Vāsanā

#1 Sep 30th, 2012, 11:48
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#1
Yesterday I was discussing with a yoga teacher and friend of mine who is Greek, about the origins of the Greek word "βάσανα"*. It means "torture", "pain", "torment". (We were listening to a Greek Rembetika song which has this word in the lyrics.)

My question is the following: is there a link to the Sanskrit word "Vāsanā", meaning "past life experiences" ?




* The Greek is pronounced "vasana".
#2 Sep 30th, 2012, 11:54
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#2
Also, is there a link between the Sanskrit "asana" and the Sanskrit "vāsanā" ?
#3 Sep 30th, 2012, 11:55
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#3
Vasana, as far as I know has nothing to do with past life experience. It means desire, particularly sexual desire/arousal.
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#4 Sep 30th, 2012, 11:55
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#4
Oh, well in that case, ditch Wiki.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vāsanā
#5 Sep 30th, 2012, 12:55
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#5
Vasana is also a habit/addiction (generally undesirable or considered bad)
#6 Sep 30th, 2012, 13:00
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#6
The way I learnt it in Vedanta vasana is actually more of a residue of past activity, and I heard it explained with the example of the types of pots you get in India. These pots are only superficially fired, as we all know they will leak if a liquid stands in it long enough.

Now vasana is compared to that taste which remains in the vessel, it is like a latent taste not clearly defined, except if the previous liquid was very strong (like for instance coffee). So vasana is taken to mean a latent tendency acquired in a previous time, a tendency that permeates consciousness, or drives on to certain types of actions. In that relatively undefined way it can be seen as a "past-life experience" the way you say it, but it is different from a samskara which is a more concretized residue of past action (mental, verbal, or deed-related).

In Pali vasana means perfume. The Buddhist texts have different terms to describe the related, specifically anusaya (underlying tendency). Google says in present Telugu it means taste, which again reflects the explanation above.

The Buddhist school called Yogacara (which used Sanskrit and ended in Mahayana) and studied the human experience in a subjectivist manner says about vasana:

"it denotes the latent energy resulting from actions which are thought to become ‘imprinted’ in the subject's storehouse-consciousness (ālaya-vijńāna). The accumulation of these habitual tendencies is believed to predispose one to particular patterns of behaviour in the future."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C4%81san%C4%81

Now how this could relate to Greek "torment, pain" is in terms of understanding with a certain stretch possible: previous unwholesome actions resulting in present-day painful feelings, but whether etymology would corroborate this, is a different question.
#7 Sep 30th, 2012, 13:05
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#7
Thanks, Atala. Very interesting indeed.
#8 Sep 30th, 2012, 13:30
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by atala View Post Google says in present Telugu it means taste, which again reflects the explanation above.
Vasana in Telugu (pronounced Vaasana) is actually an unpleasant smell or vasana (pronounced vasan or vasana) which means an undesirable habit/addiction/trait.
#9 Sep 30th, 2012, 13:34
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#9
Furthermore, the Greek word is used in song lyrics (affectionately) to describe the pains of being in love. But its literal translation, in the context of the song which prompted the discussion, is torture. It is used in a certain kind of Greek song as a keyword (during the Dictatorship) because its translation can be coded.
#10 Sep 30th, 2012, 19:20
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Vasana in the Yoga Sutras is not a past life experience. they are tendencies related to our karmas, good and bad. each karma (action) leaves a residual impression or vasana (hence, similar to a fragrance) in our mind. vasanas are like seeds that will sprout.

the vasanas of our karma (actions) become tendencies of our personality which may lead us to repeat the same actions again and again thereby forming habits (samskaras.)

See Yoga Sutras 4.8
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#11 Sep 30th, 2012, 19:46
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#11
The issue with Sanskrit is that it has multiple meaning for a single word. Therefore it had been pretty difficult to translate the old texts clearly. Imagine ten words in a sentence and each word having ten different meaning. I am sure 'Vasana' too must be having a dozen meaning.

As for the words connection with Greek word, I have no idea about that. Some languages developed in isolation, without any external influence, and both languages are likely candidate for that.
#12 Sep 30th, 2012, 22:17
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by jituyadav View Post Some languages developed in isolation, without any external influence, and both languages are likely candidate for that.
Jitu, it depends which period you asign to that "development of language". We all know that there was extensive contacts between Greeks and "Indians", that there was in fact Greek dominance till down to the Punjab for over 200 years BC until the turn to AC, and culturally even afterwards. That typical beauty and smile of the Buddha statues, seen today as a major contribution of Indian culture to the world, is actually following Greek ideals of beauty.

Ashoka (304-232 B.C.) actually sent Buddhist monks to the Greeks, so it is conceivable that some of the terms of the teaching found their way into the Greek language.

Besides, it is quite common to find many correlations between words specifically in the Indo-Germanic language family. German and English (along with other languages) have many words whose roots can be found in Sanskrit (except where scholarship sees a codependence of influence).

This gets us into intricate details, including potential clashes with ideological/religious assumptions, but since we are at it, here is a quote worth reading:

Quote:
Does Sanskrit come from India?

A: No. Sanskrit was at the height of its splendor in India, but it really comes from the Indo-European tribes which, according to the latest studies, arrived in India coming from Eastern Anatolia peninsula (Turkey). On André's page about Origin of the Indo-European Languages all these Indo-European migrations are analyzed deeply. It is a common error to think of Sanskrit as being born in India, but that is not so.
http://www.sanskrit-sanscrito.com.ar...sanskrit.shtml

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