What effect does our environment have on us?

—A Devotee

Your environment and the company you keep are of paramount importance. Your outer environment, in conjunction with your inner environment, controls your life and molds your tastes and habits. Environmental troubles are the result of your conscious or unconscious actions in the past — somewhere, sometime. You must take responsibility for them.

However, you must not develop an inferiority complex. Trials do not come to destroy you, but to help you appreciate God more. God does not send those trials — they are born of your own making. To transcend them, all you have to do is to resurrect your consciousness from the environment of ignorance.

It must be remembered that the inner mental environment of an individual is what God judges.  One may be a sinner at heart while living in the company of saints, or he may be a saint in the company of transgressors. It is most important to know that sinners or saints are largely made through the company they keep. If a sinner is willing to mend his ways and decides to live in the company of saints, he is bound to change, while a careless spiritual man will deteriorate in the company of wicked people.

Through reaction to our outer environment, from early childhood on, our inner mental environment is formed. This inner mental environment of thoughts  and mental habits guides our actions – almost automatically.

Very few people analyze whether they are progressing or going backward in life. As human beings endowed with reason, wisdom, and understanding, it is your greatest duty to use your reason and wisdom correctly so that you may know whether you are going backward or forward. If failures invade you repeatedly, don’t get discouraged. See them as stimulants to your material or spiritual growth. The period of failure is the best season for sowing the seeds of success.

Every new effort after a failure must be well planned and charged with increasing intensity of attention. If a bad habit bothers you, do two things. Negatively, try to avoid everything that occasioned it or stimulated it, without concentrating on it in the zeal to avoid it. Then positively try to divert your mind to some good habit, and keep it intensely engaged in developing it, until it becomes a part of yourself.

The more you improve yourself, the more you will elevate others around you. Consciousness of spiritual and moral duty should reign predominantly in your mind, above all other duties. Intellectual duty is superior to material duty. Material duty is very important but must always be supplemented by social and patriotic duties.

From Inner Culture, October 1938.