to birth and persist till one gets Knowledge of the Self.

Those who are under the impulse of Vasanas move about in the world like drunkards. They have no discrimination between the real and the unreal. They have clouded understanding. They have indiscriminate hankering after sensual objects. They forget all about the consequences on account of the overwhelming influence of the Vasanas. They have no memory. They repeat the same sensual acts again and again shamelessly. Their boasted intellect fails to function when they are under the firm grip of Vasanas.

Vasanas become thick or dense through repetition of sensual enjoyments, i.e., they become stronger and stronger by indulgence in sensual objects. The stronger the Vasanas, the greater the delusion and infatuation.

Those who are deluded and subdued by Vasanas do impure acts. They become egoistic, self-assertive, and proud. Evil resolves always revolve in their minds. They have sensual enjoyments as the only standard or goal of life. They try to get wealth by foul or unjust means for their sensual enjoyments. They are caught in the net of countless hopes and anticipations. They are apt to do anything to get money. Money is their only god. They are greedy and irritable. They are prone to hypocrisy, anger, deceit and dishonesty.

A worldly-minded man wishes to get praise from the world and tries to avoid the censure. He thinks and acts in such a way that all people should praise him. This is also an impure Vasana. This is Loka Vasana. Is this possible? No, never. Nobody can please the world. Have you not heard the story of an old man, his son and the donkey? You can shut the mouth of a vessel, but you cannot shut the mouths of the many-tongued world. Some will praise you, while others will censure you. You should have an equanimous or balanced mind. You should be above praise or censure. You should treat praise as the dung of a pig or poison. You should attain the Nirdvandva state. Then only you can always be happy. Then only you can be really peaceful and joyful.

People have not spared even Sri Rama or Sita or Lord Siva or Sri Krishna. They speak ill of these great divine beings. They attach stigma to them. If such is their treatment of Gods, what can be said as regards their treatment of ordinary men?

A white man dislikes a black man and vice versa. A Samajist dislikes a Sanatanist and vice versa. A South Indian dislikes a man of North India and vice versa. A Saivite dislikes a Vaishnavite and vice versa. A Protestant dislikes a Catholic and vice versa. There is an inherent tendency in man to praise his own native place, his own country, his own family, his own clan or sect, his own mode of worship, his own religion, his own language, and to censure those of others. This is petty-mindedness, born of ignorance. When the heart of man expands through spiritual culture, when he gets Knowledge of the Self, these evil Vasanas will perish. Mark! How degraded and deplorable a state man is in on account of the influence of the Vasanas! Still, he will not try to destroy these Vasanas. He clings to them like a leech, and thinks he is always in the right path on account of delusion created by the Vasanas. Though he is in the body of a human being, he does the actions of a horizontal being.

Too much study of religious books is also an impure Vasana. This is Sastra Vasana. Certainly, Atman or God can hardly be found in books. Some people have got passion for study of religious books. They do not take recourse to practical spiritual Sadhana. They spend their lives in the study of religious books. They are bookworms. The Sastras are endless. Life is short. There are many obstacles. Therefore, take out the essence and assimilate it. That essence is Atman. If you realise the Atman, the Vedas are of no use to you. Bharadvaja studied the Vedas in three successive lives, and he continued to study the Vedas even in his fourth life. But, Indra came to the rescue of Bharadvaja. He taught Brahma-Vidya to Bharadvaja and initiated him into the mysteries of Kaivalya. Bharadvaja gave up the study of books, practised vigorous meditation and attained direct Knowledge of the Self.

Sexual Vasanas are more powerful than all other Vasanas. Therefore, you will have to direct all your efforts in subduing the sexual Vasanas and the reproductive organ first.

Too much study of various subjects is also a kind of impure Vasana. This is a variety of Sastra Vasana. Once, Durvasa came with a cart-load of religious books to Lord Siva. Narada narrated the parable of the ass. Just as the ass which carries the bundle of sandalwood is conscious only of the burden, but not of the sweet fragrance of sandalwood, so also, the bookworm Pandit carries the bundles of books like a burden, but does not know their real essence, though he has studied all the Sastras. Durvasa's eyes were opened now. He threw all his books in the ocean. Then Lord Siva initiated him into the mysteries of the Knowledge of the Self. Durvasa practised deep meditation and attained Brahma Jnana. You will find in Kathopanishad: “This Atman cannot be obtained by study of many Sastras or discussions or intelligence or much learning.”

Pride of learning—a form of Sastra Vasana—is an impure Vasana. This is an obstruction to the attainment of knowledge. This stiffens egoism and thickens the veil of ignorance. Svetaketu, son of Uddalaka, was puffed with the pride of his book-learning. He behaved rudely even with his father. Uddalaka pulled Svetaketu down by putting him a question: “Have you learnt, O Svetaketu, that Science of sciences by knowing which you will know everything?” He replied in the negative. Eventually, Uddalaka taught him the supreme science of Brahma-Vidya (the science of the Self).

Wearing flower-garlands, using scented oils for the hair, and pomade for the face to make the skin soft and shining, wearing rings on the fingers, are all Deha-Vasanas (Vasanas that pertain to the body).

copyright © 2011 the divine life society. All rights reserved.