If a man continuously hears bad words, thinks bad thoughts, does bad actions, his mind will be full of bad impressions; and they will influence his thought and work without his being conscious of the fact. In fact, these bad impressions are always working, and their resultant must be evil, and that man will be a bad man; he cannot help it. The sum total of these impressions in him will create the strong motive power for doing bad actions. He will be like a machine in the hands of his impressions, and they will force him to do evil.
Similarly, if a man thinks good thoughts and does good works, the sum total of these impressions will be good; and they, in a similar manner, will force him to do good even in spite of himself. When a man has done so much good work and thought so many good thoughts that there is an irresistible tendency in him to do good in spite of himself and even if he wishes to do evil, his mind, as the sum total of his tendencies, will not allow him to do so; the tendencies will turn him back; he is completely under the influence of the good tendencies. When such is the case, a man’s good character is said to be established. (I -54)
Only that man who has control over his sense organs and imagination can be said to have established in good character. Tortoise is often cited as an example for this. When the enemy is near it withdraws its head and limbs into itself. Even if it is killed head and limbs will not come out of it.
Swamiji always reminds us that only one who has controlled his internal and external nature can reach the goal. Using good samskaras, the bad samskaras in the mind have to be annihilated. That is how a ‘sakta’ made into an ‘asakta’. In an asakta’s mind the work he does, does not leave an impression. Swamiji and Sri Ramakrishna used several examples to emphasise this point. We should work and live in this world as though we are travellers from another place. This world is not our permanent abode, but just a halting place. Such a contemplation can help us control our attachment. The more detached we are the more free we are. Sri Ramakrishna used a classic homily to point out this phenomenon, ‘apply oil in your hands before cutting a jack fruit’.