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(This from a seventy-something man.)
Edward: How should I deal with addictions like sex, gaming, food…?
James: It depends on how addicted you are, Edward. If they have been lifelong addictions, I’d say that you should learn to love them. At your age, you could well die before you are addiction-free, so you might as well enjoy the remaining years in spite of them. If they are recently acquired, develop some positive habits in their place. I think you must not understand karma yoga, Edward. You have been a student of Vedanta for some time now. If you were living karma yoga, these addictions would be slowly losing their power over you. So something is missing in your understanding. You should be able to see that they do not give you what they purport to give you – they promise pleasure and they give psychological pain (negative vasanas). If you understood that they were not real and that you don’t need them, because you are whole and complete already, they should drop off. I don’t want to discourage you, but you need some work on your qualifications if Vedanta is going to work for you.
You are still interested in sex? Usually, this obsession is an indication of a love issue – you don’t love yourself, so you look to an object to validate you. You are a nice-looking, educated, intelligent person; find a nice woman your age and love her. She will love you back and the craving for sex will go away. It is a poor substitute for love. Gambling probably means that you are bored with yourself and need a little excitement to make you feel alive. If you have money to waste, why not give it to a good cause? I need money to continue bringing non-dual knowledge to the world; give what you give to those useless casino people to me and I will make good use of it. It will make you feel better about yourself and it will make me happy knowing that I am able to give more to the world. This is a very selfish habit; you counteract it by giving. If you are still attached to food it is probably because you are not eating sattvic, nutritious foods. My food cravings went away when I quit taking tamasic food. Too many carbohydrates causes depression. When you are depressed, you develop negative vasanas.
No offense, Edward, but this is a question that one would expect of a twenty- or thirty-year-old. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If these are really issues at your age, then you have grown physically but you have not matured. That small child within never grew up, if it still believes that these silly things can make it happy. I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make this suffering go away, but nobody except you, not even Isvara, can change this. It is the fruit of your actions, so you have to take it like a man. The whole point of Vedanta is that you do not need objects – money, sex, etc. – to make you whole. You are whole already. If you can’t see it, then indulge in your habits until you are completely fed up. They will stop.
Edward: Even the worst wrongdoer will cross with ease by the raft of knowledge you just gave me. There is nothing else to say.
James: Yes, don’t worry about your habits, Edward. Just keep your mind on the self and be happy.