According to Mahavira, eating is the greatest obstacle to self-control; it gives rise to indolence. How can he who is not moderate in eating, ever conquer sloth? How can a person who does not get rid of lethargy, indolence and negligence, ever achieve self-control?
Begin the practice of self-control with fasting. Eat less. This is the first principle of self-control. The second relates to the body. It is necessary for us to exercise control over the body, to train it.
Start by contemplating upon and practising good habits, and by inhibiting bad habits. Our nerves and muscles are accustomed to function in a particular way and if we do not effect a change, we go on mechanically as before. We have a longing for sweets on certain occasions, because the tongue is accustomed to a particular taste.
The nerves and muscles come to demand something, which they are accustomed to having on a particular occasion.
In the matter of eating, thinking or doing any other work, our sinews habitually function in the manner we have accustomed them to function. Those who live in a lofty building, are at first extremely careful while descending the stairs.
Gradually, they become accustomed to the act and after some time they do it mechanically. To begin with, the novice-typists look at each letter before they type it, but with practice, their fingers move freely without the necessity of looking at the keyboard since the fingers have grown accustomed to it.
Similarly, in any undertaking, our sinews start working in the manner we have accustomed them to function, and the task stands fulfilled without any conscious effort on our part.
One practises meditation today, gives the sinews a taste of meditation and accustoms them to it. Next day, however, he does no meditation, nor the day after. On the fourth day, he sits down to meditate again. Practising by fits and starts does not help in the cultivation of habit. Do not be remiss.
Keep practising daily. Irregular practice is not conducive to the confirmation of the habit of retrospection.
You practise forgiveness today, show tolerance, but quarrel and fight the next day, forgive again and yet again quarrel and fight — this will not confirm in you the habit of forgiveness. If you want to cultivate a habit, do it without any reservation, without any remissness till it is firmly established.
That is the second principle of body training, of accustoming the body to bear pain and discomfort. This state of indifference is achieved through the practice of asanas, pranayama and kayotsarga. The body is so trained as to perform any task you command.
The third principle of self-control is living in seclusion. It means not to allow the present moment to continue but to reverse it. There are two orders — the order of nature and the order of sadhana.
All our sexual impulses originate from the Centre of Energy and it is with the help of this centre that man fulfils his sexual desire. It is a centre provided by nature for gratification of sexual urge. By living in seclusion, we can change it.
As told to Lalit Garg