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Understanding the power of habits through the Yoga sutras - H.H. Bhakti Rasamrita swami

We become what we repeatedly do. Therefore, habits can either make us or break us. Nearly 90% of our daily activities are based out of our habits. There can be two types of habit – physical (such as watching TV) or mental/ attitudinal (such as worrying too much). We must consciously create the right kind of habits and nourish them, while simultaneously avoid creating new bad habits and with determination break our existing bad habits. A strong person is someone who has successfully conquered his bad habits.

Habits are formed by repetition of particular acts. Approximately, if an act is done for 31 days or so, it becomes a habit. From the Vedas, we find excellent treatise of yoga contained in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. The mechanisms of habits can be understood based on the concepts of

  • Citta (consciousness, heart or mind)
  • Klesa (hindrances/afflictions of the mind)
  • Vritti (thought, emotion, sensation or idea)
  • Samskara (sensory impressions or imprints made on citta)
  • Karma (our actions)

Every object that has ever been experienced forms a samskaara. The mind is thus a storehouse of these recorded samskaaras, deposited and accumulated in the citta over countless lifetimes. These strong samskaaras impel one to act in certain ways, again and again, thus impeding the exercise of one’s free will or choice. Samskaras thus account for personality traits, habits, compulsive and addictive behaviours.

A strong samskaara induces one to perform a certain type of activity. Repeated performance of that activity makes the samskaara even stronger, and becomes a more powerful impetus to act similarly again and again. Finally, it becomes compelling force – a strong HABIT. Samskaras of previous lives determine almost 50% of one’s nature (Svabhava) in next life.

Good habits have to be taught and bad habits have to be checked right from childhood. Moreover, good habits can formed even before conception (through the process of Garbhādhāna Samskara).

The correlation between our beliefs, habits and ultimately our destiny was also described. Our BELIEFS/VALUES guide our THOUGHTS, which get translated into our WORDS/ACTIONS. Repeated ACTIONS form our HABITS, which over time govern our CHARACTER. Our CHARACTER induces our NATURE. We act according to our nature, those karmic activities, ultimately determine DESTINY.

Our beliefs/values depend on our association. So to take control of our habits and then destiny, we must always ensure that we keep good company.

Cultivating the mode of goodness and resisting temptations automatically form good habits and easily break bad habits.

Good habits lead to peace, auspiciousness, spiritual progress. We should ponder over how important cultivating good habits are to create your desired destiny. They are as addictive as bad habits but much more rewarding. We need to closely examine our daily routine and begin developing good habits in the small things we do, and then repeat these acts.

In essence, we have to make the right choices in life. The responsibility lies with us.

realize the power of habits and make your life perfect!