A couple of acorns - symbolizing the seed-like vasanas


There is a concept that the ātmā has become the jīva due to vāsanā-s (past impressions). The vāsanā-s, often equated to karma–phala (the results of action), like puṇya and pāpa, are assumed to have been gathered by the jīva, who has no beginning. The exhaustion of vāsanā-s through any of the four yogas amounts to self–realisation. The self–realised person who has no more vāsanā-s to perpetuate his life may continue to exist as a free person (jīvanmukta) due to others' vāsanā-s! The problems caused by this modern prakriyā are numerous.

If vāsanā-s cause the ātmā to become a jīva, vāsanā-s become a parallel reality to ātmā. Then ātmā ceases to be non–dual, and anyone who takes it as non–dual will suffer from an error. If vāsanā-s are not an independent reality, then they are mithyā, depending as they do for their existence upon ātmā. What is mithyā has to be understood as mithyā.

Mithyā does not pose any problem if it is understood as such and therefore exhaustion of vāsanā-s is not necessary. Nor is it possible for anyone in a given incarnation to exhaust the vāsanā-s collected in an infinite number of births. In fact, they can be exhausted only in an infinite number of incarnations. So vāsanā exhaustion itself is a dream. Even if the impossible vāsanā exhaustion were achieved, the possibility of jīvanmukta is nil: when all the vāsanā-s are exhausted the jīva ceases to be. What is left out is ātmā who is asaṅgaḥ, who is unaffected by and unconnected to anything. There is no way the asaṅga–ātman will attract anything from samaṣṭi–prārabdha. If a nucleus (jīva) exists, then there are vāsanā-s to exhaust.

The śāstra mentions vāsanā exhaustion, but it is purely with reference to the preparedness of the mind (antaḥkaraṇa–śuddhi). The vāsanā-s that the later ācārya-s talk about are viṣaya–vāsanā, deha–vāsanā, and śāstra–vāsanā. The fascination for an object (viṣaya), thinking that it can give me security and happiness, is a superimposition called śobhana–adhyāsa. By vicāra one has to remove this superimposition to become the adhikarī for self–knowledge. So too, the ‘I am this body’ vāsanā has to be removed by inquiry and contemplation. A craving for the study of śāstras other than Vedānta (śāstra–vāsanā) can destroy a person in the pursuit. One has to tackle this craving by commitment to Vedānta–vicāra.

This three–fold vāsanā is not presented by ācārya-s as a cause for the ātman to become a jīva. The truth to be emphasised here is that ātmā has never become a jīva. Jīvatva (the notion of individuality) is a superimposition upon ātmā due to ignorance. The pursuit is therefore to understand that the svarūpa of ātmā is free from jīvatva.

‘Teaching Tradition of Advaita Vedanta’ p26-28, Swami Dayananda © Copyright Arsha Vidya 2017Top of page