The Movement of Vasanas in Sadhana
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book Sadhana.
The aspirant is struggling on amidst the rough and tumble of the Vyavaharic world. Troubles and difficulties crop up at every step. Temptations, trials and tests assail him ever and anon. He strives and fights manfully against the heavy odds and at last thinks it high time that he segregated and tried to pursue his Sadhana away from these upsetting factors. He retires from the bustle of worldly Vyavaharic activity and goes into comparative seclusion of some spiritual institution where he spends some time in selfless service and does Sadhana systematically. But he is horrified to find that after a time instead of feeling a gradual and progressive purification, moral, mental and spiritual, he experiences more impurity, evil and undesirable emotions and thoughts. What is this strange phenomenon? Is he slipping backwards? What is this queer stage he is passing through? Is he indeed moving towards Light or getting more and more into darkness? These considerations begin to seriously trouble his mind. His natural anxiety and grave concern over his inexplicable state is quite understandable. If he reflects a little and patiently tries to introspect and analyse his condition and the change that is going on within him, he will soon know the actual truth and will at once be reassured. His mind will be at rest.
This is not a degenerating process but actually a purifying process. The course of spiritual development at times appears as the contrary of what it really is. This has a reason for it. Extreme things that are diametrically opposite and contradictory tend to seem identical at times. Very low rates of vibration the ear cannot catch and even so extremely high rates the ear cannot hear. A static object appears motionless. The same object set rotating at a tremendous velocity appears to the eye to be perfectly still. Thus when during a stage in Sadhana the extreme reverse process of purification and the getting rid of ‘Mala’ takes place, it seems alarming akin to that of the obverse positive process of acquiring Asubha-Vasana.
It is here that an important note of caution has to be vividly borne in mind. When these inner Vasanas begin to cast out themselves then the Sadhaka should with great alertness and vigilance see that they are not afforded any scope to have active physical manifestation. There must be only an abortive rush and dissolution. Like the excess water in the dam that is released out of the barrage by the periodical opening of a few sluice gates these Vasanas must harmlessly flow out. Then the Sadhaka is all right and he will soon proceed with his Sadhana as before. Else these outflowing Vasanas will get translated into actions and forge further bonds in the Karmic cording that holds the individual in thralldom here. Instead of becoming a release process it will be the reverse of it.
There are two processes in this connection that will be of great help and reassurance to the Sadhaka if he remembers and makes proper timely use of them with wise Vichara. Namely, it is not always necessary or even desirable that all such ‘spending-out’ forces should indeed be allowed to flow out abortively or that they should issue forth at all. Where they are, imbedded in the Chitta or the subconscious mind, these can be directly sublimated and nullified. Just as the heat of the sun shining upon the barrage waters reduces them by direct evaporation, thus too regular meditation by the aspirant directly sublimates a portion of the Vasana-store day by day as the Sadhana proceeds. Then with those forces that actually sally out there is a very profitable alternative the Sadhaka can and really should employ, namely sublimating upon the external physical plane and transforming them into some profitable spiritual activity. This latter can be employed either subjectively with beneficial repercussions upon himself or also objectively to the advantage of others. Subjectively for instance should the subtle lust-Vasana endeavour to manifest itself, then the Sadhaka, if he is alert, must transform it at once into a dozen Suryanamaskaras or a vigorous round of his favourite Pranayama, a course of Asanas or a full-throated chant of the sublime Purushasukta, Sahasranama, Siva-mahimna etc. Thus sublimation also gets profitably turned into Sadhana, precious life-transforming Sadhana.
Should the Vasana of anger commence this spending-out process then repair to a quiet room and have a good loud hearty laugh and make it effervesce into pure upsurge of good cheer and laughter. Or sit still and send out wave after wave of love, blessing and goodwill to the entire universe from the bottom of your heart. Repeat again and again the sublime verses of Santipatha of the Upanishads. You will simply be filled with overflowing cosmic love. All anger Vasanas will vanish in toto, leaving in their stead a continuous thrill of motiveless love. This feeling is indeed indescribable. This Sadhana will give you a positive asset of Sattva and Prema. You will find yourself a tangibly different being after even a single genuine attempt at this process of deliberate sublimation.
This subjective method is preferable and is to be adopted particularly with regard to such Rajoguna and Tamoguna-Vasanas that become activated through external contact and by association, such as for instance, anger, lust etc. Then there are such tendencies as one’s suppressed social nature, Rajasic urge to aimless activity, the erotic sentiment to manifest affection–an effusion that becomes manifest in acute form in very many inebriates as also Sadhakas that have elements of the effeminate in their nature. It will be well if these are sublimated through the objective way.
When a fit of social nature assails you, do not allow yourself to be driven out into the bazaar for gossiping or into the nearest reading-room, tea-shop or post-office to dissipate your diligently conserved energy in sundry politics, topical news or table-chat. Go among the poor and the afflicted instead and see if you can serve them in any way. Go to the road or the high-way among the pilgrims and the wayfarers and seek to relieve them of their loads and lessen their burdens with pleasant and elevating conversation. Thus in the very process of giving enrich yourself too.
When sentimentality assails you from inside, be wary, be still. Do not foolishly rush amidst your friends and colleagues. Rather go and commune with nature. Address endearingly the squirrel and the little lamb. Talk and laugh lovingly with the little birds among the bushes and bright butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Thus safely spend out the unwinding threads of Vasanas from the reel of Chitta. You will be quite safe.
So, when these inner Vasanas “break ice” as it were and strike the surface, do not be dismayed. Understand what is happening and deal with them calmly. Adopt the methods outlined above to suit the case and with variations to fit in particular situations and temperaments. Overcome them wisely and be a gainer. This experience will enrich you and you will be more firmly established in Sadhana.
Now one point has to be noted in this connection. There is a similar process that appears like this spontaneous uprising of inner Vasanas but which it isn’t. It is something different and hence has to be differently dealt with. This is the outrush of Vasanas, stimulated by an external agency or impulse. This situation is what is called temptation or test. This is dangerous, for here you are faced with two forces both of which you have to combat–the innate potency of the Vasanas and the active mechanism of the external stimulating agency.
Adopt a combination of several methods for this. Follow the already outlined sublimation methods and augment it with prayer, fasts, a little bit of aggressive self-restraint, changing of the place where the temptation is, taking of a resolute vow etc. You will succeed in overcoming the test.
The individual consciousness is made to pass through varying strata of mental and emotional states, pure, neutral as also impure as the muddy water made to pass through a tray of sand, charcoal and some germicidal medium, for the task of filtration and purification. For the filtering away of gross Mala the rough grains of the sands of Vyavaharic experiences suit and suffice admirably. But for the subtler impurities (like the gaseous ones in water) a medium like black charcoal is required. This is the recrudescence of disturbingly unspiritual thoughts and tendencies that dismay and upset the Sadhakas in the onward course of their spiritual development. This process takes place almost entirely upon the mental and emotional planes. Their inner working is very curious and interesting.
They take place in both the waking as well as the dream states and in the latter in two slightly different shades of dream consciousness rather difficult to distinguish.
The various positive and negative and subjective and objective sublimatory methods detailed already are for use when the spending-out process is in the waking state. In dream state the Sadhaka has only to depend upon the subconscious mind to guard him and to effect a proper self-adjustment inside. More often than not the thought influence of his Guru as also the Grace of the Ishta-Devata (both are in reality the same thing) bring the Sadhaka safe out of the dream state processes. It leaves only a slight vague impression on the mind that retains it the next morning in the form of some mood either depressing or exhilarating as the case may be. And at times this process in the dream state takes place in a curious way.
The person dreams and the Vasanas spend themselves out but the consciousness of the Sadhaka is not aware of the fact that he has dreamed. Thus he wakes up in the morning with a curious feeling, a different man from the time he retired to bed the previous night, yet unable to explain it or attribute it to anything that he can recollect. This is somewhat like the process you adopt when you have unknowingly drunk impure water and later on to disinfect it you take charcoal tablets orally. The medicated tablets enter the stomach and there carry out their purifying work invisibly and unknowingly. You are unconscious of what is going on inside, as in the case of those Vasanas that expended themselves in your unconscious dreams. Thus proceeds this process of purification and the wise and vigilant Sadhaka raises himself upwards and progresses onward even as the clever boatman skilfully takes immediate advantage of each uprising wave and sails ahead making his little boat leap as it were from crest of the waves of this ocean of Adhyatmic life.
Victory is to the vigilant and success surely attends upon the sincere Sadhaka firm in his faith in the Guru’s feet!