Why do some bad habits stay on despite our devotional practice – how to deal with them?
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Transcriber: Dr Suresh Gupta
Edited by: Sharan Shetty
Question: Why do some bad habits stay on despite our devotional practice – how to deal with them?
Answer: Bad habits are a result of certain anarthas which are deep rooted and which may have come from our past life. By the initial practice of Krishna consciousness, some or many of those habits go away but some remain due to multiple reasons. One reason is that such impressions are deep, but another important reason is that we indulge in them quite often. For example, if a person has got rashes on his skin, the doctor may advise two things – avoid scratching it and apply some medicine. If the person follows both the instructions, the rash will be cured but if the person applies the medicine and at the same time secretly scratches the rash, then it will take much longer to cure. In general, habits persist longer when we also indulge in them. Before coming to Krishna consciousness, many devotees found it difficult to give up tea but after practising Krishna consciousness, they found that the temptation went away. If we minimise indulging on our indulgences then it is relatively easier for us to experience the purifying potency of Krishna consciousness, but when we indulge privately, then it will take a long time to cure.
Sometimes fault-finding is not necessarily bad. If we are in a leadership position where we have to train someone, then it may involve some fault finding to improve them. Thus, the problem is – when one finds faults all the time. If our relationship with others is based only on finding faults in them, then we strain the relationship.
His Holiness Satsvarupa Maharaj, in one of his books writes that once Srila Prabhupada was going for some TV programme. At that time, Prabhupada was little sick and had just recovered. In that state, he applied his tilak little twisted. So Satsvarupa Maharaj was wondering whether to tell Srila Prabhupada about this or not. He thought, “Should I tell my spiritual master that the tilak is twisted or should I consider that in the case of my spiritual master, the tilted is straight.” While thinking, he remembered that in the early days, once when Prabhupada was writing his book, he had stated a word while dictating that was not present in the dictionary. So all the devotees gathered and were thinking what to do in this situation. One of them said that since a pure devotee has used it rather than changing the pure devotee, we should change the dictionary and avoid using it in this case. One of the devotees suggested that we should ask Srila Prabhupada and hence they later changed the word as per Prabhupada’s instructions. This shows how eminently practical Srila Prabhupada was. The point here is that there are certain situations where fault finding is simply to facilitate or increase the service of Krishna.
The question may arise, how to avoid fault finding from becoming the basis or centre of our relationship? The answer is by trying to see the positive things in others. If we find it difficult to see good things in a person then we can talk with someone who has a good relationship with that person. Through them we can learn the positive side of that person which will help us see the good in them. So, fault-finding is definitely not the same as constructive criticism. Srila Rupa Goswami explains in The Nectar of Instruction Text 4 – guhyam akhyati pṛcchati which is one of the limbs of sadhu sangha (association of devotees) to share our heart with the other person and to hear from them. Therefore, it is not that all fault finding is bad, but when fault-finding becomes centre of relationship then it becomes a problem. There is a prayer in the Upanishads which says, “let good thoughts come to me from everywhere” and this is an exercise which we can try if we are having lot of relationship problems. It may sound simple but its practical application is very tough.
That is why, we should try to see the good in others first. It is difficult when we have a negative relation with the other person but if we put in conscious efforts then eventually seeing the good in others first becomes a habit. Lord Krishna uses the word manah prasadah (satisfaction) in Bhagavad-gita 17.16 to describe one of the austerities of mind. Interestingly, the word satisfaction is generally used as an emotion but a deeper understanding reveals that satisfaction is a conscious decision. Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport that the more we think of sense enjoyment, the more the mind becomes dissatisfied. The best course is to divert the mind to the Vedic literature, which is full of satisfying stories, as in the Puraṇas and the Mahabharata. Thus, we can see that satisfaction is not just an emotion that we feel but is also a decision that we make consciously.
Also, one very good object at which we can direct our fault-finding mentality is, at the mentality itself. This we can do by trying to find the cause of fault-finding and if we do that then the fault-finding mentality also gets utilised and we can distance ourselves from this mentality.
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