It is easy for a man to go down a gradually descending subway, but when he tries to climb back out, he finds resistance. Likewise, the man who lives completely controlled by his material desires goes smoothly down into the depths of evil. But when he tries to climb out of the subterranean pit, he encounters resistance from evil desires and habits.
Material desires are gathered by the soul through incarnations, from the time it leaves the abode of Spirit. Pre-natal material habits appear as strong tendencies in the present life. Residing in the subconscious mind, these matter-bent tendencies are highly skilled in the use of psychological weapons.
People who are meek prisoners of bad habits are so engrossed in their negative tendencies that they never dream of escape. When the spiritual aspirant becomes inwardly awake, he finds that his consciousness becomes a battleground. The mental warriors of bad tendencies, with their weapons of temptation, rally to fight the forces of good habits and discrimination.
A story will illustrate this:
Mr. J was a confirmed drunkard, who made a nuisance of himself to his family and neighbors. After meeting a saint and taking a vow to abstain from drinking, he asked his servants to hide his costly wine in locked boxes and to keep the key. He instructed them to serve the liquor to his friends only.
Because of his joy in his new resolution against drink, everything went fine for Mr. J. For a while, he did not feel the unseen lure of the liquor-tempting habit. As time went on, and he felt himself proof against liquor temptation, he asked his servants to leave the key of the wine room with him, so that he could serve the wine to his friends himself.
Later, feeling more mental security, he thought it was too much bother to go to the cellar to get liquor for his friends. So he kept some wine bottles hidden in the parlor. After a few days Mr. J thought: “Since I am proof against liquor, let me look at the sparkling red wine in the bottle.” Every day he looked at the bottle.
Then one day he thought: “Since I am proof against the liquor temptation, I may just as well smell it.” So he allowed himself to smell the wine. Then he thought: “Since I no longer care for liquor, I will take a mouthful of wine, taste it, and then spit it out.” This he also did.
After a few days passed, he thought: “Since I am so strong and absolutely proof against liquor, there will be no harm if I swallow a little just once.” Having done that, he thought: “Since I have conquered the liquor habit, there will be no harm if I take one swallow of wine at a time—as many times as my unenslaved will desires.” He did that and soon became drunk — and kept on becoming helplessly drunk every day, just as before.
The above story shows that Mr. J was temporarily able to overcome the liquor drinking habit by his strong resolution to conquer. But he failed to realize that his resolution had not yet ripened into a new, good habit.
Every devotee should remember that it takes from five to eight years to substitute a good habit for a strong bad habit. Until the strong good habit is formed, the devotee must stay away from tempting environments and refrain from tempting actions. Above all, one must never allow evil thoughts to enter the mind. Evil thoughts cause evil actions and are therefore more dangerous.
Mr. J disregarded this law and brought the wine bottle near him, which gradually reawakened the memory of the drinking habit. He also failed to recognize the psychological weapons used by his bad habit to defeat his good resolution.
The liquor habit remained unseen, hidden in Mr. J’s subconscious mind, secretly sending out “armed spies” of desire and pleasing thoughts of taste. Thus the way was prepared for the re-invasion of the liquor habit, which triumphed and again usurped Mr. J’s body and soul.
If you have a tendency to engage in misery-producing behavior, cast out all thoughts of temptation. Surround yourself with the right kind of environment and fill your mind with thoughts of God.
Most important of all, cultivate the habit of contacting the superior joys of the soul by meditating every day immediately upon awakening. Daily meditation will help you transmute your harmful desires into the joy producing, lasting happiness of Spirit.