Discipline In Spiritual Paths To Transcend Likes & Dislikes

While having ice-cream with family,

Aunty: *something finicky about food*

Me: Aunty you are too fussy

Uncle: Aren’t you fussy?

Me: No, not really

Uncle: Ok how about we have some bhel…

Me: I can have bhel, of course with no onion and garlic

Uncle: Why? Isn’t that fussy too?

Me: No that is discipline… while being fussy is pandering to your likes and dislikes.

I just left it at this because I thought I had made a brilliant and deeply insightful remark. And I wanted to ponder on it. 😀 (this happens to me often)

But I guess that the meaning and perspective was lost on the family people. Maybe my mom grasped some of it because she has heard Sadhguru often.

So on the eve of Guru Poornima, this seems to be a good topic to delve into. 🙂

Likes and Dislikes

This is like the main culprit of all sorrow on the planet and what keeps people from very naturally turning ‘spiritual’. And somehow it does not figure enough and explicitly in religious and spiritual conversations. (I often say ‘religious and spiritual’ because religious paths have developed out of spiritual path set by someone. Then of course it gains more colour, culture and corruption. But still there is some distinction between the two. Maybe a post for another time 🙂 ). But if you observe these paths in silence then usually you will find that one of the inevitable consequences of the path’s practices or culture or norm is that a persons Likes & Dislikes are reduced. And in the followers who are deeply involved in these, you should see a very reduced or negligible signs of Likes and Dislikes.

To back track on this, first we need clarity on What is Spirituality – I wrote about this earlier.

It is our Likes & Dislikes with no base in Reality – That is Mental Drama. We usually identify ourselves as our bunch of thoughts and largely the likes and dislikes. These thoughts & likes/dislikes they have nothing to do with our health nor well-being nor growth – it is all just Mental Drama.

Keeping aside this Mental Drama is Spirituality

Read this post.

So, the likes and dislikes that largely make up our Mental Drama. One of the biggest and significant step in spiritual process is to create a distance from this mental drama.


Usually discipline is the common way to tackle Likes and Dislikes. And this is not necessarily on the spiritual path. But even culturally, to wean kids out of tantrum and finicky behaviour families look to inculcate a stronger sense of discipline – eating code, waking up code, Life priorities and other codes of conduct. When consciously created, this discipline stops you from pandering to your mental drama.

Even in religion, for example Jainism, I have noticed my relatives who follow it deeply. Firstly the religion gives very explicit eating rules. So following them itself requires utmost attention and involvement in your food. Moreover, as you keep thinking of these rules – your attention and focus is very naturally shifted away from food cravings or Likes and Dislikes. And especially because it involves fasting and other austerities too, the sadhaka will naturally develop some distance between his Likes and Dislikes for food. And similarly for other aspects of life.

It doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t prefer or opt for tasty food. But this craving will not rule them. If they get tasty food well and good, if they don’t get tasty they will make do. But the priority will not be taste, the priority will be the religious rules. Moreover, over time as you build a distance between the basic cravings, then your preference also matures – and you will naturally start opting for healthier foods. So your preference is not originating out of your Mental Drama but rather through a little deeper understanding of life. Whether it is about Healthy – how this food impacts you or Non-Violence – how this foods impacts other lives or some other parameter which is rooted in reality than a purely Mental construct.

Another example is Discipline that is inculcated in the Army. Here the soldier is trained to not become weak in the situation that they have to indulge in very distasteful tasks – some thing they may not like or not agree with. The commander may order something, it has to be done without a moments hesitation. And here not only do you have to put aside your Likes and Dislikes to a very high degree but also your fears, anger, attachment and other fairly basic qualities. So here also we can see that to achieve this, a very, very high level of discipline is used. After years of training in stringent discipline, these soldiers are able to reach this kind of state.

So Discipline is a Tool to break the compulsion of Likes and Dislikes in the person. (Usually used in conjunction with other tools. Discipline just by itself might not be so effective).

Here Dalai Lama talks about a disciplined mind, that I think is different from just a discipline routine. But we can say a discipline routine along with other activities can lead to a mind that is void of Likes and Dislikes and that can be considered a disciplined mind. But possible Dalai Lama has approached it a little differently. Haven’t done a deep study of his/Buddhist teachings. 🙂

Discipline  as mental state


And so in most of these paths – monasteries / yogis / retreats and so on – you will see that the discipline involved is one of the most visible aspects. Sometimes it is strict and rigid in nature, sometimes brutal or sometimes softer in nature. But it is very much there.

There are some paths (as far as I understand), where discipline is not so important, but these are the ones where success is rare and very specific to certain types of individuals. Like the path where they take drugs or alcohol or such products to reach spiritual heights – finding success is very rare and most people would usually get lost or just deluded.

And so I often meet people who talk Spirituality. And one way to gauge how much actual Spirituality is taking place in their lives is the discipline I see in it. Especially in the younger urban crowd now a days this is one area where they have taken a big hit – the cultural discipline is rejected as old fashion or also because there is not so much apparent need for it. Because you can work late in the day, electricity and nature of work allows that. You can have bath whenever you want. All choices of foods are available at a phone call. So the routine of the day – wake up by certain time, have bath, temple/pooja, eat home made satvic food…. it is all over. And clearly we can see lot of lifestyle disorders. But the bigger hit is in the loss of discipline. The lack of discipline means they are just ruled by their Likes, Dislikes and cravings. And this is just a recipe for misery. Sure they think that they are indulging in happiness – but these are short term thrills.

Discipline thus, is a way to gauge your (and others) spiritual sadhana. There is never any sure shot way to gauge your spiritual sadhana. But Discipline is one indication. If some unpleasant task is needed – how willingly and lovingly can you just do it. Or does your mind just resist and create a ruckus?

And this is also mostly the root of the serenity and pleasantness that we find in a lot of spiritual people – monks, yogis and so on. Because the years of discipline has removed the reactionary and ego pandering aspects in their mind at least for the very common outside situations. Usually they will intelligently gauge what is needed in a situation and do it in the best way possible. No big waves, no major upheavals… just smooth flowing river of the mind.

Though do remember gauging your (or anyone else’s) level of discipline is not a mechanical task. It needs to be looked at deeply. For example, what I mentioned above of city youngsters – waking up randomly, random time to bath and so on – applies very much to me too. I find it ridiculously tough to wake up early. Or maintain any daily, time based discipline in life. But at many other levels of my life I can see the distance from likes and dislikes. Acceptance of events that happen in life, being on toes and doing what is needed – aided a lot through entrepreneurship and also volunteer work (karma yoga). Minimalism in lifestyle, possessions and so on. So the thing is don’t mechanically judge yourself (or any one else). Just look at your lifestyle (and others) attentively and lovingly and you will naturally gain insight about it. This insight is needed for you to progress. Judging yourself or someone just for heck of it, is useless.

Craft Discipline Intelligently

Because Discipline is to be consciously created. Some of it may be inculcated in you from childhood and other factors. But it is whatever the people around you – parents/teachers/friends thought would help you (and them). But as an adult we have the choice in looking at what our life’s direction is and then opting for relevant Discipline. Also the extent of discipline and in which areas we need it and so on.

But usually I find that once we reach a certain age, then we need to put ourselves through rigorous discipline rules set by someone else at least for a while. Because the discipline set by parents/teachers usually becomes a habit and sometimes an unconscious tendency. Moreover, these also often would depend on the parents mental drama. So they are not necessarily liberating. Usually spending some time at an ashram or army training or some other such environment should break a lot of your compulsions. And also distance yourself a little bit from the mental drama so that you are not ruled by it. This is why usually these people with some time spent in these environments seem way more empowered internally. Because they are more capable of consciously creating a life than just following the rigors of life. And falling prey to what life brings them.

This mental drama is what is the ‘Prarabdha karma’ as far as I understand, which is considered the allotted karma for this life. And breaking this is not too difficult, if we are able to put ourselves through a certain rigour for certain amount of time. Ideally in a spiritually charged environment.

And as Sadhguru says,

If you just transcend this one thing, that I like something, I dislike something, if you just transcend this one thing, 90% of your spiritual work is over. -@sadhgurujv

He highlights in this video how the cultural aspect in India to see God in everything also leads to this transcendence from the petty Likes and Dislikes.

So as I was saying earlier, a salient aspect of any genuine spiritual path would be to create a distance from your mental drama. Through various different methods of which Discipline will be one. (again can’t be judged mechanically but with some silence and insight).


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