Man cannot be held responsible for being tempted, for it was Satan who created physical temptations and constantly urges him to transgress morally. Man is responsible, however, for using his reason and will power to conquer his senses and thereby experience the superior happiness of self-control.
The three most addictive delusions
Our minds process the information we receive from the surface of our bodies through the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Too much attraction to the senses becomes sense addiction, enslaving us to an outwardly directed consciousness.
Wine, sex, and money are the three greatest delusions because these three, above all, are the most addictive to the mind. Their long-range effect is that they dull the sensibilities, and cloud and confuse the mind. A mere glance into the eyes of those in the grip of these delusions is enough to reveal their mental confusion – their inability to gauge things in correct proportion. The influence of these delusions is doubly insidious because, at first, they may actually seem to clarify the mind.
Of all the senses, the subtlest and most addicting is that of touch. People who find immoderate delight in touch sensations become an easy prey to sex desires. Spread out as it is over the whole body, the sense of touch is the one sense most likely to draw our attention outward, away from the subtle currents of energy and consciousness that emanate from our source of life within.
Deep subconscious roots
There are also lesser forms of addiction. Those who approach food greedily instead of accepting it gratefully as a source of nourishment become enslaved to outwardness through the senses of smell and taste.
People who love flattery imprison themselves in outwardness through the sense of hearing. They become bound by the golden chains of attractive speech. And those who allow themselves to be caught by human beauty imprison themselves through the sense of sight –“whipped,” as a saint described a certain young man, “by the lash of a beautiful face.”
Powerful bad habits such as alcoholism or food addiction grow deep roots in the subconscious mind. Once the bodily habits begin to rule the mind, it becomes difficult to make the body obey the commands of the will. That is why chronically fat people do not easily lose weight even if they diet. The body cells, trained by repeated actions to disregard their own superior mental forces, have formed their own individual habits and do not respond readily to new mental commands.
Learn to use your powerful will
One must remember that God did not make us His inert instruments, but endowed us with free will. God’s will is not guided by whim or temptation; His will is guided by wisdom. God made us, His children, in His image that we also might learn to guide our will with wisdom, even as He does. To teach people not to use their will is an utter impossibility. Non-application of will would require essentially that we lie in a state of suspended animation without moving the muscles or even thinking.
For control of his life and for destroying the roots of addiction, the sense addict must learn to exercise his will power in every undertaking, until it leaves its mortal delusion of being human will and becomes all-powerful, divine will. The sense addict does not have to acquire this all-powerful will; he already possesses it in the image of God within every soul.
Escape the bodily prison
Self-control is mental strength; lack of self-control is mental weakness. People used to sex indulgence or food addiction shudder at the thought of self-control. They believe that they would be tortured and unhappy if they didn’t indulge in their bad habits.
The ordinary sense-addict, dulled by life-long identification with the body, is compelled to think that there is no pleasure as marvelous as that offered by the senses, but as soon as he feels the greater joy of meditation he becomes disillusioned with the inferior pleasures of the senses. Hence, the only way for an ordinary individual to rise above ever-alluring sense attractions is to meditate deeply until he feels the incomparable superior joys of the soul.
When a person withdraws his energy and consciousness from the outer surface of the body, he enters a vast inner region. As he withdraws his life-force and consciousness into the spine, and up through subtle spinal centers to the brain, he discovers another world. Released from outer distractions, he enjoys an intoxication unimaginable to the worldly mind. All past pleasures of the senses, no matter how wonderful, become distasteful when an individual experiences the ever-increasing joy of cosmic consciousness by rising above body consciousness through meditation.
The ordinary sense addict, no matter how much he hears about the superior joys of the soul, never really believes it until he meditates and experiences the bliss of the soul. When individuals become one with the cosmic vibration by rising above bodily sensations, they become free from the desire for sense pleasures.
The harvest of addiction
When you are greedily eating, your soul’s happiness is drowned in the muddy well of insatiable greed on the soil of the palate. When you are listening to flattering words, your soul’s wisdom is sunk beneath the waters of falsehood. When you are addicted to sex-temptation, your soul’s happiness of touching God in every speck of space, with endless exhilarating thrills of happiness, is replaced by fleeting, physical sensations.
The devotee should realize that sense pleasures create insatiable, unsatisfying, burning desires for more sense indulgence, without ever satisfying the desire. Sense pleasure is like the drinking of hemlock, which creates more thirst instead of quenching it. Soul pleasure, though hard to attain, can never be lost and never ends in satiety, but always yields unending new pleasure.
It is not a sin to eat with self-control, or to live an upright, honest family life, but the devotee should be ever watchful not to get into the ruts of sense pleasures, and forget the unending happiness of spiritual perceptions, felt in the silence. Worry, discontent, boredom, and unhappiness are the harvest of addiction, whereas the infinite spiritual perceptions, gained in meditation, unceasingly whisper joy and a thousand thrilling inspirations of wisdom into the ears of Silence.
Money, sex, and wine were created as make-believe pleasures. They can never substitute for the bliss of God. No one can help you unless you are willing to help yourself. If you are willing to change, then God Himself will help you. Even if you do no more than pray sincerely to Him, He will show you the way to free yourself from all self-defeating addictions.
Don’t waste these precious years
It is not fitting for human beings to behave like animals. Don’t waste these precious years on earth in empty revelry. It rests with you whether you want sense-slavery and bad habits to rule your life, or whether you will let the divine soldiers of self-control rule your mental kingdom. To attain the pure joy of the soul, the delusive, temporary pleasures of the senses must be relinquished.
There are people who are so addicted to the weakness of their senses and their bad habits that they feel helpless in the face of those addictions. Such souls should remember that although bad habits may enshroud them for a while, they cannot suppress them forever. Every soul, no matter how deeply buried beneath addictions, is able to transcend all such weaknesses. All of us are part of God. We belong to Him, and He, to us. Eventually, we must all go back to Him.
As a child of God, your real nature is to be happy; you will never be satisfied with anything less than true happiness. True happiness does not depend on anything outside yourself.
Author: Paramhansa Yogananda