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Towards Inner Harmony: Control Over The Senses

Published: 07.05.2004
Updated: 02.07.2015

Before me stood a youth.

"Who are you?" said I. He answered, "I'm a seeker of the spirit." I said, "How is it your forehead is lined with worry?" He said, "Because of the many complications that have arisen in my search." I said, "Spiritual science is the way to resolve all complications. Why should the seeker of the spirit be caught in contradiction? Why should worry ever sit on his visage? This is not right."
"It is a fact, nevertheless", he said, "I entered this field in order to resolve my confusion, but I find myself all the more confused."
I then asked, "How did it come about?"
He said, "I have been a student of science. I entered the spiritual field with the hope that my life would become more interesting and beautiful. But as I read one tome after another, I found myself submerged in drab particulars. I found these tomes full of monotonous exhortations. I read Uttaradhyayan, which said, "Beware of taking rich foods!" I read Mahabharata, the burden of whose song is that a yogi's power derives itself from ascetism, from taking insipid foods. I read Mahatma Gandhi, who repeatedly lays stress on renunciation of tasty foods. I thought that Manonushasanam is a new book, a book of modern times and I hoped to find in it the optimistic note of a happier living, the secret of a vigorous and adventurous life. I therefore read it with concentrated attention. However, the burden of this book was no different. It also emphasized the importance of not being absorbed by the temptations of the senses; it also laid stress on sense purification. After food-purification, one must seek to purify the senses, it said. In thus emphasizing the discipline of the senses, all the religious books grow to be monotonous, and because of this monotony I am quite fed up with spiritualism itself I came here to resolve my problems, but I find myself caught in never problems. I want a life, which is altogether problem less, a life in which there is vigour, enthusiasm and joy. For today's youth, ascetism is quite outdated. In the modern world of scientific progress, renunciation is totally unacceptable. "Don't see; don't hear; don't eat; don't drink; don't speak; don't touch or smell; don't do this or that! This negativism has extracted all juice out of life and has rendered it tasteless; life has become dry like the juiceless husk of sugarcane. The sayings of the spiritual masters have left me in utter despair. And you ask, Why these creases on your brow? Why these signs of confusion on your face? What else do you expect? Will not inner complexities come to the fore? This entrance into the world of spiritualism has caused me great anguish. All my expectations have been frustrated; all my fond hopes lie buried. What more shall I say? Will you kindly show me the way?"

I said, -"Dear sir, why get so entangled? Since it causes you so much anguish, why not let go spiritualism, give it up entirely? Just as a snake casts off its skin, you could also bid good-bye to spiritualism forever."

He protested, "How can that be? I cannot abandon it either it was the realisation of the insipidity of all material enjoyments which pushed me into the field of spiritualism. If I give this up, where do I stand? I can't go back to where I came from. Material things give me no lasting pleasure. On the contrary, they are a source of deep mental disquiet. Driven by inner dissatisfactions, I came to the spiritual field in search of peace. But I have not found peace. So, both the material and the spiritual world have failed me. What am I to do?"

I said, You don't understand! Neither spiritualism, nor Uttaradhyayan, nor Mahabharata, nor Manonushasanam. To understand is not easy. Without experience, without tradition, nothing is intelligible. A participant in one of the dhyana-shivirs (meditation camps) told me how he had been practising meditation on his own for the last two years. But he had not achieved anything. However, ten days of dhyana-process in the camp made all the difference: He began to feel that something was happening. Which goes to prove that understanding does not come of itself; there is a method to it. Without the key, the lock would not open.

In an Ayurvedic book I read about some ways of cooling water. One of these was the technique of cooling water through the use of a piece of cloth. ` "If water is strained through a piece of cloth, it gets cooler," it said. I was surprised to read this and knew at once that the translator had made a queer mistake. The translation was faulty because the translator was not acquainted with the technique. We, the munis, (monks) are acquainted with it. During hot summers travelling under a scorching sun, we get only warm water, which we are obliged to cool before we can drink it. And it is possible to make this warm water almost ice cold. One might strain water through a piece of cloth twenty times (as given by the translator) ` it would get no cooler. The real technique of cooling is this:

Take a vessel full of warm water. Dip a piece of cloth in it. Fold this piece of cloth once or twice. Catch hold of it by its two corners and dip it into the water; then bring it up; dip it again, and bring it up again, and so on until the water gets cool to the required degree. The water is siphoned out by the cloth and is cooled by evaporation.

Another method is to keep the vessel full of warm water on a higher level. A strip of cloth is put into this water, with one end of the strip left hanging into an empty vessel below. Through this strip, the water from the upper vessel would fall drop by drop into the vessel below. The strip of cloth would be subject to the action of evaporation and the water in being strained from the top to the lower vessel would get cooler. That is the technique of cooling water through a strip of cloth.

However learned the speaker may be, the responsibility of understanding what he says lies on the bearer, on how thoroughly the listener grasps what the learned speaker is saying.

Many people think, "The Gita contains Lord Krishna's utterance, and we know it. Dhampad contains Lord Buddha's sayings, and we know these. Or Uttaradhyayan contains Lord Mahavir's speech, and we understand it." The important thing for the moment is not what Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha or Lord Mahavir has said, but how deeply does a particular reader understand the Lord's saying. If even the words of the text are not fully intelligible, how is one to grasp their hidden meanings. So, innumerable wrong interpretations are the consequence. In the spiritual field too, this kind of misinterpretation goes on. Spiritual truths come to be most flagrantly twisted, and a great deal of experimentation is based upon these distorted versions. Because of these distortions, the spiritual texts appear to be uninteresting and dull.

For spiritualism itself never makes for a dull life. On the contrary, it is spiritualism alone that brings to the fore life's profound significance. No other way except spiritualism can make life endlessly fascinating. All material pleasures are transitory. They last for a little while and ultimately wither away. Take for instance spicy food in hot weather. After consuming it, one feels thirsty. And the first glass of water tastes ambrosial. With the second glass, the keenness of the thirst is much lessened and the taste of water is not so sweet as before. A third glass of water results in complete extinction of thirst. Any further consumption causes nausea; now water has no taste. Why fill the belly with such tasteless stuff? No more, please! >From the first to the last, the taste of water
undergoes a gradual transformation. As the thirst gets slaked, water appears to be more and more insipid, till its utility is reduced to a vanishing point. That is the characteristic of all material things. At first, a thing gives great pleasure. Its progressive use, however, renders it less and less sweet. And this is the case not only with water and food, but also with clothes and other things as well. If we go into this characteristic attribute of things we shall find that the joy a particular matter gives us for the first time is never repeated, whether it is marriage, or union with a friend, or any other kind of relationship. In order to ensure a rupture between two friends, force them to live together! The nearer to each other they live. The farther shall they drift? The farther they keep, the more enduring their affection for each other would be. Even the husband and the wife who live always together, lose affection for each other. The members of a joint family, who live in a limited space, seldom love one another. Their love for one another undergoes strange vicissitudes. Now it seems very deep, the next moment it is just not there. The relationship with a friend, with the beloved - all demand the maintenance of a particular distance. If the requisite distance is maintained, love continues otherwise it diminishes. The nearer in vicinity, the greater the disenchantment and the consequent rupture. Friendship cools down. Does the accumulation of material things make life joyful? Never. Everything gives us a taste of pleasure for the first time. With the passage of time, however, that pleasure evaporates. In the course of time the staleness of custom would lower the value of any position, however much prizes in the beginning.

There was a monk. His fame grew far and wide till it reached the king's ears. The king invited the monk to his Palace. The monk went there and sat on a wooden dais. In the course of his talk with the king, the monk said, "Sir, the most valuable thing in life is the soul." The king, being an atheist, was surprised to hear this. He objected, "How can that be? The soul is something, which cannot be seen. It has no shape or form; it has no tangibility, and matter alone is valuable." The monk said, "Sir, if the soul has no value, do you consider your own empire to be valuable?" The king replied with contemptuous laughter, “Yes, Sir, my kingdom is of great value. Do you not see the magnificence in which I live? My palace and my treasury - how full they are! All people desire what I have. They think that to be a king is something highly estimable. You will hardly find a man who does not want to be a king. If it were not valuable, would men desire it?"

The monk said, “All your kingdom is not worth more than two glasses of water. So how can it be considered valuable?"

"Worthy Sir, explain yourself."

"Well, Sir, imagine you go out to a forest on a hunting trip. You lose your way. It is daytime. Terribly hot! You feel thirsty - terrible thirst! If you do not get water, you die. Here is a question of life and death. At such a time, if someone were to offer you a glass of water, how would you reward him?"
"O, Sir, I would offer him one half of my kingdom."
"Well, Sir, now imagine because of extreme heat, your urine-duct is blocked, causing you intense, intolerable pain, to the extent that you feel you are going to expire. If at that time, an expert physician were to mix some life-saving drug in a glass of water and offer it to you, what would you give him?"
"Sir, I'll give half of my kingdom to this life-saver. After all, what is a kingdom as compared to life itself?"
"So, you see Sir, your kingdom is not worth more than two glasses of water. That is not much, is it? One half of your kingdom goes in exchange for a glass of water to be let in; the other half goes in exchange for a glass of water to be let out. The whole kingdom gone for two glasses of water!"

In respect of value all matter is similarly placed. In fact, matter is not essentially valuable, for its value is always dependent upon need.

When the inner eye of truth is opened, we would realize how foolish we were in not recognising the worth of godly persons, and in worshipping the ungodly - in considering the spirit of little worth, and in giving too much importance to material things.

The pilgrimage of the spirit starts with the understanding of what is eternally valuable. This understanding of what is eternally valuable and what is not comes with the awakening of wisdom. A spiritual master is he who knows how valuable a particular person or thing is. One who cannot discriminate the valuable from the valueless can never be a guru, and even if he is established as a guru, would not be able to continue as such for long.

The foremost consideration is, therefore, the perception of right values. Spiritual science awakens right vision so that the individual knows what importance he must accord to each person or thing he comes into contact with. The doctrine of right food and sense-purification is the doctrine of right values. What value to attach to what food, what importance to give to each sense organ, is the function of awakened wisdom? The masters of spiritualism have given due importance to food as well as to the senses. Sense-sublimation does not mean putting out the eyes to purify sight or blasting the eardrums to purify hearing, or excoriating the skin to purify the sense of touch; it only amounts to giving right importance to each sense organ neither more nor less. Modern society is inclined to give the senses too much importance. This must be remedied. Each individual must come to see for himself or herself how undue importance is being currently accorded to the senses, which inevitably results in suffering.

A famous American industrialist was asked the secret of his success. He said, "The capacity to take right decisions at the right time has brought me to the top. The foundation of right action is experience. The foundation of experience is wrong action. I have made many wrong decisions in my life. I suffered because of those decisions, but I gained experience, which led to the flowering of the capacity to take right decisions, which ultimately brought me success.

Once the king asked Birbal (a famous wise person in India) where he had gathered so much wisdom. Birbal instantly said, "From the fools. I observed the actions which rendered one a fool and gave them up. So I got wiser and wiser. There is no dearth of fools and madmen in this world."

A lawyer wrote his will on his deathbed. He directed that all his property be distributed among madmen and fools, for it was from fools and madmen that he had collected it. Without suffering, without committing mistakes and foolishnesses, no man ever acquired sagacity. Society created by men is also guilty of having committed many blunders. It gave too much importance to the senses, it suffered the painful consequences. It then realized that giving the senses undue importance was fraught with danger. Giving such importance caused havoc and created many difficulties. Society thus learnt the truth about the senses. Consequently, the idea of sense purification took birth. The senses must not be given excessive importance; these must be conquered.

The spiritual masters took the right decision at the right time and presented before society the ideal of sense-purification and sense-control. The question arises as to whether it is possible to achieve sense-purification and sense-control, or we are engaged in an impossible and, therefore, useless undertaking. It is certainly not an impossible undertaking. If we understand the principle of sense purification, it is possible to achieve control over the senses. Our world is governed by laws. Matter has its own law and spiritual science its own. Every science has its laws. The discovery of the laws governing the subtle nature and composition of matter draws forth new possibilities even out of the domain of the impossible. Without the knowledge of those laws, even simple occurrences appear to be impossible.

I am delivering a talk here. Hundreds of people on the balcony above are listening to me. I cannot see them, nor do they see me. Yet there is no difficulty in listening. A hundred years ago, it would have seemed impossible, but it is impossible no more. So much so, that a man today may speak from any corner of this wide world, and the people of the whole world can hear what he says. The discovery of the hidden laws governing sound has made possible what was earlier considered impossible. Spiritual science is the exploration and discovery of subtle laws. It is not merely the science of religion, but also a science dealing with the subtlest mysteries of nature. Indeed, spiritual science involves a profound study, assimilation and discovery of the subtle laws of nature.

We started with the problem of the insipidity of spiritualism posed by the youth at the beginning of this chapter. It is true that on one's entering upon spiritual quest, one is enjoined to break away from sensual pleasures. Utmost stress is laid on restraining the palate and on the overall control of the senses. One may ask why. Because a very profound law revealed that the greatest temptation, which led men astray, was sexual desire. Sex leads astray. Freud was right when he declared sex to be man's fundamental instinct. It overshadows the whole of man's life. Today's physiologists and psychologists affirm that all other tensions are transitory, but the sexual tension remains continuous. Lust constitutes the greatest danger. Spiritual science lays down that unless lust is mitigated, the question of mental dissatisfaction could never be resolved. In order to mitigate sexual desire, it is essential to exercise restraint over the palate. Some people are surprised at this and ask as to what the palate has to do with sex. Unless we know the governing law, the relation between the sexual impulse and the palate will not be clear to us. When the hidden law is known, the relation becomes apparent.

A verse from Uttaradhyayan reads:

Beware of taking juicy foods, containing too much sap! Excess of sap produces excitement. Excitement increases sexual desire. Lust invades the libidinous person in the same way as birds descend upon a tree laden with fruit.

This is not the saying of an ignorant person. It comes from those who knew the subtle law governing the intimate relationship between the palate and the sex-organ. This relationship is elaborated upon in the Tantra-shastra which contains an analysis of the five elements - earth, water, fire, air and space. Corresponding to these five elements are five sense and five action-oriented organs as follows:


Sense Organs

















The water-element includes all the tastes. Its corresponding sense organ is the tongue the action-organs are the genitals. Thus, the genitals and the tongue are related to the water element- a very intimate relationship. When the tongue gets too much of sap, it is bound to result in an increase of lust. The water-element strengthens both, gives them power.

The fire-element has the eye for its sense-organ, and its action-organ is the foot. The first sign of anger is the reddening of the eyes. The growth of the fire element engenders anger and the eyes become red and the eyebrows get distorted in a frown. Without the reddening of the eyes, there can be no anger; the redness even explodes outwards.

In this context, there is a story from the Ramayana.

Rama asked Sita, "What was the colour of the flowers in the garden where you dwelt in Lanka?" Sita replied, "White". The same question was put to Hanuman who answered, "Red." Both were eyewitnesses, yet they gave contradictory answers. Rama resolved the controversy by saying, "Both of you are right."

How? Sita at die time was in a quiet frame of mind. She was bathed in tranquility. She entertained no violence against anyone. Her eyes were full of love and peace. So all the flowers appeared to her to be white. When Hanuman went to Lanka and reached that little garden, his anger had crossed all bounds. He was simmering with rage. His eyes were blood-shot with indignation. Thus, everything appeared to him to be red.

As a matter of fact, without exercising some control over the urge for material gratification, sexual desire cannot be restrained. Sap and desire are inter-related. Both are bound up together through the water-element. The gratification of the palate in effect means the excitation of carnal desire. A man given to free and unrestrained
gratification of the palate can never exercise control over sexual desire. He is bound to be lustful. That is the general law, barring exceptions. Spiritual masters discovered these subtle laws. We have mentioned here only one such law. If we acquaint ourselves with all the laws, we shall find that these subtle laws presented by the spiritual masters are not sentimental expositions, but are grounded on solid scientific fact.

In Manonushasanam sense-purification is dealt with after "Right Food".

Two ways of sense purification are prescribed:

  1. Awareness of one's proclivities
  2. Non-attachment

Both these methods are based on two great laws. All the five sense organs have their respective objects. The object of the eye is sight, the object of the ear is sound, the object of the nose is smell, the object of the tongue is taste, and the object of the skin is touch. These are the five sense organs with their objects. Each sense organ must have the right relationship with its objects. The spiritual man also partakes of these objects. He sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches. But he is well acquainted with the secret of the senses and their objects.

The question arises as to what the law is. To see and to know is the object of consciousness. That is also its nature - just to know and to see. That is the fundamental characteristic of consciousness. The spiritual man will conduct himself strictly in accordance with this law. He will see and know without apportioning praise or blame,
without like or dislike. Approbation and condemnation are like two rotten gutters mingling with the stream of consciousness. There is the pure stream of consciousness, which is polluted by the current of passions mingling with it. Thereafter the object of sense remains purely an object no more; it becomes perverted. With the perversion of the object, form loses its purity and becomes desirable or undesirable. Then taste remains no more pure taste but becomes delicious or insipid. Our whole vision, instead of remaining a consciousness of pure seeing and knowing, becomes tainted with like or dislike. The net result of this approach is love/hate relationship. Man comes to look upon objects as desirable or undesirable. Approbation and disapprobation go together: where there is praise, there is blame; love cannot subsist by itself; nor can hate. The two go together. They are inseparable. The one cannot exist without the other. You will hardly find a man who loves or hates alone; he who loves also hates; he who hates also loves.

Right relationship with objects means that an individual knows what is meant to be known, without approbation or disapprobation. This is the first step towards sense- purification; this helps to keep the stream of consciousness pure.

Freedom from like or dislike comes from a change of attitude. This is not listlessness or indifference. On the contrary, only the individual, who has discovered within himself great joy, finds his interests and attachments altogether transformed.

He who practices Preksha Meditation experiences a joy hitherto unknown. When he is engaged in the perception of breath, of body or of vibrations, his preoccupation with outward objects dissolves of itself. His sense of time, the sense of direction, stands altered. One meditates for an hour and one feel, as if one has been doing it for barely I0 minutes. This happens because one's whole outlook is changed. With the awakening of consciousness, the whole world stands transformed. Spiritual science is not a monotonous undertaking, rather it is a process of releasing great energies in oneself only he who has not experienced the great vibrations of the life force within, will be attracted by gross outward phenomena, disregarding the subtle happenings inside. But the day he experiences the vibrations of the inner sea, his very conception of life will undergo a transformation, and a great fountainhead of bliss will explode within him.

  1. Two methods of sense-purification have been outlined: Right relationship with sense-objects;
  2. Transformation of one's interests, i.e., transformation of one's very conception of happiness and a realization thereof.

For the man who can accomplish these, sense purification occurs of itself; he needs no impulsion from outside. Indeed, it becomes the one great inevitable event of his life.


Published by: Kuldeep Jain for "HEALTH & HARMONY" An imprint of: Jain Pubilishers (P) Ltd, New Delhi

Reprint 2006

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