Raga and dvesha – likes and dislikes

How do we attain a peaceful state of mind no matter what happens? Answer: Start training your mind to pause so that you can choose a more spiritually-appropriate response. Don’t let ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ govern your thinking or reaction. They will bring about your downfall and ruin.

Catch yourself each time you find yourself thinking in terms of like or dislike. Because in reality, there is no qualifier of good or bad, like or dislike unless you will it so. Be determined to change this habit by training yourself to look at all events, situations, and persons with the eye of objectivity. Do your best to remove the ‘I’, your ego, from the scene. Because like and dislike is the manifestation of your ego needs.

It is a reaction from the ego that says ‘I am pleased’ or ‘I am displeased’. That’s essentially what like and dislike is, where ‘I, me, mine’ comes first, and ‘you’ unless ‘I’ find ‘you’ pleasing, you’re not in my book. And that’s what happens when we put qualifiers to all our sensory input depending on whether they are pleasing or not. Are we being judgemental when we do this? Of course. When you do this, you are operating from a point of zero-wisdom and zero-compassion. You are not only judgemental but also opinionated and mule-headed!

Therefore, start with training your mind to refrain from thinking in extremes of one or the other because that can be very limiting. The moment you allow like or dislike to dictate your choices, you will be closing off other choices. Your perspective is limited to a tiny sphere of personal likes and dislikes and you stop yourself from considering a more expanded view of things because it doesn’t serve your ego needs. You are very attached to your opinionated thinking and you won’t consider ‘what if’, ‘perhaps’, or ‘maybe’. Instead it will become a full-stop, period, non-negotiable once you say, ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like’.

Like and dislike have no place on the spiritual path

In fact, like and dislike can be very damaging on the spiritual path because lthey are connected with two very key ingredients for success in your spiritual life. Wisdom and compassion. You can’t begin to develop your heart to be wise or compassionate if you can’t give others the benefit of the doubt, to be forgiving and to be able to let go and move on. And to bless others for helping you to become a better person.

Being able to be aware enough to pause and think, and then say with sincerity, ‘it’s okay’, ‘not a problem’, ‘no big deal’, ‘I understand’, all these are essential for yet another important ingredient and that is, humility. If you aspire to the spiritual goal of enlightenment and self-realisation, then every moment of your life is going to be filled with lessons to be learned in these three areas: wisdom, compassion, and humility.

Cultivate a big heart instead

So start working on your mind and eventually it will show in your behaviour. That’s what you want. To behave in ways that are conducive to harmony, peace, and joy; to be able to think of others and their well-being. Not just for yourself but others around you, too. This will be a huge milestone achieved. A big heart is very necessary on the spiritual path. It is the magnet by which you attract the resources you need to do God’s work.

The way you think, speak and do will soon be noticed and people will start to wonder what is this inner light you seem to possess. There is a certain fragrance that draws people to you. They want to listen to more of what you have to say. Eventually, they will come to support your ideals. But you know it is the result of a lot of hard work at your yoga sadhana. Taming your ego, willingly and joyfully giving up sensory pleasures in the form of tapasya so that you become the master of your senses instead of the other way around.

And it’s been worth it. It will always be worth it when one day you find you can withdraw more and more into yourself thus paving the way for the second part of the 8-limbed path of Raja Yoga. You started with cleaning up your life with Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas and Pranayamas. Now you have a taste of Pratyahara. Soon, you tell yourself. I will reach Dharana. I will work hard. Then Dhyana and finally if this present incarnation permits, and by God’s grace, Samadhi. If not, whatever you have done will accrue and be carried forth to be continued in your next incarnation. Nothing is wasted.

You are in charge, not your likes or dislikes

You would have learnt yet another very essential lesson on this entire journey of your spiritual quest. If your goal is to remove the veil that blocks you from knowing the Divine in you then you will have to work really hard. You know that only you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. No one is going to do it for you. Every effort has to be sincere as you work unwaveringly, always keeping your goal in mind. Nothing can deviate you from it. God’s grace will always be with you if you are sincere in your quest.

Call it God, Allah, Supreme Divine Consciousness, or Brahman, it’s the same. We are all on the same quest to know the Divine that is already in us. So, work hard to remove likes and dislikes because they are forms of attachment that can cause a great deal of suffering for you and others. You will miss a lot of opportunities for growth and expansion if you do not let go of your likes and dislikes.

Here’s a sad story of what likes and dislikes can do

Once there was a young lady, married not long, a stay-at-home wife who would slave to please her husband especially cooking the food that would please him. Come 5 p.m. and she would be bathed and in a clean sari but on tenterhooks because she could never tell whether what she has prepared with such care would go into the bin. 6 p.m. and her husband returns from work. She doesn’t sit down to eat with him because he has decreed it so. Her role as the ideal wife is to serve and tend to her God’s (read, her husband) needs. Today, he takes one look and tells her to remove the food and cook him something else. Or else.

No, this didn’t happen in a movie. It happened in real life and this young girl, very pretty, very young, very innocent, came all the way from her home elsewhere to be married to this man. Her story doesn’t end there. There’s the mother-in-law who would whisper in the son’s ears and he, without asking for the wife’s side of the story, would just reach out and strike  even though the girl was three months pregnant. And all this because of some people’s attachment to their likes and dislikes. You may be wondering why people create hell for others. Well, all we can say as we encounter these same situations time and again is that it all starts with ignorance, avidya. The scriptures were right. Avidya is our greatest enemy yet. 

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