vasana (Sanskrit: "subconscious inclination; conditioning, tendencies, or self-limitations; predispositions and habits") from vas (living, remaining) — the subliminal inclinations and habit patterns which, as driving forces, color and motivate one's attitudes and future actions. Vasanas are the conglomerate results of samskaras (subconscious impressions) created through experience. Samskaras, experiential impressions, combine in the subconscious to form vasanas, which thereafter contribute to mental fluctuations, called vritti. The most complex and emotionally charged vasanas are found in the dimension of mind called vasana chitta (the subsubconscious).


Vasanas are subtle impressions which the individual soul will carry with when the soul separates itself from the physical body upon the death of a person. To understand this new term VASANA, first think of ice, which is gross. It is solid; can be touched or felt and can be cut into different shapes. Water is subtler than ice. Water cannot be cut into shape, although it will assume the shape of its container. Water is liquid and not solid like ice. Steam is subtler than water. We cannot hold steam in our hand as we can hold water. Steam is visible for a while and then it becomes invisible. Humidity in the air is subtler than steam. The presence of humidity in the air cannot be seen.

The vasanas are like the humidity in the air; subtlest of all. The vasanas undergo transformation at the level of the intellect into thoughts. The thoughts in turn undergo transformation at the level of the mind into desires; and the desires undergo transformation at the level of the physical body into actions.

Vedanta can give a hundred percent assurance with total confidence that a sincere seeker after spiritual advancement can reach the highest goal, and this is because Vedanta operates from the level of the vasanas as well as from levels that are even more subtler than vasanas (the Self is subtler than the Vasanas). The analogy of a computer can be used where the hardware parts are the computer disc drive, the monitor screen, the keyboard etc. These are like the physical human body. The software or the programmes that run the computer is like the vasanas. The Vasanas govern the actions of the physical body through the process of becoming thoughts; thoughts becoming desires and desires manifesting as actions.

The latent impressions or vasanas will start functioning when the soul enters a new body. It is like a seed which has the potential of a huge tree stored within the seed.

Thus to make the body presentable, the vasanas must be purified (generally used phrase is 'to purify the mind'). Swami Nikhilananda taught that the mind is by nature pure and clear, and capable of reflecting reality. The impurities in it, which distort the image of reality, are created by desires and attachments. Being foreign to it, they may be removed; and this is effected through the practice of spiritual disciplines (Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga). Work, when performed as a spiritual discipline is called Karma Yoga.

The Mind is a bundle of Vasanas

The mind is not an impartite substance. Just as cloth is nothing but a bundle of threads, the mind is nothing but a cluster of Vasanas or past impressions and subtle desires that persistently lurk within the sub-conscience. When the threads are pulled out one by one, where is cloth at all? When the Vasanas are burnt with their seeds the mind vanishes into the Immortal Seat of Brahman. The Upanishad says, "when the senses do not work and stand together with the mind, and when the intellect is still, that, they say is the Highest State". The daily selfish actions of the Jiva add to the stock of these Vasanas and thus the embodied existence becomes unbroken, and the wheel of birth and death rolls on ceaselessly. The emptying of these Vasanas demands a twofold counter-activity by the Jiva. The first one is to stop the adding of newer Vasanas and the second is the destruction of the existing ones.

The first purpose is served by beholding the Self in all beings, by rendering selfless service to other fellow beings, by devotion to the Deity and by severe concentration of the mind. The second one is effected when the mind is completely thinned out and when the Self is realised.

When the threads of Vasanas are destroyed the cloth of the mind also disappears from existence. The Ambrosia of Brahman is drunk deep. The soul is drowned in the ocean of joy. The Wisdom-sun rises and the Immortal Life is lived. The Divine Existence, the Almighty Satchidananda is attained.

In this state supreme silence alone is. The mind becomes quiescent due to the exhaustion of Prarabdhas even as a lamp unfed by oil gets naturally extinguished. The zenith of being is the cessation of thought, change and action. It is a getting of everything at once, the living of the infinite life, the highest freedom, the most supreme blessing, the greatest happiness and limitlessness of Knowledge which is not a possession but an existence, not a means of Knowing but the very being of Knowledge-Absolute.


1. Moksha Gita: Chapter VI -- The Nature of the Mind, by Swami Sivananda, Commentary by Swami Krishnananda, The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram


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