The Sanskrit word “Vasana” has several equivalents in English language. They could be: habit, nature, tendency, preference, experience, etc. Yet, all of these words do not adequately describe the word “Vasana”. It is the sum total of who I am at a given time as a result of my evolution, hereditary, my exposure to events and activities as well as my choices through out my life leading up to this moment. It is the result of all my experiences. This is the external or visible description of “Who I am?” Each of us is a product of our experiences or our Vasana.
Then there are specific aspects to “Who I am?” at any moment. Two individuals exposed to the same set of circumstances react or respond differently. The experience of these two individuals is different. What contributes to such differences in experiences among each of us, which in turn makes us stand out as “individuals”?
The methodology for the anatomy of our experience(s) is very clearly laid out in the various chapters of Bhagawath Geetha. We adapt extensively from this source, for much of what is written in this essay and in the subsequent essays on this topic.
We start with the premise that Consciousness exists, eternal and it is everywhere. Our existence is enabled by our consciousness. As an analogy, we can recognize fire by its evidences – heat, light, spark, smoke, etc. “Fire” is something, which is intangible to us. It becomes tangible and we can describe it only based on perceived evidences. When we look beyond the evidences, then what is the enabler of fire? One could say that fire is an outcome of “Exothermic” reaction. Then what enables such reactions? It just happens. It is natural! It exists!
The Consciousness is that which exists, after everything else has been negated as “this is not it”! Another example: Imagine yourself seated in a large room with many other people. You hear your name called out. You turn in the direction, where the sound came from. There is no one to be seen. It was just a mere sound. But, who is that inside of you, who responded to the call? That “I” in you is enabled by consciousness! In fact, there would have been many in the large gathering, with the same name, all of whom might have responded to the call! Then you hear the message describing a moment in your life that is known only to yourself! You are startled. You wonder how is it that any one other than me knows this information? That “I” in you, who is aware of this secret and who is now wondering is enabled by consciousness! Consciousness has no properties of its own. It is eternal, permanent, and ever-present. Consciousness enables us to perceive, connect with, and relate to, anything other than consciousness.
Thus we have two avenues to answer the question: “Who am I?”
- I am Consciousness!
- I am a product of my experience (or Vasana).
Our evolution in spirituality depends on the clarity and understanding of these two pathways and their interconnection. Anatomy of our experience helps us greatly in such understanding and clarity.
Anatomy of our experience at a moment could be the building block to gain a more vivid understanding of who we are in the big picture! The word anatomy has the following synonyms: structure, composition, make up, frame-work, analysis, examination, investigation. Anatomy of experience at each moment gives us a comprehensive look at who I have been, how I am evolving and to some extent, who I am likely to evolve into! This internal reflection can be merely for a better understanding of the situation on hand. It can also be for mid-course correction or part of a well laid out “internal fitness” program. This is the very first step in the process of Self-Realization. This fitness program – Yoga – is a parallel path to our physical fitness. This internal fitness program facilitates emotional and intellectual well-being just as the Yoga in the Gym class promotes physical fitness.
Birth or origin of “Experience”:
When consciousness gets connected with anything external to it, an experience is born. My eyes are closed. I open my eyes for a fraction of the moment. My eyes focus on an object. Now, I see something. An experience is born! The object existed all along. My eyes and my power to see existed all along. When I opened my eye, I could have ignored that object and might have set my eyes on something else. Enabled by consciousness, the moment “I” got connected through my eyes and vision to this specific object, the specific experience – the awareness – of this object is born.
Every one of our organs of the body are means to acquire “experience”. We see through our eyes, hear through the ears, smell through the nose, feel through the skin, etc. Even when we keep all our organs isolated, like being quarantined, our mind is active with all its emotions and feelings, likes, dislikes, preferences, desires, etc. In every case there is a connection being made between the consciousness and some thing external to it.
Then there are all those ideas, thoughts and concepts. These are abstract, just like our emotions and feelings. But, ultimately all these intangibles are expressed and become evident through our body functions. Thus the body, mind and intellect are the portals. Through these portals connections are made or the consciousness gets connected to the “external”. This is the process for the birth or origin of all our experiences!
We could describe our experience as a momentary event, or a collection of events or an accumulation of such events over a period of time. For example, I touch a hot object and I feel the heat. This is a momentary experience. I talk to my friend. My conversation is a minute long. I have an “experience” as the outcome of this conversation. I have a child hood experience that spans over a decade, professional experience that spans three decades or a life time experience over several decades, etc. Thus experiences are like the scenes in a movie, both long and short. Life is a collection of such experiences.
I touch a hot-pot, feel the heat, get burned and get mad! Many who cook often, despite their best attention, occasionally get burned by contact with hot-pot, but brush it aside as “just part of the job”!
I hear something from some one. It does not seem to really matter to me. Some one else hears the same thing, gets excited, loves it, hates it, gets emotional, gets upset, etc. All of these are our “experiences”.
If the consciousness in all of us is the same and if the hot-pot or message or anything else is the same, then why do each of us respond differently for the same apparent signal? This has to do with the nature of the connection between me (the “I”) and the object. This connectivity or nature of connection is called Guna! We shall look into it and its details in our next essay.
Consciousness is omnipresent, functioning as if with eyes, heads, ears, mouths and feet every where. Consciousness exists in all aspects of all activities and hence is considered to be enveloping all aspects of the world. B.G. 13.14
Consciousness exists actively supporting all activities and functions through all sense organs, yet remains unattached, thereby devoid of the influence of senses or the experiences (of cause and effect) arising out of them. B.G. 13.15
Consciousness is inside and outside of all beings and things, which are movable (animate) and immovable (inanimate). Because of this subtle nature, the consciousness is perceived to be both far and near. B.G. 13.16
Consciousness is undivided and universal and yet may be perceived as being divided or manifested through individual acts, people or things. This universal manifestation is the cause of creation or generation, support or sustenance and destruction of all things and beings (i.e) all our experiences B.G. 13.17