Vasanas are a bundle of tendencies or desires which drive man to think, feel and act according to the nature of the vasanas. Thus, it would be perfectly right, to say that a man is what he is because of his vasanas. Vasanas create desires in the intellect. If the person does not use his discrimination but permits the desire to ‘gain strength’ or to ‘take root’, the intellect passes it on to the mind where the desire produces agitations. Emotions and feelings become so strong that the body is then ordered and forced to carry out actions to satisfy the desire!
Extracted from “A manual of Self Unfoldment” by Swami Chinmayananda, pg 173
Vasanas are also called as ‘dissatisfied desires’.
Vasanas (desires) = Guna (nature) = sanskar or samskara (tendencies, qualities – I do Not know the exact word).
Vedanta says everything in this universe is created from tri-gunaatmika maya (Maya with 3 gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). Each one of us is born with these qualities or Gunas. Out of 3 Gunas, a person has one pre-dominant Guna.
Three types of Vasanas / Gunas
The nature of a person depends upon these vasanas. But vasanas cannot be seen. They are invisible. Vasanas are subtlest form of action and action is the grossest form of vasanas. So a person acts, according to his vasanas. By studying his actions, one can judge which type of vasanas a person has; at least pre-dominant desires can be known.
Vasanas or gunas can be broadly classified in 3 types.
Sattva guna: pure intellegence and goodness, Quality of renunciation, love for god, and other divine qualities. Saints have more percentage of sattva Guna
Rajas guna: fire of desire or spiritedness, Warrior class, Demands attention and credit, egoists, glory, glamour, zeal and spirit of doing some work, etc
Tamas guna: dullness or inertia. Negative qualities like revenge, killing of innocents etc.
So the evolution of mankind is the transformation from Tamas to Rajas to Satva. i.e. from animal nature to the divine nature.
3 gunas also stand for Creation, preservation and destruction.
Say, for example, a person has 70% Sattva, 20% Rajas and 10% tamas Guna. So he can be considered as a sattvik person. Such person devotes more time for God, helps others, and is engaged in other noble work. Generally, people have the maximum percentage of Rajas Guna.
Spirituality is for everybody. Each one of us has 3 gunas, a person also will have a sattva Guna, even though it may be in a very low percentage. The only difference will be that a sattvik person can grasp spiritual instructions very fast and easily, but a tamasic person takes more time as mind is not purified (sattvik) and is not neutral. Depending up on the pre-dominant Guna, a Spiritual Master or Guru chooses the best path suitable to a particular person.
Again the percentage of these gunas keeps changing. While sleeping Tamas Guna is predominant, while working in day time, Rajas Guna is predominant and just after the sleep is complete and work is not yet started, there is sattva Guna (in the early morning). Again in the day time, the percentage of these Gunas keeps changing. When one is attending a spiritual discourse / retreat/ satsanga, his mind is calm and temporarily, he is receptive and accepts the teachings of a saint. But later, after the discourse is over and we are again engaged in our worldly activities / duties, rajas guna is pre-dominant. At this time, if a person again thinks of the teachings, his Ego reacts and may reject the teachings. The purpose of all Karma Kand (service to God and humanity) is to make a person sattvik i.e. to increase and make sattva Guna as a predominant Guna. This is the purpose of religion and spirituality.
Pre-Determined Destiny and Free Will
Some desires are predominant, some are dormant. At the time of death, there may be many desires, but the predominant desire and the riped fruits of his past actions decide the direction of life of next birth. If a person has a desire to earn money and enjoy his life, to fulfill his desire, he is re-born in a rich family. Soul gets the body, parents, and environment such that his predominant desires can be fulfilled. This is his pre-determined destiny. God has also given us the ‘Free Will’. Human beings can use the power of discrimination and can choose to act wisely. This can shape his future. But he has to pass through some incidents and phases of life, weather he likes it or not, because of pre-determined destiny. According to Gita (chapter 15), a soul at the time of dying, takes with it all 5 senses and mind and re-incarnicates in another body. He gets a fresh body, but his mind is old. So a person is born with a particular kind of nature or vasanas or desires.
Sincere spiritual practices like meditation, service attending discourses, makes ones mind calm and receptive.
Suppose there is no free will, then as the prarabhdha karma (i.e. ripe fruits of his past actions) and his dissatisfied desires (carried from past life) extinguishes with time, a person experiences calmness. Free will makes a person more and more active and makes the mind restless. If he gets success due to his efforts, he will be tempted to do more and more. If he fails, he will try to find another solution or will be dishearted by failure. This will again make the mind restless.
Free will is the culprit, if the free will is surrendered to the God then things become easier. A person excels in spirituality. Free will increases the Ego, while surrender of free will to God decreases the Ego. A person, who has surrendered his free will to God, does not have any expectation of the results of his works. So he remains unattached to the results and stays calm. Such a person is a true karma Yogi. He leaves everything on God and keeps working without expectation nor does he work for honour or pride.
Meditation also helps. Till now, mind knew only 2 attributes i.e. to select and reject. Meditation takes mind into the third attribute or direction of stillness / calmness and a state of an observer.
Surrender to the God, Immense Faith in God, Guru, Shastras and yourself, study of Shastras, Service and Reverence to Guru and meditation (sadhana / japa) triggered by the desire of moksha (liberation) are the means to SELF Realisation. The fruits of SELF Realisation are deep peace, eternal bliss and off course the knowledge that you are not the mere body, but an immortal. I am SAT-CHIT – ANANDA. SAT is Existence (Truth), CHIT is Consciousness and ANANDA is Eternal Bliss.