Vasana Kshaya Confusion - Swami Dayananda Saraswati
There is a concept that Atma has become the Jiva due to vasanas, past impressions. The vasanas, often equated to karma phala results of actions, like punya and papa, are assumed to have been gathered by the Jiva who has no beginning. The exhaustion of vasanas through any of the four yoga amounts to self-realization. The self-realized person who has no more vasanas to perpetuate his life may continue to exist as a free person, jivanmukta, due to others vasanas. The problems caused by this modern prakriya are numerous.
If vasanas cause the Atma to become a Jiva, vasanas become a parallel reality to Atma. Then Atma ceases to be non-dual and anyone who takes it as non-dual will suffer from an error. If vasanas are not an independent reality, then they are mithya, depending as they do for their existence upon Atma. What is mithya has to be understood as mithya.
Mithya does not cause any problem if it is understood as such and therefore exhaustion of vasanas is not necessary. Nor is it possible for anyone in a given birth to exhaust all the vasanas collected in an infinite number of births. In fact, they can be exhausted only in an infinite number of incarnations. So vasana-exhaustion itself is a dream. Even if the impossible vasana-exhaustion were achieved, the possibility of a jivanmukta is nil. When all the vasanas are exhausted the Jiva ceases to be. What is left out is Atma who is asanga, who is unaffected by and unconnected to anything. There is no way the asanga Atma will attract anything from samasti prarabdha. If a nucleus Jiva exists then there are vasanas to exhaust.
The Shastra mentions vasana exhaustion, but it is purely with reference to the preparedness of the mind, antahkarana shuddhi. The vasanas that the later acharyas talk about are 1)vishaya-vasana, 2) deha-vasana, and 3) Shastra-vasana. The fascination for an object, vishaya, thinking that it can give you security and happiness, is a superimposition called shobhana adhyasa. By vichara, analysis, you need to remove the superimposition to become the adhikari for self-knowledge. So too, 'I am this body', deha vasana has to be removed by inquiry and contemplation. The craving for the study of Shastras other than Vedanta, shastra-vasana, can divert you in the pursuit of self knowledge. You have to tackle this craving by commitment to vedanta-vichara.
This three fold vasana is not presented by acharya as a cause for the Atma to become a Jiva. The truth to be emphasized here is that Atma has never become a Jiva. Jivatva, the notion of individuality, is a superimposition upon Atma due to ignorance. The pursuit is, therefore, to understand that the swaroop of Atma is free from jivatva.
Excerpt From The Teaching Tradition of Advaita
Can the Mind Be Free of Conditioning?
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SELF-KNOWLEDGE, or the learning about yourself every day, brings about a new mind. You have denied the old mind. Through self-knowledge, you have denied your conditioning totally. The conditioning of the mind can be denied only when the mind is aware of its operations, how it works, what it thinks, what it says, its motives.
There is another factor involved. We think it is a gradual process, that it will take time to free the mind from conditioning. We think that it will take days or years to uncondition our conditioned mind, gradually, day after day. This implies acquiring knowledge in order to dissipate conditioning, which means you are not learning but acquiring. A mind that is acquiring is not learning. A mind that uses knowledge to achieve a sense of liberation must have time. Such a mind thinks it must have time to free itself from its conditioning, which means it is going to acquire knowledge, and as the knowledge expands, it will become freer and freer. This is utterly false.
Through time, through the multiplication of many tomorrows, there is no liberation. There is freedom only in the denial of the thing seen immediately [see it as mithya]
Freeing the mind from conditioning is the ending of sorrow.
So the mind is conditioned right through—there is no part of the mind not conditioned. Can such a mind free itself? And who is the entity that can free it? The mind is the total consciousness, with all its different layers of knowledge, acquisition, tradition, racial instincts, memory. Can such a mind free itself, or can the mind be free only when it sees that it is conditioned and that any movement from this conditioning is still another form of conditioning?
The mind is completely conditioned. This is an obvious fact if you come to think about it. It is not my invention; it is a fact. We belong to a society; we were brought up according to an ideology, with dogmas and traditions. The vast influence of culture and society is continually conditioning the mind. How can such a mind be free, since any movement of the mind to be free is the result of its conditioning and must bring about further conditioning? There is only one answer. The mind can be free only when it is completely still. Though it has problems, innumerable urges, conflicts and ambitions, if—through self-knowledge, through watching itself without acceptance or condemnation—the mind is choicelessly aware of its own process, then out of that awareness comes an astonishing silence, a quietness of the mind in which there is no movement of any kind. It is only then that the mind is free. It is no longer desiring anything, no longer seeking, no longer pursuing a goal or ideal—which are all the projections of a conditioned mind.
If you ever come to that understanding, in which there can be no self-deception, you will find that there is a possibility of the coming into being of that extraordinary thing called creativity. Then only can the mind realise that which is measureless, which may be called God or truth. You may be socially prosperous, you may have possessions, cars, houses, superficial peace, but unless that which is measureless comes into being, there will always be sorrow. Freeing the mind from conditioning is the ending of sorrow.