At a given time a person seems to be a slave to his habits, nature and addictions – but has conditioned his mind to act in a particular way. It is as if he has taped a certain song on the cassette of his mind, which he keeps playing again and again. Instead, we need to change our thinking and change our attitude, thereby gradually leading to a change in our actions. Actions performed with the right attitude will eventually lead to a change in our nature.
Our problem is that we are under the sway of likes and dislikes and we always want to do things that we like and avoid things that we dislike. Thus, we are constantly under the control of our minds. Bhagavan says, ‘Do not come under their sway!’ These two are the looters on the path to liberation – when you act according to your likes and dislikes then you are easily swayed by joy and sorrow, happiness and unhappiness.
Therefore, remove these songs of likes and dislikes and sing the song of great devotion instead, which will take you on the path to liberation.
Most of the time we feel helpless about our habits and addiction, saying, ‘I am helpless – what can I do?’ But Bhagavan says very practically that you have created this helplessness by coming under the sway of likes and dislikes; however, He does not tell you not to have likes and dislikes because that would be impossible.
If, for example, you overeat when you see some food that you like and then throw a tantrum when presented with food that you do not like – such behaviour is called ‘acting under the influence of likes and dislikes’. You should eat in moderation and act in moderation as well. Even if you see one person whom you dislike and another whom you like, you should not develop intense hatred for one and intense love for the other – you should be able to control your emotions.
Now the question is, how is it possible not to come under the sway of likes and dislikes. The answer is – you should stay firm in the abidance of your duties. While you firmly abide in your duty – your Dharma – you do exactly what you are supposed to do, and you perform actions irrespective of whether you like or dislike them. Once you do that, your life comes under your control and you are no longer a slave to your mind.
Our problem is that we are under the sway of desire. It is desire that makes us commit sin and prevents us from doing our duty, thus making our undesirable nature stronger and stronger. A typical example is an addiction to something harmful, such as smoking or drugs. We start this initially out of curiosity – as a joy or pleasure – but after a while this habit becomes so strong that we are unable to let go of it even though we try.
Eventually the whole chemistry of the body changes and it starts to demand that object; then, even though we know that it is harmful, we feel helplessly unable to stop, we ourselves have created these addictions and we are the only ones who can release ourselves from them.
Just like addiction at the physical level, there is also addiction at the mental level, such as when we feel compelled by our nature to become angry, jealous or greedy. But we can change our nature and our behaviour with the right thinking, steadfastness in duty, devotion, the right attitude and the right vision.