By PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA
Protection Against Evil's Power
Chapter III, Stanza 35
Trying to do one's own duties. (Dharma) even when devoid of adequate qualifications, is superior to accomplishing capably the duties of others. It is better to die performing one's own duties; the duties of others are fraught with danger.
It is better to remain unheeded and unknown, following the simple virtues of life and quiet meditation which slowly but steadily evolve the Soul, rather than to pursue well-performed spectacular worldly duties catering to the senses, or superficial ceremonious religious duties.
Comparison of one's own simple duties with another's colossal duties is not wise, for one may be tempted to forsake his own Self-evolving duties and try unsuccessfully to adopt the difficult duties of others for which he is ill-fitted, and thus lose out in every way. The Sanskrit word para in paradhirma in this stanza, signifies paran, or the enemy senses. So it is better to follow the simple laws of a solitary, peaceful life brightened by daily meditation, than to pursue the boisterous worldly life which might seem attractive and engaging for a time, but in the end might prove fatal to the Soul's growth.
Swadharma, as used in the original form of this stanza, signifies the spiritual duty necessary for the Soul's growth. The Gita advises that it is better to die trying, even ineffectually to develop spiritually, than to follow the momentarily joyous, boisterous life of catering to the senses of greed, avarice and sexual propensities-which are the revolting enemies of man's true happiness. The real consciousness of Soul, the true substance of the Self, is known as Swa, and the body identified "Iness" or ego is Ahankar. The true Self is the individualized, ever-existing, ever-conscious Bliss. The pseudo-soul, or ego, is identified with twenty-four ever-changeable attributes of Nature full of evil and dark ignorance. The nature of Self-perceiving Spirit is Bliss; and the nature of the senses-manifesting ego is ever-changing excitement. Man should concentrate on the immutable Divine Bliss of the Soul and not on the ever-mutating ignorant perceptions of inimical senses. The more the indulgence in the temporary pleasures of the senses, the less the apperception of the Soul Bliss. But when this Bliss of the true Self becomes manifest through meditation, the pale pleasures of the senses fade away.
The neutralization of the good, bad and activating qualities harmonizes the natural attributes in man. He then manifests the true Self, beyond all the entanglements of three-fold qualities. Of course this state is difficult to achieve: Due to the mind running in all directions, meditation is difficult for the beginner. Yet, to strive laboriously to attain true joy, or Bliss, is far superior to obtaining promptly and easily the pleasures of the senses. When the difficult way is persistently followed, the devotee will succeed eventually. Then, by ecstatic meditation he can rise above the body or dematerialize it-that is much better to try for than to go round and round indefinitely on the dangerous ferris wheel of birth and death.
Chapter III, Stanza 36
Arjuna said, 0 Krishna, by what force is a man often seemingly compelled, as it were, to perform evil?
Every worldly man, moralist and spiritual novice sometimes experiences a peculiar state: even as he strives toward virtuous action, he seems to be dragged into temptation, almost by force.
The business man trying to carry out an honest business, and finding dishonest tradesmen getting more prosperous, is often so strongly tempted to partake of gain attained by graft that he says he is "forced" to do so. Most moralists trying to control the strongest menial and physical impulse created by Nature-the sex impulse-find their minds automatically compelled to sex-thoughts, sex-desires, or their bodies indulging in sex-acts.
Attraction to pleasant tastes, and odors, or even love of such things as beauty and music, may harmfully lure the moralist who wants to rise above them and concentrate on self -control.
The Kriyaban's Temptation
During meditation and practice of Kriya-Yoga, the devotee finds his mind concentrated in the spiritual eye and the inner Self's joy. He finds himself beyond the entanglements of sensations and thoughts. He has no other longing but to remain locked in the peace of Self. But suddenly without warning, he discovers he has been dragged down, as it were, by some force, and thrown into the mire of restlessness and the dark consciousness of corporeal sensations. In this state, the meditating devotee, instead of remaining in the motionless perception of the blessed Soul, seems impelled to forsake that state and indulge in sensory-motor activities which aggravate the bodily consciousness.
Habit-Ally or Enemy
So the business man, the moralist and the devotee ask the common question, introspectively: "Why is it that I am compelled by force, even against my resisting wish, to commit error in thought and deed?"
First, you must watch out for your greatest enemies - desire, anger, etc., which arise from careless actions and habits, as the next stanzas will explain. But, meanwhile, this is an opportune time to mention the importance of good habits in combatting this "force," and the power that evil habits have to strengthen it.
Repeated performance of good or bad actions with concentration forms good or bad habits. Habits are psychological automatic machines which enable man to perform actions without conscious effort. To be able to perform good actions under the compelling influence of a good habit is beneficial-for good habits make the performance of good actions easy. A good habit is like a psychological machine which can create good activities by mass-production. Without the automatic power of a worthy habit, a fresh, difficult effort has to be made each time to perform a good action.
The devotee should never form any evil habit, for it will tend to force him to perform harmful acts against his will. To use the mechanical power of a habit in doing undesirable acts is misusing this God-given law of mind: "Ease comes with repetition." This law should be used only to ease the performance of good works. Bad habits are destructive to health, moral consciousness and inner peace. For instance, over-eating, or over-indulgence of the senses under the spell of the habit of greed. causes physical disease or mental satiety or inner unhappiness.
A parrot will repeat a holy name or swear-according to its training -any moment, anywhere. So this bird should be taught to utter only good words, otherwise it will talk nonsense even before company when not desired to do so. A bad habit is like an evilly-taught parrot which will repeat evil against one's own will any moment, anywhere -and bring embarrassment or misery.
Regarding Arjuna's query to Krishna, it can be said that people misuse the coercive Power of habit to perform evil, while they should use that faculty only to perform good. Ignorance, lack of watchfulness, want of discretion in selecting right actions, and carelessness in choosing proper friends, often entrap a person in the quicksand of bad habits into which he is sucked down against his will, unless rescued by good habits formed by good actions and inspired by good company. The influence of constant association is usually stronger than judgment or will power. Hence good or bad company talks louder than will power. The devotee who has noticed this might be moved to ask: "Why is it, Lord, that saints so easily act nobly, while wicked persons seem to be forced to act malevolently?"
A person is free to choose between the desire to form a good habit or the temptation to form a bad habit before he acts in noble or evil way. But once he becomes used to good or evil, be is no longer free from the grip of the one he has chosen. And some people form habits more easily than others. A person who is ill or weak-willed, or mentally deficient will fall into bad habits readily. In the subconscious mind of a moron for instance, one act of smoking might form the seed of a habit. Even the devotee who is not so easily influenced should guard against the unconscious creation of bad habits. And if he is already Poisoned by them, he should cure himself by continuously using the antidote of good actions, good habits, and good company. It is very strange; often a person-even while utterly loathing his own actions-finds himself indulging in anger, sex, prevarication, dishonesty, over-eating, disorderly life. etc. due to his careless creation of bad habits in a past life, or in this life. Bad habits of past lives appear as strong moods and octopus like inclinations whose tentacles are strengthened by evil company and erroneous actions. Wrong tendencies must be starved by good company and burned out by the fire of discrimination and meditation.
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