Addressing and Overcoming Enemies Within You
By Sri Dhira Chaitanyaji
Editor’s note: It is our pleasure to present to you a seven part series about addressing and overcoming enemies within ourselves.
As we live and interact with the world and deal with people we often find ourselves in situations that are quite challenging. While it is possible that we run into people who appear to be inimical to us we are usually able to deal with them. If this is not possible, we protect ourselves by staying away from such situations or people.
In life, we also have to deal with our own thoughts and feelings that can become difficult to surmount. It is much more complex and difficult to deal with our ‘enemies’ that are there within us. The enemies within may be experienced by us in the form of various emotions and thoughts that lead to distress, suffering, anxieties, stress, unhappiness and more. They disturb our peace and both emotional and physical well being. They can also as a result of our words and actions disturb the peace and cause distress and even sorrow in those who are around us and close to us.
These inner enemies are our own tendencies that are picked up and cultivated by us within our own minds as we grow up. They very often arise from misunderstandings that occur in our interactions with others and misinterpretations of the world and our experiences. They are influenced by our values, priorities, and patterns of behavior that neither serve our long term interest nor are helpful to others. If they are not dealt with properly or worse, if they are encouraged and nurtured, they can cause us great harm that may sometimes be irretrievable.
Dealing with these enemies that have become a part of our own psyche is a task that cannot be performed by anyone other than ourselves. Neither should it be considered a responsibility of another (as in “I am what I am-you deal with it”). The latter approach does not really help a person grow emotionally or spiritually.
It is said in the Bhagavad Gita:
Uddharet Aatmanaa Aatmaanam, Naatmaanamavasaadayet
Atmaiva Atmano Bandhuh Atmaiva Ripuraatmanah
Raise yourself by yourself, do not demean yourself.
(Your) mind alone is your enemy (your) mind alone is your friend.
For a human being to live in the world is more than to exist, to survive, to relate or even to be successful. It is to grow to our maximum potential both emotionally and spiritually. To achieve this end the enemies in our psyche become major obstacles and barriers. We have to work on ourselves with our own mind. In fact the so-called enemy within is our own mind. Our mind can function as an enemy to us or as a friend. In fact I can say a mind that causes me distress and unhappiness, which is not conducive to my emotional and spiritual wellbeing is a mind that is inimical to me. On the other hand when my mind is responding and functioning in a manner that leads to happiness and peace within me and others around me it is a mind that is a friend to me, and is conducive to my emotional and spiritual growth.
Knowing one’s enemy is the first necessary step to overcome the enemy. Our spiritual tradition identifies six such ‘enemies.’ While there are many tendencies that are inimical these six are significant. Dealing with them helps us also deal with and overcome others connected to them. They are called in Sanskrit ‘shadripuh,’ the six fold enemy. They are: Kaama (Desire), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (Delusion), Mada (Pride), and Maatrsarya (Envy).
We will examine and get to know the characteristics of each one in the next six issues.
About the Author
Sri Dhira Chaitanya, also known as Dr. Sundar Ramaswamy, is a teacher of Vedanta (ancient Hindu scriptures) and Sanskrit as well as a board certified doctor in child psychiatry. He has been teaching for over forty years in the United States and other countries. He currently conducts ongoing classes in South Florida. He is the co-author of Purna Vidya, a twelve year program for teaching children in Hindu Tradition and culture. This curriculum, currently in its third edition, is being followed by over hundred schools in India and by hundreds of communities in children’s classes in over a dozen countries around the world. It has been translated into Tamil, Hindi and Gujarati. He has also written Bereavement and Final Samskara (Antyeshti) in Hindu Tradition.
His unique background allows him to work with and teach children and adults about Hindu scripture and Vedic Culture, while also addressing the role of psychological growth and maturity in spiritual pursuit with insight and authority.