[Advaita-l] Vasanas

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 16 14:30:55 CDT 2004

Namaste, Arun-ji,

Let me try to answer your question in an elementary way.

An important  point in the central core of the Hindu
teaching is the transmigratory career of man's soul. Man's
soul travels from body to body in its journey of evolution.
Though man is essentially divine, the divine is clothed in
material external coverings and is camouflaged by the cloud
of dirt accumulated by the mind. Mind clings to the soul in
a subtle way throughout the latter's transmigratory
journey. Mind is a nebulous thing that keeps on
accumulating impressions, habits and channels of thinking.
These constitute the Vasanas of the mind or of the person
to whom it clings for the moment. Vasana means smell. These
Vasanas give the individual his mental personality even
before his upbringing in this life starts having an effect
on him. It is something over which one has no control,
because it is one’s past. It is something for which one has
a share of responsibility, because it is the result of
one’s own past thoughts and actions. This past also
determines one’s  level of evolution as of now and also
one’s  present tendencies for human behaviour.

If you bring in, along with your birth, inherent tendencies
that are bad, you have to contend with them and fight them
yourself. This is the obligation implied in karma theory.
The word karma simply means action; but in this context it
connotes the entire aggregate of all past actions and
thoughts, not only in this life but in all past lives. As
far as the future is concerned you are totally free to do
what you will and to create new vasanas and new karma for
yourself. But if you are going to be carried away by the
existing vasanas in your system and they happen to carry
you into undesirable avenues it is nobody's fault except
yourself. In this sense you are the architect of your fate.
But in the sense that your tendencies are born with you and
you have had no control over them when you were born (just
as you did not choose your parents or your sex), to that
extent you are ruled by your fate. The enigma of the theory
of fate in Hinduism can be put into the following capsule:
While the past controls, monitors and influences you, the
future is in your hands. While the common man of ancient
India may not have understood all these nuances of karma
theory it must be said to the credit of those ancient times
that the business of philosophy was not confined to a few
philosophers or highbrows. Philosophy was an essential part
of the religion of the masses. It percolated to them in
various ways, and created the philosophic outlook, examples
for which are plenty in the history of the land. It is this
which gave them a sense of purpose and the courage to face
trial and misfortune without losing one's gaiety or

Now to your question on the causal body and the subtle
body. The physical body is produced out of the gross forms
of the five basic elements.  At death the physical body
perishes and its five constituent elements are dissolved.
The subtle body is made of the subtle forms of the five
basic elements that produced the physical body. It is the
receptacle of thoughts and imprints of Vasanas and
continues to exist after death, serving as the vehicle of
transmigration. A human individual enters this world with a
bundle of Vasanas in the form of his mind.  The causal
body, characterized by ego sense only, is finer than the
subtle body. All three bodies are for the fulfillment of
desires, gross and subtle. 

The soul is different, however,  from these three bodies.In
the  travel of the soul from body to body, the mind clings
to the soul, carrying its luggage of vAsanAs. The soul and
the clinging mind, by some mystery, reverse their roles and
the soul begins to cling to the mind and makes the mistake
of identifying itself with the mind and its attendant
vAsanAs. In man's eternal journey to perfection, the
ultimate aim is to shed off all the vasanas of the mind, so
that the mind in its pristine, unloaded, crystalline purity
may reflect the presence of Divinity which, the vedas
assure us, is there in every one of us. And that is what we
mean by the 'release' of the soul. In fact it is just the
regaining, by the soul, of its own natural state. 

PraNAms to all seekers of Truth 

Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.
Also see my webpages on Live Happily, the Gita Way at http://www.geocities.com/profvk/gohitvip/contentsbeach11.html

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