Self Restraint: Step by Step

 

In this article we are going to talk about self restraint: a truly great virtue to life. Let’s discuss what is self restraint and why it’s important to become a happy human being and to reach deeper understandings in life.
I sincerely wish you be safe from inner and outer danger, healthy and free from suffering!
Dear Friends,
If there’s one truth that has enough weight to at least slightly help you become a better human being, then that would be a truth you discover by yourself!
Think about it!
Most of you have seen it all, heard it all, experienced it all. Thousands of advices, life changing events, experiences! But would any of these add up to something that can truly move you to become a better person, unless you process them in your own head, and see some truth in them and finally register them in your mind?
No!
It’s just the way it is. Similarly, this post would be a just bunch of words if you let it at that.

Why you are here?

Internet is full of things to eat up your time: fun videos, songs, movies, blogs, books, pictures and so on. Yet you decide to click on this link and spend few seconds on this blog.
Now the question is why you did that?
I’m sure for most of you, something sparked in somewhere in your mind when you see the term “self restraint”. Due to some reason you thought, self restraint is important to you somehow. But if I, throw the question back to you, why self restraint is important? then most of you wouldn’t be able to clearly reflect on it.
That’s okay. At least somewhere hidden in our minds, lies the thought that we cannot let what we consider “ourselves” to go crazy. There’s a natural resistance that emerge from our mind preventing us do things that are either harmful to ourselves or others around us. We know there are certain things that may be very appealing at first. But engaging with them may cause grave problems later on.
Congratulations you have it in you!
Now having this kind of thoughts is a great thing! It’s also a great virtue and you should be truly happy if you have them in you. Also, you should do anything in your power to protect it, nurture this feeling and develop it in to a something powerful that can change your life for good.
You see, for billions of peoples in this world, the only self restrain is the money that they have and the chances they can take. Which is also their downfall
Don’t be like them. Be like this lighthouse, which endures a wave after wave of powerful walls of ramming water. No matter, how hard the world tries to beat you down with evil options, defeat you with powerful urges, pull you down with pleasures, stand strong! Let those urges break before you, stay strong and don’t move an inch towards the darker side!

What is self restraint?

Can you remember from those old cartoon stories, a character faced with ethical dilemma, with an angle on one side of a shoulder and a devil on the other. This is a truly fantastic representation of what’s going on in our mind when we are faced with a moral tight spot.
Try to remember something similar from your past, an ethical tight spot. Now there’s certainly pleasure and urge from one side and moral and ethics on the other side.
Can you remember, there was a stream of thoughts came to your mind like : “do it!”, “you won’t get the chance again”, “that’s okay, everybody do this these days”, “this is life enjoy it” and so on.
Suddenly, the opposite thoughts take over and floods the mind with thoughts like: “don’t do this”, “someone will get hurt”, “you are better than this”, “others will get to know”, “what happens if I get caught” and so on.
If we call these opposite mental forces, angel and the devil. Self restraint is nothing but developing stronger, bigger and tougher angel so that devil has no place in your mind.


How self restraint can change you?

Imagine, five years ago you met a very good friend, he/she always sits beside you, walk with you and be with you in every step of the way. He/she is also very kind and always praise you if you when you do good things, and talks your way out from you if you are going to do something wrong.
Now imagine, this friend of yours have supernatural powers as well. This friend can read your mind. So every time you think something good, that friend will admire your good deeds. Also, if you tend to think something wrong or unwholesome, this friend will poke you and explain the dangers of those thoughts, somehow preventing you escalating those evil thoughts in to a higher level.
Now think if you met a good friend like this, within this five years, how greatly your life would change for good? It’s clear to see that you will become much better and happy person. Lot of changes in your life, you will be generous, kind and helpful. You will not get angry easily and feel compassion towards yourself and people around you.
Dear friends, in Buddhism you can borrow this good friend. This is no one but that “angel” we spoke about. In Buddhism, this nature of mind is called “wise attention” or “wise reflection” or in pali “Yoniso Manasikara”.

This is the power of self restraint, if you persevere evil thoughts, pleasure urges, unwholesome invites of the mind, long enough your mind will tend to become still. You will be less affected by what’s happening around you and you will be simply immune to things that could cause grave mental turmoil to many other people.

The origin of self restraint

If you take a close look at the working of our minds, you will realize that our thoughts are constantly flowing in two different directions.  Every person dedicate a fairy large amount of his/her consciousness to judge the things that are good and bad for own happiness, as individuals.
On the other hand, our mind discovers that our lives are thoroughly relational: a node in vast web of relationships with other beings whose lives are tied up with our own.
 This way of thinking influence us in shaping our own attitudes about the way we should live and things we should do. This is a major force that determines our behavior, and as you find if you think deep enough, the real force that held this world together with a notion of mortality.
Dear Fridnds, let me ask something funny! Why we don’t find naked people walking around the streets (often)? The reason is: first, it’s good to wear cloths for our protection and health. Secondly, it would seem taboo or odd to the society if we don’t.
Similarly you can relate why we refrain from many other similar actions as well. You can see how these two forces shape our behavior.
Now it’s also important to understand that this is purely a human emotion. Such emotion will never ever cross in a mind of an animal and therefore, animals (and people with animal like minds) do not have self restraint.

Guardians of our mind

Buddhism is full of different ways cultivating self restraint for the betterment of our lives. Buddha in his teachings, pointed out that the most basic way for self restraint is through a concept called, “Hiri & Ottappa”, in pali.
Hiri means, the sense of shame over moral misbehavior or in other words conscience. Ottappa means the moral dread or prudence, the fear of the results of wrongdoing. Buddha said, people refrain from wrongdoings because there’s a sense of conscience and feeling of prudence of the consequences in their mind.
This teaching is directly linking to our way of thinking as depicted in the above section. Shame and dread: we fear of dread of consequences to ourselves, and we fear of shame that can come from the society.
Let’s take an example to better understand this. Say, a person is walking down the road and see a lost wallet at the edge of the asphalt. It’s a fat wallet. He can clearly see few 50 doller notes are out from the opening. No-one is around and there’s every chance for you to pick it up. Now this person is also in a situation, where he can really use some extra cash. A second later, a thought cross through his mind: “pick the wallet and take the money!”
Suppose, this person is a professional thief, which means he has no shame or fear of stealing. Or in the other words, he lacks Hiri & Otthappa for stealing.  Would he hesitate a single second to pick the wallet up, grab all the money and throw the wallet case away? No he wouldn’t!
Now consider,an another person: man full of virtue. He knows transgressions, are quite compelling, but committing one would bring nothing but suffering and regret. He’s ashamed of doing wrong things, his conscience will not let him free if he does something bad. He also knows, bad behavior will bring him lot of bad karma, which he will have to pay in this life and many lives to come. He also fears about bad consequences that can come from the society.
Now tell me dear friends, a man like this, would he trade his virtue for few notes of 50 dollars? Obviously, not. Because, just at the moment, when that greedy thought crossed through his mind, his moral guardians: Hiri and Ottappa, took control of his mind and took him out of the danger.

How to develop self restraint?

The first step in developing powerful self restraint is understanding the happiness is not pleasure. You need to convince that to yourself!
What has the pleasure ever done to you? The tastiest food you had, has it reduced your craving for foods? The best song you’ve listened, has it reduced your craving to listen more beautiful songs? Can we ever enjoy a pleasure, and be contented with it? No we can’t! That’s the nature of our mind.
What you have to understand is everybody in this world is seeking happiness. And there’s one sure way to find it. This is not by giving what your heart desires. But by controlling your thoughts. Happiness is not something that’s out there. It’s within us. Happiness comes from lesser craving. And how do you develop lese craving, one way to that is developing self restraint!
Best way to develop self restraint is developing Hiri and Ottappa. The nature of our mind is more you think about something, more it get registered. If you consistently, reflect to your mind, the consequences of transgressions to yourself and to the people around you. You will be ashamed and afraid of doing even slightest of misconduct. And this is the one true way of developing true self restraint.


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