The importance of good practices cannot be over emphasized.
Good practices are the most important element of happinessbad practices
are the key factor in all mental and physical problems.
What is the difference between a good practice and a bad one? Good practices
are those actions which nurture the soul; bad practices are those actions
which destroy the soul. In other words, good practices always raise our
consciousnessthey make us more conscious of our True Self. Bad practices
take us away from our God-consciousnessthey make us forget our Real
Nature to the point where we may even become sub-human.
The human species is the highest manifestation of consciousness. We remain
human only so long as we manifest that Consciousness through our good
practices. Our next birth is defined by our actions here and now. If we
engage in sub-human activities, we will definitely obtain birth in a subhuman
What are the basic, elementary practices of a good human being?
- A good human being is honest with himselfhe doesn't lie to himself,
he doesn't betray his true nature (his Dharma).
- A good human being honors his true Selfthis is the meaning
of being honorable. He never honors the dishonorableneither
in himself or in others.
- A good human being doesn't play into the hands of the wickedthat
is, he doesn't get caught in the snares of the egotistic con-artists,
because he is never charmed by their praises or impressed by their craftiness.
- A good human being is wisehe is not a fool. He can see through
the facade of ego.
- A good human being fortifies his consciousness with wisdom. He makes
his mind a fortress of good characterhe doesn't hide behind the
flimsy barricade of ego.
- A good human being is selective about the foods he eats, the thoughts
he holds, and the company he keeps.
- The body (which includes the brain) is the result of food (this
is why it is called ANNAMAYA KOSHA). Sensations (which include sexual
impulses), feelings (which include panicky feelings, anxiousness,
hatred, agitation, anger, etc.), moods (including depression, excitement,
etc.) and dreams (which include those that occur during sleep as
well as those which we entertain in our waking hours), are all directly
affected (and in some cases, directly determined) by the
food we eat.
- The mind (whose seat is the brain) is affected by the condition
of the body. It is also influenced by the impressions and thoughts
which it takes in through the five senses. We need to be very careful
about what thoughts we bring into our mind through television, radio,
magazines, novels, etc. This is especially so during the early formative
years (0-16), but is also of extremely important consideration during
the rest of the formative years (17 to 100 and beyond). In other
words, the mind is always being formedit can be formed into
a beautiful palace of good thoughts or into an ugly dungeon of despairthe
choice is ours.
- The character of a human being is formed by means of association.
If we associate with gamblers, we are likely to become a gambler
ourselves. If we associate with a debaucher, we are likely to become
a loose-charactered person too. But if we associate with saintly
people, we too will become saintly. But here a word of caution is
in order: it is important to distinguish between a real saint and
a false one, otherwise, we may be led on the wrong path and will
miss the mark altogether (that is, we will never attain the goalLiberationfreedom
from all selfishness). Those who think it is unimportant to distinguish
between the real saint and the false one are mistaken. They say,
"It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that
I am serving unselfishly. For my unselfish service and devotion,
I am bound to be rewarded with Enlightenment." Such persons
would benefit from a reading of the Ramayana: The wicked Ravana
went to Sita disguised as a saint. Sita (who at that moment was
emotionally imbalanced) served the so-called saint. She served him
without any ulterior motive whatsoeverbut her mistake was
that she stepped out of the boundary drawn by Laksman, and was then
abducted by the wicked Ravana. Her subsequent sufferings are known
to all who know the Ramayana.
Our well-wishers (those who are truly well-meaning) are the true saints
and sages. Through their wisdom they have drawn boundaries to protect
us from the wicked and conniving. If we take their advice to heart, we
will be protected; but if we listen to our false feelings and emotions
(which are rooted in ego) we will fall prey to the wiles of the evil-minded
(or to our own mental hallucinations and egotistical impulses), and will
suffer unforetold misery and mental anguish. This is why it is absolutely
imperative that we are very careful about whom we choose as our spouse,
our friends, our guide, etc. It is a careful choice, not a casual
choice. A casual choice can lead to catastrophic consequences.