The Obstacle to Integrity

The obstacle to integrity, in my view, is our vasanas, our habitual reaction patterns based in some ancient trauma, which is triggered in the present by something that reminds us of the original, incompleted upset in the past.

Of course our vasanas are the obstacle to many other things as well, principally our experience of any of the divine qualities.

When I (or we) become triggered, reactivated, undone by one of our “sleeping volcanoes” exploding into life, all goes to hell in a handbasket, rapidly.

We fall from grace. We fall off the ends of the Earth. We end up in the hell of drama.

How many spiritual teachers have disgraced themselves when their vasanas explodes?  They erupt and, bam, we’re in the muck again.

I’m tempted to say that vasanas are the whole problem in life. I wouldn’t even say that about karma. The karma we meet need not be a problem, but our vasanas definitely are. We can respond to our karma with grace but we seldom respond to our vasanas that way.

The major nexus or knot we have to break is seeing ourselves as being our vasanas. When we’re upset in a major way, we cannot seem to see that circumstance as merely something that’s happening with us. We get behind it, put it on like a mask and project blame around us, acting out our upset feelings.

Or at least I do.

But the other side is also true, that once all our vasanas are experienced through completely – what I call “sourced” or “flattened” – what we discover underneath, I’m willing to bet, is our original nature, our original face, what Brother Sun, Sister Moon called our original innocence.

If we have to become like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for me that means that we have to let go of all our vasanas. Sri Ramana Maharshi said as much when he said that we cannot be liberated as long as we have uncleared vasanas.

“Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi [God-realization] for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas, he will not attain salvation.” (1)

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

“Only after the samskaras [impressions] have been destroyed can one attain salvation.” (2)

“Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage.” (3)

Jesus said through Pamela Kribbe recently (4) that the way through our vasanas is not by projecting them outwards or suppressing them inwards, but by being aware of them and letting them be, letting them play out in our consciousness without taking them up or stuffing them. This he called the Third Way.

But implicit in doing this is dropping our shame and our pretensions. We aren’t perfect yet. All of us, I believe, have vasanas. All of us have unresolved conflicts that emerge when triggered. It isn’t something to be ashamed of but to be embraced and learned from.

And there’s no sense pretending that we don’t have vasanas. I’ve seen that pretension on occasion.  It appears only to lead to dissonance, a disconnect from ourselves. He who pretends that he has none when he does looks about as foolish as one can get when they go off. And my hunch is that the surest way to have them go off and for us to look foolish is to pretend that we have none.

A degree of vigilance is necessary, I think, not to become our vasanas but not a degree of resistance to experiencing them. We don’t resist the experience of getting dirty when we have to pull up weeds. We simply wash our hands when we’re done.

Similarly here, we may get our hands dirty pulling up the weeds that vasanas are, but we’ll emerge clean from this time spent with our hands in the Earth of our own being.

But the rewards of emerging from our upsets instead of increasing our emotional sclerosis is hard to beat. Peacefulness, bliss, satisfaction at a job well done. And the only job worth doing, it seems to me – emerging from  our own inner chaos and self-harm.


(1) Sri Ramana Maharshi in Ramananda Swarnagiri, Crumbs from His Table. . Downloaded 10 September 2005 n.p. [Hereafter CFHT.]

(2) Sri Ramana Maharshi, CFHT, n.p.

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

(4) “Jeshua:  The Third Way,” through Pamela Kribbe, July 4, 2012, at

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