Vasanas and Permanent or Stable Enlightenment

Christine Hoeflich

I actually intended to post Christine’s article tomorrow but I see that has been overtaken by events. Please go to her website, indicated in Footnote 1, and read the article there if you wish.

The following discussion is longish and may only appeal to people with an abiding interest in enlightenment. It isn’t necessary to read the article to keep “up-to-date” with Ascension-related news. I’ll publish Christine’s article on the subject tomorrow.

In an article (1) that looks at the “upset clearing process” and posits a different model, Christine Hoeflich says the following:

“Steve [Beckow] brings up several ways to deal with destructive feelings: 1. By educating ourselves such that we see that we created the dark side, as channeled messages from Matthew, SaLuSa, Hilarion and others have revealed (Steve describes this as the ‘cognitive’ approach), 2. By hitting a pillow or screaming in your car (the ‘growth movement’ approach), and 3. By using Ho’oponopono and forgiveness (the ‘forgiveness’ approach. But just in case these methods don’t work (which I doubt they will), Steve recommends the ‘upset clearing process.’

“The ‘upset clearing process’ consists of getting to the bottom of the original upset by locating the earliest similar upset and feeling the feelings associated with it. ‘When we’ve reached the source of the upset and completed the experience at the base of it, the upset disappears and often will not return to bother us,’ writes Steve.

“Except when it does (and I can assure you it will). In fact, Steve goes on to admit that the upset clearing process is not dependable, and it requires being ‘guided through’ by someone else. But even when you are guided through it, you may need to repeat it over and over again. Writes Steve Beckow, ‘The fact of the matter is that it took me 23 enlightenment intensives, several repetitions of the est Training, three months of encounter groups, and numerous other workshops to release some of the major upsets in my life.’ In other words, the ‘upset clearing process’ is not as effective as we’d like it to be. (What do we say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?)

“For those who prefer not to have to encounter ’23 enlightenment intensives’ and months of “encounter groups,” there is a simpler method that works while placing you on the path of Ascension at the same time.

“This method requires that you reconnect to and integrate with your higher self such that you no longer hesitate when you receive guidance from your higher self–you’re so connected with your higher self that you just go ahead and do it. (This means your higher self and your personality self are on the same page; you are truly aligned; you live according to your inner truth.)”

It may be academic to discuss vasanas and different approaches to clearing them in view of Ascension and it may not – I’m not sure. A better understanding of them may assist us to boost the number of people who are able to enjoy Ascension and it’s in that interest that I discuss matters like vasanas.

In an earlier article, I defined a vasana in the following way:

“The term “vasana” is used by Advaita Vedantists (or non-dualists) to describe the primary obstacle to enlightenment, namely waves in the mind.

“A vasana is usually considered to be a behavior pattern formed in early-childhood, based on a traumatic incident, complete with decisions and reactions, which persists through time, sleeps, and is awakened by a triggering event. It exists as a disturbing wave in the mind, preventing the stillness of mind which is considered to be a prerequisite for enlightenment.

“I’ve heard vasanas be called records, files, persistent memories, scripts, and many other terms. Under one name or another, they are known to most, if not all, psychologists and many if not most spiritual teachers.” (2)

Let me discuss some of the matters that Christine’s article raises in the hopes that it yields constructive results. At first I did not plan to discuss it, but something inside me won’t let me leave the topic alone and suggests a discussion could be useful.

Prior to taking my first enlightenment intensive, I had had upwards of 20 peak experiences or transformational moments in my life. I don’t regard experiences of the Self that last from a few hours to a few days as enlightenment experiences. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not, but I personally don’t look upon them as being such.

The first one I can remember, and I only remember it vaguely, was on the ferry leaving Cold Mountain Institute after a three-month resident fellowship in the Spring of 1976. I recall emerging into the space of what I thought of as being enlightenment and then being devastated some short time later when the space evaporated.

The fact that the space could close down left me distraught (as it has so many seekers) and launched me on a quest to find out why the space of what I thought of as enlightenment could close down, once experienced. What had I done wrong? And what would I make sure I did not do again?

At first I thought it was because I told a lie. Then I thought it was because I was too self-conscious that I would not allow myself to continue being that expansive. And I looked and looked from that time onward.

In the est Training, I “got it” in the last few minutes of the last session and again “lost it.” But by then, Werner Erhard had told me and the other members of the training that getting it and losing it was normal. Life was getting it, losing it, getting it, losing it. Not satisfying but normal.

Upon first hearing about Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I meditated on him and had an experience of shaktipat (the bestowal of grace upon a follower) that left my hair standing on end. But that too disappeared.

Over the next thirty years, I had many more peak experiences or transformational moments, some of them burning hot, others during which I knew conclusively I was God, but all of which also disappeared. To remember some of them, I began giving them names – the Silver Bullet, the Highway to Heaven, the Flame in the Heart, etc. Why were none of them lasting?

In 1977 I had an out-of-body experience. In 1987 I had a vision, which left me in bliss for three days. But the impact of all of them eventually evaporated.

It wasn’t until I read Sri Ramana Maharshi on the subject of vasanas that I received my answer: the latent tendencies or vasanas reasserted themselves after a transformational or enlightenment experience and overwhelmed it, causing a person to lose the experience. Perhaps you’d permit me to cite some of Ramana’s teachings and those of others on the subject, if you’d be so kind.

Ramana: “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. For that effort is necessary, for most people.” (3)

Arthur Osborne: “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.” (4)

A. W. Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala): “Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi] pointed out that it was a good thing to let the Vasanas … come out. It is useless to bottle them up and let them go on gathering strength inside. The consequence of doing [this] would prove fatal in the end.” (5)

Chadwick: “In the ‘Talks’ [Sri Ramana Maharshi] explains how egos are reborn into a succession of bodies; so long as the individual idea persists there must be some form for it to take until the individual ceases to exist, and this continued individualization consists in a constant change of form. For as one set of Vasanas is worn away another takes its place.” (6)

Sage Vasistha: “Moksa or liberation is the total abandonment of all vasanas or mental conditioning, without the least reserve. Mental conditioning is of two types – the pure and the impure. The impure is the cause of birth; the pure liberates one from birth. The impure is of the nature of nescience and ego-sense; these are the seeds, as it were, for the tree of re-birth. On the other hand, when these seeds are abandoned, the mental conditioning that merely sustains the body is of a pure nature. Such mental conditioning exists even in those who have been liberated while living: it does not lead to re-birth, as it is sustained only by past moment, and not by present motivation.” (7)

Ramana: “Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage. That being so how can the tendencies of karma affect him who is entirely unattached to activity? (8)

“In kevala nirvikalpa samadhi [Brahmajnana or God Realization] one is not free from vasanas and does not, therefore, attain mukti.

“Only after the samskaras [residual impressions or vasanas] have been destroyed can one attain salvation [mukti or liberation].”

Devotee: “When can one practice sahaja [nirvikalpa] samadhi [higher than kevalya nirvikalpa samadhi]?

Bhagwan: “Even from the beginning. Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas, he will not attain salvation.” (9)

Thus Ramana says that it isn’t until all the vasanas are extinguished that a person can hold the enlightenment experience permanently, at a stage he called “sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi.” It isn’t until all vasanas are extinguished that liberation or mukti occurs. So the situation is not quite as cut-and-dried as Christine may represent it. I think there is more involved than a simple choice of following the higher self, although I welcome Christine’s inquiry into the matter.

It was after reading Ramana that I began to search for a method of eliminating what I now came to see as vasanas.

It isn’t that “the ‘upset clearing process’ is not as effective as we’d like it to be” or we are sentenced to “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It’s that our stock of vasanas is extensive, going back innumerable lifetimes, and some vasanas do not yield to one processing, no matter whether we’d like that to be the case or not. You can see that Ramana says that we are born into a succession of bodies to exhaust the vasanas. So it isn’t a simple matter of enlightenment intensives failing us or the est Training, etc.

I remember being in several enlightenment intensives where one woman was at work who had been ritually, sadistically and repeatedly raped in childhood by her parents. She returned to the same vasana, time after time, and not only got through it each time but experienced what looked to me like enlightenment each time she did. Some vasanas are huge and don’t yield without repeated processing. One can say that that invalidates the process, but I don’t think it does. Or at least watching that woman’s struggle, I’m not inclined to view things in such a simple manner.

With me, it took years and years of processing to go down through the layers connected to the physical abuse I suffered as a child. I began working on that issue at Cold Mountain Institute in 1975-76, worked on it through the est Training, and was still hard at work on it, revealing layer after layer of it, in the enlightenment intensives. Christine and I must be talking about different things because I’m not clear that one can avoid repeatedly processing vasanas. I’d be surprised if the method she offers allows one to circumvent the need. But let’s return to that later.

Of her own method Christine says:

“This method requires that you reconnect to and integrate with your higher self such that you no longer hesitate when you receive guidance from your higher self–you’re so connected with your higher self that you just go ahead and do it. (This means your higher self and your personality self are on the same page; you are truly aligned; you live according to your inner truth.)”

When I read these words, I find myself smiling wanly. I wish matters were that easy, that you can just align yourself with the higher self, but vasanas exist at a deep level of the mind and I don’t think they can just be somehow dispensed with by a process as simple as Christine is outlining here. (I wish it were otherwise.)

If they could, I don’t think Ramana would have given vasanas the attention he did in his writings as the obstacle to the permanent and unbroken experience of enlightenment.

It’s my own private theory that vasanas explain why we have seen so many respected masters, some living, some dead, show eccentricities that border on being regarded as failings. Even people whose enlightenment has been as intensive and extensive as that of some of these masters still show the impact of vasanas, in my opinion. You heard Ramana say that vasanas persist past seventh-chakra enlightenment, also called Brahmajnana or God Realization, which in the Seventies we regarded as “full and complete enlightenment.” (It was not.)

If I were to name these failed masters, I fear I would bog myself down in an endless light war. Just bring to mind any master who has been discussed as having fallen. It’s vasanas which cause a master to fall, as far as I’m concerned. So the issue goes very much farther, I think, than a glib dismissal of the merits of one upset-clearing process over another.

And the answer goes very much farther than simply asking something of the higher self, or even reconnecting with it, being “so connected with your higher self that you just go ahead and do it,” or “your higher self and your personality self [being] on the same page.” These ways of discussing the matter, I think, may not fully recognize the depth or impact of vasanas. Again I wish they did.

Now a word about the process and enlightenment intensives. The “upset clearing process” that I recommend, as only one among many possible processes, Christine’s included, owes most to Werner Erhard. What he said in the est Training about “records” (vasanas), “number one upsets,” and “stack attacks” and the way to process them never left me.

But unfortunately the way the est Training is set up means that there was very little time available to process anything in the actual workshop setting. One is introduced to a technique and then one is on to the next thing. It wasn’t until I was in the much more time-rich setting of enlightenment intensives that I found myself able to really dig into vasanas

But I have to say that enlightenment intensives are not set up to process vasanas either. In my use of them to do that, I was opposed by the workshop leader on many occasions and was something of a black sheep for continuing to use EIs for that purpose.

The real use of EIs was to create a pinhole of concentrated focus that would burn through the obstacles to enlightenment and produce the desired experience. But guess what? The same problem continued to present itself. The experience of transformation or enlightenment one had was again temporary and ultimately disappeared, leaving me with the same question: how could it be made permanent? I did not want to use EIs to have yet another temporary spiritual experience. I wanted an end to the matter one way or another.

So the taking of 23 EIs was me having said to myself that this was now my laboratory and I was going to risk all in continuing to use EIs to process vasanas and not to be satisfied with just more temporary experiences. And I did have to go through some vasanas repeatedly and even am still working away at reducing their impact today and I’d be surprised if Christine’s process circumvents that need.

In the beginning of writing my articles on vasanas, I was simply interested in outlining the process as it had refined itself at that point in my learning, but always in the back of my mind was the need to say, after finishing a number of introductions to the subject, that vasanas don’t fully yield to one run-through. Not the really deep vasanas that Werner would have called “number one upsets.” (A number one upset is an upset that looked like it would result in death or very serious injury; that isn’t Werner’s definition per se, but my own view of it.)

Christine goes on to say:

“In fact, Steve goes on to admit that the upset clearing process is not dependable, and it requires being ‘guided through’ by someone else.”

Unfortunately what I’ve found in writing about the subject is that some people tell me it didn’t work for them and, when we look at why not, it turns out that some part of the instructions were not fully understood or acted on. I haven’t solved the problem yet of how to create instructions that would get around all of these pitfalls – or perhaps, given the other tasks I’ve taken on, I simply haven’t had the time to go into matters that extensively. I probably never will.  But more on that later.

As an example of what I mean here, what I’ve found is that, though I may say in writing “take the first image that the mind throws up,” people may read that and yet still not “take the first image the mind throws up.” But they also may not be aware that they’re not  following the instruction.

They may say, “Oh, it could not have been the incident with the vice-principal. No, I don’t accept that it was” and they wait for a “better” image. But the mind knows. And the process may not work if they “edit” the images. In failing to take the first image, they may not get a second, draw a blank, and blame the process.

I think the upset clearing process would be better served if one had a person in the room guiding one through the steps at least the first time and probably a few times after. (OK, probably at least a few times after.) There’s a fine-tuning involved that I think requires a personal introduction. I daresay the same thing may be so with Christine’s process as well, but I don’t know that.

Whatever the case, I probably won’t in the future be the one who refines the process. I’m told my mission will lead elsewhere and I’m committed to playing my assigned role. I also believe that many people, like Christine, will come along and carry the process forward. For them carrying it forward will be their mission and I’m happy to yield place.

The cognitive approach as Christine describes it is not what I meant as the cognitive approach. My wife uses the cognitive approach and what she does is she reasons her way through a vasana. She looks at it from every angle until it yields to her reasoning. It may be that Byron Katie’s “Work” also falls into this category. I don’t know. But this strikes me as another valid way of approaching a vasana.

I’m sure there are others.

Whether or not teachers of EIs validate using them for processing vasanas, I still feel that what is taught in EIs does offer the best way to process them. Perhaps some day EI teachers will allow that processing vasanas is important in the achieving of permanent and stable enlightenment. Or perhaps Ascension will occur so soon that all of this discussion becomes academic.

But my concern in discussing the subject of vasanas is to at least address one thorny aspect of the question that so many of our sources look at, which is the dropping of old issues and excess baggage. That work cannot be avoided, however it’s handled. And I personally welcome any approach that works to address that work, Christine’s or any other, as long as it really does assist us and increases the number of people able to assimilate the light requirements needed to allow Ascension.

Increasing that number is the only thing that matters. How we do it is something I’m sure that many people will be addressing in the months ahead.


(1) Christine Hoeflich, “Ascension – How to Clear Upsets Using the Ascension Process,”, no date, at—How-to-Clear-Upsets-Using-the-Ascension-Process&id=6592346

(2) Steve Beckow, “Processing a Vasana of Strong Attack – Part ½,” at

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

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

(5) Sadhu Arunachala (A.W. Chadwick), A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1961, 22. Fatal in the sense that not processing the vasanas would deny one the experience of mukti or liberation and condemn one to die and need to be reborn again.

(6) Ibid., 40. Individualization in the sense of ego ascendency. Obviously even archangels still have personalities and are individuated.

(7) Sage Vasistha in Swami Venkatesananda, ed., The Concise Yoga Vasistha. Albany: State University of New York, 1984, 5.

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

(9) Sri Ramana Maharshi in Ramanananda Swarnagiri, Crumbs from His Table. Downloaded 10 September 2005, n.p.

Print Friendly