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Sri Ramana Maharshi on the Problem of Our Habitual Tendencies

Sri Ramana Maharshi discusses the prime problem we face in encountering the spectacular changes that are fast approaching. That problem is our habitual tendencies or what Hindus call vasanas. (1)

Our habit patterns are our automatic, knee-jerk ways of responding to things. We think we’re being spontaneous, but really we’re following the same old grooves created long ago in response to painful incidents and memories.

When confronted with something new, we may automatically say, “Ah, I don’t buy this” or “Oh, no, not that. I can’t stand that” and close ourselves down to the novel or unfamiliar. Not a good policy considering how much new and unfamiliar will soon be coming our way. We’ve become set in our ways, concretized, slow-moving, the opposite of nimble.

Scratch a redneck and I’m willing to bet you’ll find a person almost entirely swallowed up in their vasanas.

Some of our ways of conceptualizing our tendencies or vasanas hide the nature of the mind and may not serve us. For instance, it isn’t that we have a separate good and shadow side, as many of us Westerners say. Sri Ramana explains that, instead, we have a serial sequence of auspicious and inauspicious vasanas that play on the one mind, making it seem compartmentalized.

“There are not two minds – one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds – auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.” (1)

Vasanas keep our mind outwardly directed, Sri Ramana says:

“All the age-long vasanas (impressions) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward.” (2)

Many vasanas affect us negatively, but not all do.

Before citing Sri Ramana here, let me explain his terms: mukti means liberation and sahaja means permanent enlightenment, rather than Brahmajnana, which is temporary enlightenment (specifically, Brahmajnana means “God-realization,” but it does not last while the more evolved stage of sahaja does).

“Vasanas which do not obstruct Self-Realization remain [after Self-Realization]. In Yoga Vasistha [a Hindu text] two classes of vasanas are distinguished: those of enjoyment and those of bondage.

“The former remain even after Mukti is attained, but the latter are destroyed by it. Attachment is the cause of binding vasanas, but enjoyment without attachment does not bind and continues even in Sahaja. (3)

Sadhu Arunachala, the Englishman A.W. Chadwick, asked Sri Ramana to explain how enlightenment could be won and lost.

Sadhu Arunachala (A.W. Chadwick)

“Before I came to India I had read of such people as Edward Carpenter, Tennyson and many more who had had flashes of what they called ‘Cosmic Consciousness.’ I asked Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi] about this. Was it possible that once having gained Self-Realization [for the individual] to lose it again?

“Certainly it was. To support this view Bhagavan took up a copy of Kaivalya Navanita and told the interpreter to read a page of it to me.

“In the early stages of Sadhana this was quite possible and even probable. So long as the least desire or tie was left, a person would be pulled back again into the phenomenal world, he explained. After all it is our VasanasVasanas were not got rid of all of a sudden by a flash of Cosmic Consciousness. that prevent us from always being in our natural state, and

“One may have worked them out in a previous existence leaving  little to be done in the present life, but in any case they must first be destroyed.” (4)

I remember during my early years of encounter groups, enlightenment intensives and est, having one transformational experience after another and then losing it. How devastated I was (same for you, I’m sure). Later, Werner Erhard used to joke about it: “Getting it and losing it,” he would say, and repeat “getting it and losing it” several times. After that I settled down on the matter. Ordinarily, in pre-Ascension times, we would not  stop “getting it and losing it” until after sahaja, as Sri Ramana indicates. With Ascension, we’ll get it and not lose it.

Unlike many people who experience enlightenment and then lose it, Sri Ramana Maharshi experienced enlightenment once and never lost it as Arthur Osborne explains.

Incredibly, it isn’t even accurate to say that he “sought” enlightenment. It more or less came to him without any formal spiritual practice or sadhana. He may have been describing himself when he said, above, that “one may have worked [the vasanas] out in a previous existence leaving little to be done in the present life.”

“Such an experience of Identity [as the young Ramana Maharshi had] does not always, or even normally, result in Liberation. It comes to a seeker but the inherent tendencies of the ego cloud it over again. … The miracle was that in the Maharshi’s case there was no clouding over, no relapse into ignorance: he remained thenceforward in constant awareness of identity with the One Self.” (5)

The conventional wisdom is that we cannot and will not be liberated (i.e., experience mukti) until we rid ourselves of all our inauspicious (not our auspicious) vasanas. Says Sri Ramana:  “Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage.” (6) Says Sadhu Arunachala: “So long as one single vasana remains, good or bad, so long must we remain unrealized.” (7)

This viewpoint may have held for our years of dualistic existence, but it may not hold during our Ascension climb. Remember that Archangel Michael said at the beginning of this month (September 2010) (8) that the rising energies will in fact rid us of our vasanas,

But, until that time and after the galactics land, we’d do well to observe our automatic or habitual responses to things and simply know that these are our vasanas and should not be blindly followed.


(1) Ramana Maharshi in Anon., Who Am I? The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sarasota, FL: Ramana Publications, 1990.,16.

(2) Ramana Maharshi, Gems from Bhagavan. Comp. A. Devaraja Mudaliar. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1985. chapter 8.

(3) Ramana Maharshi, in S.S. Cohen, Guru Ramana. Memories and Notes. 6th edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1993, 89.

(4) Sadhu Arunachala [A.W. Chadwick], A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1961., 45. (Hereafter SRRM.)

(5) Arthur Osborne, The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamali, 1979, iii.

(6) Sri Ramana Maharshi, Spiritual Instruction of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Eighth Edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1974, Chapter 2, Question 26.

(7) Sadhu Arunachala, SRRM, 22.

(8) Archangel Michael, “Shine Your Light – Share Your Vision (Important Message),” at where he says:

“New pathways in the brain are opened as you begin to unlock the light packets of wisdom and your history stored in the higher-dimensional levels of your Sacred Mind. The old pathways and painful memories of your third- and fourth-dimensional past begin to fade, and you will find that it becomes more and more difficult to remember the failures and suffering of your past lives.

“Have we not told you that you are healing the past as you spiral into the future? You will remember who you are and your history, but only the positive, harmonious events.”

If I understand him correctly, these statements mean that we will not only be relieved of our karma prior to Ascension, but also of our vasanas.


(1) “Vasana” is a Vedantic term for a persistent reaction pattern triggered by a current upset which resembles a past upset.

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