Truth Of Life: [2.6] The Issues - 14 - Changing Habits

Published: 05.06.2008
Updated: 14.08.2008

The Art & Science Of Living

Chapter 2.

The Issues


Changing Habits

[In today's world, dishonesty, unethical propensities, anarchy, deception and chaos are thriving luxuriously. There is an immediate, concrete need to change these propensities. So changing and reforming habits is very important. This process has to start systematically by practising self-criticism, self-repentance and breaking the barrier of delusion. The practice of Prekshadhyana enables us to introspect the existing feelings, tendencies and habits. After this we must analyse and realise the bad habits. This shatters the veil of delusion resulting in changing one's habit.]

It is difficult to change an old habit and adopt a new one. It requires great effort and determination to change a habit. Normal effort and resolve can neither change an old habit nor form a new habit, this requires a systematic approach. The first step to that approach is self-criticism. Those who do not criticise their habit can never think of reforming it. To criticise and be aware of habit is the first step in the direction of changing the habit. Criticism actually enables us to witness the wrong habit. Man introspects subtle and gross propensities. The judgement of others may be correct up to twenty per cent. Every person lives in his own world of feelings and others observe his behaviour only. How can we judge others who live in their own emotional world? Merely on the basis of behaviour, one cannot be judged correctly. Behaviour is external, whereas feelings are internal. The same behaviour can manifest due to different reasons. Behaviour can manifest due to a killing instinct as well as a protecting instinct. It is possible that a person wants to protect life but seems to be killing, conversely he wants to kill but seems to be saving life. Though the behaviour in both cases is similar yet the goals are entirely difficult.

A surgeon operates a patient with the help of knife. His action of cutting may not look good but its result and motivation are positive, for he wants to make the patient healthy and prolong his life. The same knife is used by another man, he stabs and thereby kills the person. The same action has different meaning. The surgeon has used the knife to preserve life, whereas the other has used it to kill.

You cannot judge a person by his behaviour alone. The basic doctrine of our assessment should be the emotional world, where the person is living. The man of imperfect vision lives in a behavioural world and he defines others as good or bad on the basis of behaviour only. In fact, a man doing a critical appraisal will not observe the gross thing; he will definitely explore the subtle reason. That is why I stress upon the fact that others cannot understand a man more than twenty per cent of what the man can understand himself. A very good person may be considered very bad by others and a very bad person may become very good in others' view. On what basis should we judge others? It is believed that the person living in the behavioural world cannot transcend behaviourism. The truth is that the man who does self-criticism and introspects his inner Self only can understand himself and nobody else can understand him. The foremost step for changing a habit is self-criticism and self-introspection °f our habits, tendencies and behaviour. When self-criticism occurs and all feelings and behaviour existing within and without are witnessed, only then is change feasible. Self-criticism gives the true picture of a person. The picture of his inner Self changes with the time-cycle of the day. In the morning, the temperament may be good, but at some other time, it may be different. It is so because the temperament changes along with the time-cycle. On that basis, astrologers and scientists have discovered a lot of facts and suggest an appropriate time for different activities. Which time is appropriate for worship? If you wish to carry out a transaction with someone, then what time should you choose? The suitable time for every act is determined along with the consideration of the time-cycle.

Man changes dramatically when he does critical self-appraisal. If somebody else criticises him then he gets annoyed. But when he criticises himself, then he understands that his habit is not good and wants to change it. In fact, self-criticism encourages such an outlook. The first thing in self-criticism is to witness one's own tendencies and to introspect within. The second step is to change that habit. When man introspects his habits and its effects, and analyses these effects, then he realises that the habit is bad and its impact will have repercussions and he will change it. Instead of preaching to others, self-criticism is more effective. Discourse and teachings, sometimes inculcate tension by hurting the ego even in the mind of a child. But the awakening of self-introspection and its consequences perhaps result in a greater possibility of change.

Criticism sometimes creates the feeling of talking ill. In our context, the meaning of criticism and slandering have changed. Talking ill of others is not relevant to the topic under discussion. In spirituality, man is basically alone. There is none like the "other" existing in spirituality. When the "other" comes in, then spirituality disappears. The very essence of spirituality is the realisation of solitariness. In the world of spirituality, nothing exists except one, i.e., non-dual. In the world of non-dualism, there is only one soul; the rest does not exist. There is no truth other than the One. In Jain philosophy "The soul is one and it is solitary, the rest is our conduct." This is not a complete truth. The complete truth is the realisation of solitariness. Here, there is nothing like the "other person", hence, there cannot be any criticism and slandering of others as the "other" does not exist. So criticism means only self-criticism. Unfortunately, the meaning of criticism and slandering is generally considered a very disgusting act. In the field of spirituality, the word criticism and slandering are valuable words.

The second step in changing one's habit is "to talk ill". It sounds rather odd when you say "talking ill" can also be the means of changing habit. Though talking ill can create enemies and quarrels, how can it pave the way for reforming a habit? Spirituality shows different paths. (People of this world considered this as a different path.) Talking ill here means to contemplate upon our conduct and see our mistakes, then repent and atone for them. There should be a sincere repentance for the act, which was wrong and should not have been done. The job of criticising is to breed repentance. As long as the feeling of atonement is not generated against our unrighteous act, till then the habit cannot be changed. That habit can be reformed only when the feeling of repentance comes from the mind. The resolve of non-repetition should come up with the feeling of remorse for the unrighteous act e.g., I should not drink, smoke, become angry or abuse. As long as the feeling of non-repetition and atonement continue, till then the possibility of changing a habit can be expected, otherwise the habit cannot be changed. Many people do wrong things and then they justify it as righteous. The philosophy of "Tit for Tat" has thrived in the empirical world. This becomes wrong from the spiritual point of view.

Once Mr. Ashutosh Mukherjee was travelling by train. Some foreigners were also travelling in that compartment. They were obsessed with complexion. They were agitated to see a brown person travelling with them. Initially they argued for a long time with Mr. Mukherjee and asked him to vacate the compartment. Mukherjee was himself a gutsy and well-built person. He did not get down. When he was asleep, a foreigner threw Mr. Mukherjee's shoes out of the train. After some time the foreigners slept. Mukherjee woke up and did not find his shoes. He understood what had transpired. He threw the coat of the white man out of the train. When the foreigner woke up and did not find his coat, he asked Mr. Mukherjee about it. Mukherjee spoke, "The coat has gone to bring the shoes." Everybody kept silent and sat still.

So tit for tat is the philosophy of behaviour, not of spirituality. Thinking from the spiritual point of view, Mukherjee would not have thrown the coat and tolerated the loss of his shoes. But he operated on the consciousness of behaviour and acted accordingly.

When the consciousness of remorse awakens in man, then there is no room for tit for tat philosophy. People, who stop justifying their mistakes, and accept their mistake as a mistake, cannot take revenge.

The second important method of changing one's habit is to be self-critical. The result of this is repentance against the unrighteous act. Acts of repentance against sinful acts breaks the vicious circle of delusion. When delusion is shattered, righteous actions automatically follow. Man is inclined to justify his sinful deeds in the wake of attachment and stupidity thereby the veil of delusion goes on strengthening. As soon as the feeling of criticism and remorse awake in him, delusion is attacked at its root and no longer survives. Those people who only strengthen their delusion are reluctant to accept their shortcomings. Delusion can be shattered only by those, who have enough courage to accept their mistakes and dare to feel remorse for it. Such people have courage to annihilate their delusion. In the state of delusion, man is not able to understand what should be done and he is confused.

When the process of atonement starts from within, then attachment will vanish and the habit gets reformed. So in a nutshell, the process of reforming a habit involves self-criticism, atonement and shattering of delusion. With the sincere cultivation of the aforesaid doctrines the unrighteous habit cannot sustain, it has to change.

The sensitive issue of Prekshadhyana is to introspect. Without self-introspection, the secret of transformation of personality cannot be discovered. Nobody can change anyone else. A teacher also cannot change his disciple, unless he awakens the feeling of self-introspection in his disciple.

The basic purpose of Prekshadhyana is to sublimate feelings. Then the sublimated feeling in turn changes the habit. If there is no change, then there is no use of Prekshadhyana. After practising Prekshadhyana, if there is no change in you then it has been futile. Change is necessary, change is a must. Our meditation is not meant for anything else, other than ultimately changing the personality. The greatest wonder of the world is to change habits.

Several wrong conducts like dishonesty, immorality, unethical propensities are prevalent in society. How to change them, is a major issue. I do not think that mere preaching can be effective. In the Gita, Arjuna asked Krishna, "The mind is very restless, how can it be controlled"? Lord Krishna replied, "Nothing is unsolvable in this world, everything has a solution. The first method for controlling the mind is practice. Practising can control the mind. By practising, one can definitely conquer the mind." Practising is synonymous with activity. If we don't practise, then how can we reach the goal? Certainly, we have to practise. Whatever problems exist, they are the problems of a restless mind. They can be changed through the practice of Prekshadhyana.

Edited by Muni Dulharaj
Copyright by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India ©2001
Published by Sterling Publishers Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi, India
Translated by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Consciousness
  2. Gita
  3. Jain Philosophy
  4. Krishna
  5. Meditation
  6. Prekshadhyana
  7. Science
  8. Science Of Living
  9. Soul
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