Subduer of the Senses – Part 1 of 2

Subduer of the Senses – Part 1 of 2


“I know, O great hero, that there are many
evils incident to living in the forest; but they generally befall those men who have not
their senses subdued.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand,
Sec 27) When Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality
of Godhead, descended to earth in the form of Lord Rama, He was ordered to live in the
forest for fourteen years by His father Maharaja Dashratha. The Lord took birth as the eldest
son of Dashratha, thus He was the rightful heir to the throne based off birthright. However,
Dashratha was forced to give the throne to Rama’s younger brother Bharata because of
a promise the king had made to his youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who was also Bharata’s mother.
Dashratha actually had granted two wishes to Kaikeyi, with the second being Rama’s
exile to the forest. Lord Rama was God Himself, so renouncing the
throne and luxuries of royal life were no problem for Him. According to Vedic philosophy,
God is defined as one who possesses all six opulences of material life (fame, beauty,
wealth, renunciation, power, and wisdom) at the same time and to the fullest extent. Being
the ultimate renunciate, Lord Rama gladly accepted these two commands of His father;
however He had to inform His wife, Sita Devi, of the bad news. When God comes to earth,
He usually brings His pleasure potency with Him, who manifests either as His wife or His
lover. Sita was the incarnation of the Lord’s energy appearing as His wife, thus she was
devoted to Rama from the very beginning of her life. The idea of being separated from
Rama was the equivalent of death to Sita, so she was very aggrieved to hear the news
of the exile. Rama pleaded with her to remain in the kingdom, but Sita stubbornly rejected
His proposal. Rama repeatedly explained to her that forest life would be very dangerous,
especially for one accustomed to the comforts of royal life. Sita was born and raised in
the kingdom of the pious king Janaka of Mithila, and after marriage, she lived in the kingdom
of Ayodhya. She always enjoyed the life of a princess, so Rama was afraid she wouldn’t
be able to handle living in the forest as a recluse. As part of her arguments in favor of going,
Sita readily agreed that forest life was very difficult and not meant for ordinary women.
She made it a point to say that those who didn’t have their senses under control would
have a very difficult time living in the wilderness. When referring to the senses, Sita was talking
about the five gross senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting, and the three
subtle senses of mind, intelligence, and false ego, as defined by the Vedas. According to
Vedic philosophy, we living entities have been placed in this material world and given
suitable bodies in order to fulfill our desire for sense enjoyment. Sense gratification is
achieved by attempting to satisfy the aforementioned senses. However through experience, we learn
that the senses actually never get satisfied. We are always hankering after something that
we want, or lamenting after something that we don’t have. This cycle repeats over and
over again, and through our desires and actions, we keep receiving new bodies after giving
up our current ones at the time of death. True spiritual advancement only comes when
we are able to subdue our senses. The only way to be successful in subduing
our senses is through the practice of yoga. In the modern world, the term yoga is generally
associated with various gymnastics postures and breathing exercises. That is actually
not the true definition of yoga. Connecting our minds with the Supreme Lord is the true
meaning of yoga. By concentrating all of our activities on God, and always thinking about
Him, we gradually become immune to the desires of our senses. If we are successful in yoga,
we reach a stage called samadhi, wherein our senses are completely under control. There
are various methods for perfecting this practice, and they represent the different types of
yoga. The Bhagavad-gita, the famous scripture of India spoken by Lord Krishna Himself, describes
these various types of yoga. The system that is most popular in the world today is hatha
yoga. Hatha yoga involves putting the body into various stretching positions, and practicing
breathing exercises, such as pranayama. This is all done as a preliminary means of concentrating
the mind on the Supersoul within, known as Paramatma. God is realized in three different
forms, impersonal Brahman (the all-pervading energy of this material world manifested as
the Lord’s glaring effulgence), Paramatma (the Lord’s expansion as the Supersoul situated
in the hearts of all living entities), and Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
in His original form). Hatha yoga is meant to be a spiritual activity aimed at detaching
one from their senses and connecting their mind to God. Naturally, one who performs this
activity nicely will also experience various material benefits. When we are detached from
our senses, we become very skilled in material endeavors. The best athletes are the ones
that can control their minds in the pressure-packed moments. By freeing oneself from the pangs
of nervousness and worries caused by the mind, one can focus completely on the task at hand.
Thus we see many yogis who gain great material powers, such as increased health, the ability
to survive on very little sleep or food, and the ability to enjoy sex life for extended
periods. Sadly, today most people are taking up the
process of hatha yoga simply to attain these material powers and not to connect with God.
They gladly recite the syllable of Om, taking it to be a mundane sound vibration. Om is
actually the sound vibration equated with the Supreme, and it is for this reason that
it was originally associated with yoga. Other types of yoga are mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita,
such as jnana yoga, which involves analytical study of the soul and the mind, and karma
yoga, which involves fruitive activity aimed at providing spiritual advancement. Lord Krishna describes very specifically how
one is to practice hatha yoga. He told Arjuna, “To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded
place and should lay kusha-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft
cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred
place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling
the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point.” (Bg.
6.10) As one can see, these conditions are very
difficult to meet in the present day and age. It is for this reason that yoga has watered
down into a mundane exercise system and has completely lost its spiritual component. Of
all the yoga systems, one is the highest, and that is known as bhakti yoga. Bhakti means
love, thus bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the process of dovetailing all of one’s
activities with the Supreme Lord out of love for Him. Instead of artificially trying to
give up actions in order to control the senses, one simply has to add God to all of one’s
current activities. We may like to read, write, watch movies, or listen to music. Bhakti yoga
doesn’t require one to give up these activities, but simply asks that we relate them with Krishna.
If we read about Krishna, talk about Him, write books about Him and His devotees, listen
to music about Him, and chant His holy names, then we are performing the best kind of yoga. The activities of devotional service fall
into nine separate categories or processes. These are: hearing, chanting, remembering,
worshipping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering prayers, carrying out the orders
of the Lord, making friends with Him, and surrendering everything to Him. Shrila Prabhupada,
the great author and devotee of Lord Krishna, described these processes in this way in his
Bhagavad-gita As It Is book, “One can engage in all nine devotional processes,
or eight, or seven, or at least in one, and that will surely make one perfect.” (Bg
11.55 Purport)

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