The Senses – Are You in Command?

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Lord Krishna explained and proved to Arjuna the inevitability of action. It is not possible to give up action so long as one is living.  The consequences of remaining physically still while allowing the mind to dwell on sense pleasures were also spelt out by the Lord.

What happens to a person who while acting in the physical plane, keeps his senses under control?

We have wrong notions of control. We think restrain or control means not to see, not to hear, and not to touch. To control a thing does not mean ‘not to use’ it. This is like saying ‘I have perfect control over my car; it has never met with an accident – because I never use it!’

The best example of mastery is sited in the Bhagavad Gita itself.  A turtle has the ability to withdraw its limbs into its hard shell the moment it senses danger; once the threat has passed it continues walking on its path. Learning from the turtle, control or mastery should be understood as the ability to withdraw the senses from non-conducive and unfavourable environments; conversely, to engage them in positive pursuits. A good driver is one who can steer his car through traffic jams, slow down or speedup as the situation requires. Such a person has control over his car. This is mastery.

For the driver of any kind of vehicle it is of the utmost importance that the vehicle remains under control under all circumstances.  Once a man riding a horse lost control. As the horse galloped, he was seen desperately hanging onto its neck.  Another horseman passing by asked him, “Where are you going?” He replied “Ask the horse!” So too our senses are taking us for a ride. We have no control over where they are dragging us. Sense organs are meant for experiencing the world of objects, but we should know which objects to perceive and enjoy; most importantly, which objects to avoid.  The senses should be controlled by right thinking. In the prayer bhadram karnebhisrunuyam… does not say ‘may we not see anything ‘, it says ‘may we see and hear what is auspicious’.  The senses are meant to be used but use them correctly.

A person who has gained mastery over his senses by controlling them with his mind (that is, by right thinking) is advised to engage in action with the attitude of karma yoga, without attachment. For such a person Bhagavan says there is no suppression only an unfoldment of the personality. He excels.  His mind reaches a higher level of thinking and he evolves. Even while remaining engaged in activity his mind is not polluted nor is he bound by his actions.