Whether we realise it or not, we are all looking for peace of mind. Though most of us feel we want to be happy, it is a mistake to pursue happiness, as with happiness comes the other extreme of sadness. What we really seek is a constant, peaceful state of mind that is not disturbed by the ups and downs of life. We should aim to be like the deep and calm ocean without the large waves that thrash due to the mental storms of the six mental enemies. These enemies are lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy and they give rise to a range of bad habits. We are advised therefore to avoid the following seven bad habits that lead us down a path of pain and sorrow:
सप्त दोषा सदा राजन् हातव्या व्यसनोदयाःप्रायशो यैर्विनश्यन्ति कृतमूला अपीश्वराः।
स्त्रियोऽक्षाः मृगया पानं वाक्पारुष्यं च पंचमंमहच्च दण्डपारुष्यं अर्थदूषणमेव च ॥
sapta doṣā sadā rājan hātavyā vyasanodayāḥ prāyaśo yairvinaśyanti kṛtamūlā apīśvarāḥ|
striyo’kṣāḥ mṛgayā pānaṁ vākpāruṣyaṁ ca paṁcamaṁmahacca daṇḍapāruṣyaṁ arthadūṣaṇameva ca ||
1. Infidelity: If you are lustful, then you are not in control of the raging desires in your mind and they will drive you to actions that you will regret. In the context of marriage and relationships, being unfaithful to your partner is going against your word to be faithful and true to each other. Do not do anything to spoil your relationship because, once broken, it can never return to the way it was. “A creeper that has been cut can be made to grow again, but it will never look as beautiful as it used to. Similarly, an affectionate relationship that has been spoilt, can be revived again but it will not have the same charm as it used to.” (Nitidvishashtika)
2. Gambling: Gambling is an addiction. It changes your brain in the same way that drugs and alcohol affect your brain, that is, it causes a flood of feel-good chemicals in your brain that reinforce the negative habit. Gambling sets up a vicious cycle that leads you to believe that the next game you play would be a sure winner. It draws you into a hole of debt, depression and despair. Instead of looking for a quick fix for material gain, try to understand the value of hard work and the deep satisfaction that comes from “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”.
3. Hunting: A central tenet of Hinduism is ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Hunting for sport involves taking the lives of animals for sheer pleasure and the karmic ripples of such actions are bound to adversely affect you. Instead of looking to take the life of an animal for your own pleasure, try to protect animal life out of compassion and this will bring mental peace rather than misery.
4. Intoxicating drinks: Addictive alcohol and drugs continue to plague all societies and they wreak havoc with the lives of individuals and families. In modern society, the stress to perform and succeed is countered by the need for the feeling of euphoria on demand provided by addictive substances. A wife or girlfriend may end up an alcoholic because she wants to spend time with her husband or boyfriend who is always at the bar. Children may see adults using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to manage their lives and they then emulate this behaviour without thinking. This leads to a host of other problems as people may lose control of themselves. You must protect yourself and your families from alcohol and drugs at all costs; it is best to identify such problems and seek help as soon as possible.
5. Use of harsh words: Think carefully before you speak. If you speak in anger, then you are only hurting yourself. As the Buddha said, speaking in anger is like grabbing and throwing hot coals at someone else – you are only burning yourself. Before you speak, ask yourself the following three questions: (1) Is it the truth? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it kind? If your words fulfil these three criteria, then you can speak. Otherwise, it would be wise to keep quiet.
6. Inflicting very harsh punishment for minor offences: For those of you in leadership positions, you must aim to be fair in all your dealings. Inflicting overly harsh punishments for minor mistakes are acts of victimisation and break the principle of ahimsā or not causing pain to others. Is your intention to teach a lesson and improve a person’s character or is your intention to be hostile and take out your own frustration on another person?
7. Misuse of the treasury: If you are in a position of responsibility and you use financial and other resources for your own selfish ends, that is, for anything other than what was intended, then you have committed a grave act for which you will pay the karmic consequences. Not only is this stealing, but it is also not performing your duty and breaking your word. It is never a good idea to take what does not belong to you, for this greed will result in even greater loss and suffering. When you see what others possess, be inspired to work for what you want just like they did instead of being greedy for what they have.
Be mindful of these seven bad habits that result from the six mental enemies and experience the peace of mind that results from their avoidance.
By Pt. Dr. Umesh Persad