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Addiction Explained In Hinduism – And Solution

Yoga scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism, masterfully reframe human addiction, by systematically identifying how the generic human mind works. In the Gita, Sri Krishna explains to his disciple Arjuna:

Thinking about sense-objects
Will attach you to sense-objects;
Grow attached, and you become addicted;
Thwart your addiction, it turns to anger.
Be angry and you confuse your mind;
Confuse your mind,
you forget the lesson of experience;
Forget experience, you lose discrimination.
Lose discrimination,
and you miss life’s only purpose.

For example, suppose we are out walking and spot an expensive watch in a shop window. Naturally we admire and appreciate the precision of such a fine piece of jewellery. That appreciation matures into the desire to possess it. Next our mind begins to calculate how to possess it, based on a stockpile of past habits, samskaras.

One person might think: ‘Let me take out my savings to pay for it.’ Another might think: ‘Let me borrow some money from a friend.’ And yet another may try to devise a scam in order to buy it. All the while, we are saturating our self with desire, filling the chitta with the craving to call the watch ‘my own’. We thus become infatuated and enslaved by the watch.

The first casualty is when rationality is thrown out the window ― when my chitta belongs to the object of my desire. Then no more am I the master of myself; I have mortgaged myself to the vritti: ‘I must have the watch. No, I’m entitled to it!’ The object has taken total control of my being. And discrimination has vanished. What is the solution? Yoga psychology tells us to ignore such thoughts. Don’t pay attention; don’t show interest. Cognitive behaviour therapy would call this ‘refocusing’. For example, suppose we are walking down the street, and out of the corner of our eye we see a stray cat on the sidewalk.

If we keep walking, the cat sits still and watches us. But as soon as we turn and look at the cat, the cat begins to follow us. Desires are like that; if we ignore them, they diminish and eventually disappear; but if we pay attention or show interest, they hook themselves to our mind.