Inborn tendencies

The inborn tendencies which every human being brings along with him at the time of birth determines his mental attitudes, behaviour and predilections in his earthly life.

The Indian Vedantic system of philosophy recognizes this very critical component of human mental make up and has delved deep into it to explain human personality traits and thereby suggests measures to enrich and elevate man's life. The Vedantic school of thought terms these inborn tendencies as "Vasanas," which it defines as "that tendency which makes man spontaneously recall in his mind an object which he had intensely thought of and yearned for, without reflecting on its antecedent effects as well as future consequences."

In other words, these inborn tendencies are the remnants or carryovers of impressions of previous births. As the Vedanta says, that which we deeply desire and long for, those desires which have remained partially fulfilled or unfulfilled, that activity or avocation in which we have immersed ourselves deeply, all these exercise their effects in our future births.

Adi Shankaracharya, in his seminal work, 'Vivekachudamani' expounds on this subject. According to him, every organ of the human body - eyes, ears, skin, tongue, nose and others - contributes its share of past impressions into the fire raging in the human mind in its quest for material and sensual gratification. They are the fuel sticks which keep the fire burning. The more the fuel, more intense is the fire. Shankara significantly says "it is this uninterrupted flow of fuel in the form of past impressions that keeps alive the flame of greed and desire in the human mind".

The 'Yoga Vasishta' compares these residual impressions of past births to a "continuous flow of river water which carries along with it the floating debris in all directions". So is this stream of inborn tendencies, which carries man along both good and bad paths. It is up to man to make efforts to pull himself out of the wrong path and set himself on the right path of truth and righteousness. As the saying goes "it is all in the mind". Shankara says "just as the wind brings together the clouds and also disperses them, your mind pulls you in all directions. It binds you. Make efforts to extricate yourself".

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