The importance of good practices cannot be over emphasized. Good practices are the most important element of happiness—bad 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 consciousness—they make us more conscious of our True Self. Bad practices take us away from our God-consciousness—they 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 species.

What are the basic, elementary practices of a good human being?

  1. A good human being is honest with himself—he doesn't lie to himself, he doesn't betray his true nature (his Dharma).
  2. A good human being honors his true Self—this is the meaning of being honorable. He never honors the dishonorable—neither in himself or in others.
  3. A good human being doesn't play into the hands of the wicked—that 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.
  4. A good human being is wise—he is not a fool. He can see through the facade of ego.
  5. A good human being fortifies his consciousness with wisdom. He makes his mind a fortress of good character—he doesn't hide behind the flimsy barricade of ego.
  6. 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 formed—it can be formed into a beautiful palace of good thoughts or into an ugly dungeon of despair—the 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 goal—Liberation—freedom 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 whatsoever—but 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.

Om Tat Sat

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