Me and My Shadow

I just spent some time answering emails over on the “Contact Us” email site and I have to tell you, I (and the other editors if they’ve had the pleasure of answering your emails) do appreciate your kind words.

One matter however that arises from the experience. And this comes from conversations with you. People express various degrees of surprise that I or others are talking about our vasanas.

A vasana is an habitual and automatic behavior pattern triggered by an event in the present but rooted in an earlier traumatic incident.  In my view, vasanas are the root of all upset. Please let me say the following about them, if you will.

All of us have a shadow side. Even enlightened masters have shadow sides, as witness all the gurus who’ve slept with their students, own 70 Mercedes Benzes, charge outrageous sums of money to their students for them to stay in their good graces (one once threw $2,000 back at his student and said he could not be bought for that amount. He accepted $23,000 instead), etc.

This situation arises because vasanas persist through the stages of enlightenment up to sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi or liberation. But the kicker is that liberation itself will not come until all vasanas are gone. Catch 22.

Ramana Maharshi has said:

“Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage.” (1)

“Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi [Brahmajnana or God-Realization] for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas, he will not attain salvation [sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi].” (2)

Those teachers who have not rooted out all vasanas are said to be halfway up the mountain.

This being the case, I can think of only a handful of people at this period in time who will not be processing their vasanas. Let’s see. Mata Amritanandamayi, Adyahshanti, maybe Eckhart Tolle, uhhhh…. I’m slowing down….

Many people attempt to hide their vasanas and “look good.” They opt for image management. I consider that a wasted effort. The truth will out. Trying to hide is futile.

Vasanas can come from past lives as well as this life. We of this generation are cleaning out everything. So perhaps the shocked realizaion that people may still be cleaning out their vasanas could, if we wished, be set aside in favor of a concentration of effort on the work at hand?

That having been said, I personally appreciate people who’ll look at their vasanas, try them on, test out what other people tell them, and then confirm whether or not what’s being said fits. I try to do that as much as possible and I do slip. I frequently find myself staring at the sidewalk, my nose a little bruised.

Werner Erhard used to ask us to run an inch of water in the bathtub and try walking on it to see if we’re there yet or not. No one passed the walking-on-water test. I certainly never did.

So to repeat: I don’t look for people to be vasana-free.  I tend to do a little dance of amazement, my jaw dropping to the ground, when anyone says they’re free of vasanas. Instead I look for people who are open to seeing their shadow side and being honest and transparent about it.

In four months’ time, a lot of people may be free of their shadows, but from here to then, might we be easy on each other? How far do we want to take things? Haven’t we all had enough of being down on each other? Enough of drama?

We all need to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (3)  It goes with the territory.

However I do appreciate your comments that it’s getting easier to process our shadow sides or vasanas. Archangel Raphael said in An Hour with an Angel that we can now give our vasanas to him. (4) A reader has discussed a shortened version of processing vasanas. I accept that all this is possible.

But where all else fails and we’re left with our vasanas hanging out, perhaps let’s just be honest and state what is happening for us rather than projecting our vasanas onto others and believing we’re right. There’s no use trying to hide. Everyone sees us. We’re only invisible to ourselves. There’s probably only room for being honest about our shadow side and owning it. Or so it seems to me.


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

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

(3) “The shadow of death” = There is no death in reality. Death is only a shadow and only known as death to those who are trapped in the ignorance of duality. Until we leave duality, we all walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

(4) “An Hour with an Angel with Archangels Michael and Raphael: I Choose Love – Part 2/2,” at

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