We all have a vasanas or tendencies or propensity to act in a certain way, in a given situation. The less aware we are at the moment of action, the more likely it is that we will act in that way again and again. Depending upon whether these are good, bad or mixed, tendency it could decide our state of wellbeing. Being freed from these discriminatory tendencies leads one to liberation or freedom.
Origination of Behavioral Tendencies
How do we create tendencies? Every thought, feeling, imagination, perception and action creates an impression in our mind. When they become deep rooted they are called vasanas or tendencies. These tendencies then can become manifest or hidden. These tendencies create like or dislike in us and prompt us for action. If they are weak we can dismiss it and if it is strong then one is compelled to act. If our tendencies are good, then actions tend to be favorable else we end up having problems and sufferings.
These tendencies cloud our mind and take away our freedom of action. How do we overcome the desire for objects? How do we free ourselves from our tendencies, our discrimination between likes and dislikes, good and bad. One needs to have strong intelligence and mind power to overcome our negative tendencies.
Intellect is of two kinds – sharp and subtle. Sharp intellect is the one we use in our day to day life and that helps us in understanding physical world, analyse and categorise objects, people and actions of the world and help us to acquire material wealth and enjoy our life. This is essential to bring fame, wealth and worldly success.
Subtle intellect, on the other hand helps us to understand ourselves better and the questions of existence in this world. Questions such as who am I, where from I come, where do I go henceforth, why this world is full of sufferings, is this real. Understanding these questions call for different kind of intelligence.
But for a person which intelligence is predominant depends upon their status in life and their general tendencies in life. Whether inherent or acquired, our tendencies are the ones which decides our life to a great extent.
Sage Vasistha counsels Rama thus:
“That which is desired by man is called purushartha and the effort to gain the desired goal is also purushartha. Fate is what comes to us as a result of our past actions, todays efforts carves tomorrows destiny. What comes to us in the present is our destiny what we do with what we get is our effort. Therefore, success and failure are in our hands. Consequently, instead of wasting time in worrying about past or the future we must do our best with whatever we have on hand.
One who waits for better times to come waits forever. One who blames luck, stars or god can never succeed.”
– “Yoga Vasistha sara Sangraha” – Swami Tejomayananda
Overcoming bad and cultivating good behavioral tendencies
One needs to lift oneself up by their own effort. And how do we work. To be effective our work has to be well directed, well thought, focused and continuous till the goal is achieved.
We are of our mind. All of us are bundles of good and bad tendencies while good dominates in some and bad in some. Both these tendencies have to be overcome to attain freedom.
Bad tendencies are those desires that seek pleasure, destructive, of negative emotions and inauspicious. Overcoming bad tendencies require subtle energies. It needs us to understand ourselves and our aspirations, likes and disposition better as a first step.
So how can this be achieved.
- By being intellectually alert
- By analysis
- By substitution
- By outgrowing
- By observing others
- By one’s own suffering
- By path of action
- By path of devotion
- By path of knowledge
- By path of meditation
Bad tendencies pollute our mind and affect our joy and peace in life. Bad tendencies are overcome by cultivating good tendencies. And what are they? Any thoughts and aspirations that express feelings and thinking of upliftment of oneself and others, studying scriptures, being creative, introspection and meditation and doing one’s duty. The awareness of our thought helps us in cleansing the mind. Whenever we find oneself getting into negative thought, bad company be it of books, people, situation, or programs that evoke the bad in us we need to get out of it immediately and substitute it by alternate thoughts and actions. Some of these desires are overcome as we fulfill or as we outgrow it
We should also learn to question our desires, needs and aspirations and understand where they lead us to. When we watch them in our mind without trying to question, control or manipulate it they vanish by themselves.
It is not only bad tendencies but also good tendencies affect us. At first one has to transform bad tendencies into good and ultimately be freed of good tendency also.
Cultivating Good Behavioral Tendencies
For liberation one need to cultivate the quite mind, inquiring mind, content mind and association with wise people.
The mind has to remain quite despite provocations, insults, problems, sufferings and unfulfilled desires. We should develop intellect to question the nature of reality – who am I, why am I here, where have I come from, where do I go from here, who are my parents, what is this universe in which I live so on and so forth. And we should cultivate the virtue of contentment. Spiritual progress is possible only for the one has who attained material contentment. Hence material contentment should be achieved. Needless to say associating with wise help us improve ourselves, understand the goal of life and the means to reach it.
Being intelligent, discriminatory, calm and alert in the moment with our intellect one would be able to decide between alternative courses of action and overcome detrimental innate tendency if any and lead a good life.
- Adopted from Chapter II, Preparatory teachings of Sage Vasistha, Yoga Vasishta Sara Sangraha, Swamy Tejomayananda, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust Publication