Do you feel tempted to eat street food after learning its ill affects on health?
Usually our responses to our inner tendencies are automated and based on the Samskaras (संस्कार impressions) embedded deep within our psyche. The automatic responses happen based on reactions in the psyche and operate at an instinctual level. Here is where the role of conscious awareness can be put to use to alter instinctual responses. This conscious awareness is first tuned to our particular aim of life. For example the aim of one’s life must be to succeed in national politics. Certain others may have God-realization as one’s primary goal. In accordance to that goal, the conscious awareness is set, as the toll gate. The work of the toll-gate is to filter the instinctual responses emerging from the unconscious and subconscious levels and alter it to suit our fundamental, primary goal. All thoughts shall then have to be stopped and investigated in accordance with our ultimate aim.
Those thoughts or responses of the inner tendencies or Samskaras in allegiance with our goal are accepted or allowed and those thoughts alone are allowed to transmute as words and actions. Those thoughts emerging from innate tendencies which do not resonate with the goals, are changed or replaced with ones conducive for our goal. The crux of the matter is that the mind has to be occupied in alliance with our goals. Decisions need to be taken and acted upon, polarized in the direction of our goals. There are two concepts in this regard which have to be looked into through conscious awareness. They are “Shreyas”(श्रेयस desirable) and “Preyas”(प्रेयस pleasurable) which means what is “good for me” and what is “pleasant to my senses”. For the common man the two are at loggerheads with each other. Normally what “I like to do” is very different from what “is pleasant for my senses”. For example more than 90% of the people “Want to get up at 5:00 AM every morning and follow a strict diet and exercise routine” but the same 90% of the people “Like to keep sleeping and cuddling till 8:00 AM in the morning”. Thus there is a certain coercion of interests in the same individual. Finally people end up doing what they like rather than doing what is beneficial for them. Decision is more about sacrificing the option of “what I like”. When this is adhered to, naturally we end up doing what is “good for us.” When there are two choices, the first thing is to remove the option unsuitable for us, as the first step. When this is done with emphasis, naturally we end up doing that which is good for us.
Having said this, at a practical level it is a difficult ask. What is important is to contemplate on the science of Samskaras and train the intelligence on the concept. When the conviction becomes ripe, implementation shall become easy. The science of Samskaras say that samskaras (innate hidden tendencies) exist in the subconscious, unconscious level. Hence one shall not have direct access to it. When these Samskaras manifest on the conscious level, it is called Vrittis (वृत्ति) or thoughts emerging out of Samskaras. When a Vritti is acted upon, that produces a further additional branching in Vrittis, which seeps down as Samskaras and the cycle continues unabatedly creating an endless, ever growing loop of Samskaras and Vrittis. This is how habits are unconsciously formed, when we do not understand the science of samskaras. These habits can debilitate and cripple our way of functioning. However if consciousness is applied to Vrittis and decisions are imposed in alignment with our goals, undesirable vrittis are replaced with “aligned” vrittis, in the form of thoughts, word and deeds. This produces “aligned” impressions on the mind, which impinges into the subconscious and unconscious layer, thus forming “desirable” Samskaras. When this cycle continues from unconscious and subconscious into Vrittis and then through conscious awareness then to Vrittis, forming Samskaras, all Samskaras become diluted and re-written by the new ones. Hence old habits and compulsions are replaced by new positive habits which gets into the feedback system, pushing the individual towards his cherished goal. Thus when conscious thought is applied, slowly the subconscious layer of consciousness gets purified. The initial struggle to take up “Shreyas” or desirable thought, word or action slowly eases out and “Shreyas” becomes a habit of virtue over time.