“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“Eliminate negative thoughts from your mind. Don’t dwell on the past mistakes. Be positive. Look forward.” We’ve heard advice like this before, but following through is difficult. It’s like when someone tells us to not think pink. Most often we start to think of pink even more. If our mind is dwelling on something, naturally that something will be more difficult to give up.
Lord Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad-gita. Though a person can force themselves away from things that are bad for them, the taste still remains. In the higher scheme, the “bad” is anything which leads to rebirth. The taste remains since the underlying desire is unchanged. The original sin, if you will, is separating from the shelter of the Supreme Person. His association is blissful throughout, and there is no need to work so hard to maintain. As Lord Vishnu, He maintains all the universes. He maintains locally as well through His expansion of the Supersoul.
The fortunate person comes across Vedic teachings and at least accepts the recommendation to avoid sense enjoyment. A simple way to think of the term “sense gratification” is to liken it to animal instincts. Like a beast ripping through food, a bear sleeping for months at a time, a snake biting to protect itself, or two dogs engaging in sex. The human being should be more refined due to its advanced intelligence.
Indeed, for even material success restriction is a requirement. The world of rock n roll is viewed as party every day, with no limits on fun. But to succeed in the business one has to undergo tremendous austerity. There are the hours in the studio fine-tuning the songs. There is the rigorous touring, where accommodations aren’t always ideal. There is physical conditioning as well, required for performing at peak levels on stage.
In the same way, to succeed in escaping the cycle of birth and death one needs restriction. The human life is meant for austerity – this is the Vedic opinion backed by wise men like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. But how does one actually practice austerity? What is required? What is the secret to reaching the elusive state of true enlightenment?
1. Follow the four regulative principles.
We don’t have to guess as to what needs to be restricted. Put a stop to meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. Avoid eating meat to increase compassion. Intoxication shatters austerity. Illicit sex keeps a person unclean and gambling removes honesty. Compassion, austerity, cleanliness and honesty are good traits to have, and they are all rooted in restriction of sense enjoyment. The four regulative principles are a great starting point.
2. Meditate on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
But the four regulative principles are themselves restrictions. The issue is how to practice restriction without falling. There is the negative of avoiding things, but there is also the positive. One way to stay on the right side is to meditate. But on what? On something void? On nothingness? The spiritual energy pervades the entire creation and the source of the spiritual energy is a personality. He is supreme since there is no difference between matter and spirit for Him. His body is the same as what animates that body. One way to tell the spiritual nature of His body is meditation. Focus your mind on Him, starting at His lotus feet. Then work your way up to the other features, which are all attractive.
3. Read about His pastimes, presented properly.
God the person has a transcendental form, and He also engages in activities. While it’s difficult to avoid something you have a taste for, an easy way to fix the mind is to forget about that something. An easy way to forget is to get your mind attached to something nice. Nothing is sweeter than the pastimes of the Supreme Lord, who instructs and delights at the same time. In the spiritual land of Vrindavana He steals butter from the homes of the neighbors. He does this in the adorable manifestation of a small child. He plays pranks here and there and sometimes He speaks lies. These are all endearing, especially to the mind looking to break free of sense enjoyment.
4. Chant the holy names.
For the present age of Kali, this is the most effective method. Take the maha-mantra and chant it as often as you can: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is unlike any other sound vibration. Chanting the maha-mantra is a unique activity. The effects of exhaustion vanish. The law of diminishing returns also flips. The more you chant, the more you’ll like it. The more you stay away from the four sinful activities, the more effective your chanting will be. Through chanting alone, giving up sense enjoyment becomes easy.
5. Hear from devotees.
If chanting is too difficult, there is the easiest option of hearing. Simply sacrifice some time to hear from someone who has given up the taste for sense enjoyment. Hear them describe the Supreme Lord and His personal form. Hear their personal experiences of chanting and relishing the sound of the holy name. Most importantly, maintain their association. By following this path, engaging in sense enjoyment will become the more difficult option.
As Krishna mentions in the Bhagavad-gita, the secret is to find a higher taste. If you experience something superior, you’ll naturally give up the inferior. In the beginning you had a taste for the material, but if you truly relish the spiritual more and more, the previous taste will gradually vanish. This proven method is tried, tested and perfected through the ages by the acharyas, the spiritual teachers following in the line started by the Supreme Lord.
By finding taste superior,
Easy to renounce the inferior.
Sense control for human is meant,
Not time in animal activities spent.
But difficult when attachments there are,
Controlled mind destination seeming far.
Chant holy names, from devotees hear,
Then of sinful desires to be clear.
Categories: the five