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Senses -- Self-Discipline


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Basic Spiritual Knowledge from 'The Mahabharata' and 'The Bhagavad Gita'.

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Senses -- Self-Discipline

  1. 1. Senses – Self-Discipline (From: The Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Section CCIX)Addressing the fowler, the Brahmana again enquired: O thou most eminent in virtueand constant in the performance of the religious obligations, you talk of senses. • What are they? How may they be subdued? What is the good of subduing them and how does a creature reap the fruits thereof? O pious man, I beg to acquaint myself with the truth of this matter.Markendeya continued: Hear, O king Yudhishthira what the virtuous fowler, thusinterrogated by that Brahmana, said to him in reply.The fowler said: Men’s minds are at first bent on the acquisition of knowledge. • That acquired, O good Brahmana, they indulge in their passions and desires, and for that end, they labour and set about tasks of great magnitude and indulge in much-desired pleasures of beauty, flavour, etc. • Then follows fondness, then envy, then avarice and then extinction of all spiritual light. And men are thus influenced by avarice, and overcome by envy and fondness, their intellect ceases to be guided by righteousness and they practice the very mockery of virtue. • Practicing virtue with hypocrisy, they are content to acquire wealth by dishonourable means, and with the wealth thus acquired the intelligent principle in them becomes enamoured of those evil ways, and they are filled with a desire to commit sins.And when, O good Brahmana, their friends and men of wisdom remonstrate withthem, they are ready with specious answers, which are neither sound nor convincing. • From their being addicted to evil ways, they are guilty of a threefold sin. They commit sin in thought, in word, as also in action. • They being addicted to wicked ways, all their good qualities die out, and these men of wicked deeds cultivate the friendship of men of similar character, and consequently they suffer misery in this world as well as in the next.The sinful men are of this nature, and now hear of the man of virtue: The man ofvirtue discerns these evils by means of his spiritual insight, and is able to discriminate
  2. 2. between happiness and misery, and is full of respectful attention to men of virtue, andfrom practicing virtues, his mind becomes inclined to righteousness.The Brahmana replied: Thou hast given a true exposition of religion which none else isable to expound. Thy spiritual power is great, and thou dost appear to me to be like agreat Rishi.The fowler replied: The great Brahmanas are worshipped with the same honours asour ancestors and they are always propitiated with offerings of food before others. • Wise men in this world do what is pleasing to them, with all their heart. And I shall, O good Brahmana, describe to thee what is pleasing to them, after having bowed down to Brahmanas as a class. Do thou learn from me the Brahmanic philosophy?This whole universe unconquerable everywhere and abounding in great elements, isBrahman (God) and there is nothing higher than this. • The sky (ether), air, fire, water, and earth are the (five) great elements. And sound, touch, form, taste, and odour are their characteristic properties. These latter too have their properties, which are correlated to each other. • And of the three qualities, which are gradually characterized by each, in order of priority is consciousness which is called the mind. • The seventh is intelligence and after that comes egoism; and then the five senses, then the soul, then the moral qualities called Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. • These seventeen are said to be the unknown or incomprehensible qualities. I have described all this to thee, what else dost thou wish to know?Markendeya continued: O Bharata, the Brahmana, thus interrogated by the virtuousfowler, resumed again this discourse so pleasing to the mind.The Brahmana said: O best of the cherishers of religion, it is said that there are fivegreat elements. Do thou describe to me in full the properties of any one of the five?The fowler replied: The earth, water, fire, air and sky all have properties inter-lappingeach other. I shall describe them to thee. • The earth, O Brahmana, has five qualities, water four, fire three and the air and sky together three also. • Sound, touch, form, odour and taste - these five qualities belong to earth, and
  3. 3. • sound, touch, form and taste, O austere Brahmana, have been described to thee as the properties of water, and • sound, touch and form are the three properties of fire, ans • air has two properties sound and touch, and • Sound is the property of sky.And, O Brahmana, these fifteen properties inherent in five elements, exist in allsubstances of which this universe is composed. And they are not opposed to oneanother; they exist, O Brahmana, in proper combination. • When this whole universe is thrown into a state of confusion, then every corporeal being in the fullness of time assumes another corpus. It arises and perishes in due order. And there are present the five elementary substances of which the entire mobile and immobile world is composed. • Whatever is perceptible by the senses is called Vyakta (knowable or comprehensible) and whatever is beyond the reach of the senses and can only be perceived by guesses, is known to be Avyakta (not Vyakta).When a person engages in the discipline of self-examination, after having subduedthe senses which have of their own proper objective play in the external conditions ofsound, form, etc., then he beholds his own spirit pervading the universe reflected initself. • He, who is wedded to his previous Karma, although skilled in the highest spiritual wisdom, is cognizant only of his soul’s objective existence. • But the person whose soul is never affected by the objective conditions around, is never subject to ills, owing to its absorption in the elementary spirit of Brahman.When a person has overcome the domination of illusion, his manly virtues consistingof the essence of spiritual wisdom, turn to the spiritual enlightenment whichillumines the intelligence of sentient beings. • Such a person is styled by the omnipotent, intelligent Spirit as one who is without beginning and without end, self-existent, immutable, incorporeal and incomparable. This, O Brahmana, that thou hast enquired of me is only the result of self-discipline. • And this self-discipline can only be acquired by subduing the senses. It cannot be otherwise; heaven and hell are both dependent on our senses. When subdued, they lead to heaven; when indulged in, they lead to perdition.
  4. 4. This subjugation of the senses is the highest means of attaining spiritual light. Oursenses are at the root of our spiritual advancement as also at the root of our spiritualdegradation. • By indulging in them, a person undoubtedly contracts vices, and by subduing these, he attains salvation. • The self-restrained person, who acquires mastery over the six senses inherent in our nature, is never tainted with sin, and consequently evil has no power over him. • Man’s corporeal self has been compared to a chariot, his soul to a charioteer and his senses to horses. A dexterous man drives about without confusion, like a quiet charioteer with well-broken horses. That man is an excellent driver, who knows how to patiently wield the reins of those wild horses - the six senses inherent in our nature. • When our senses become ungovernable like horses on the high road, we must patiently rein them in; for with patience, we are sure to get the better of them.When a man’s mind is overpowered by any one of these senses running wild, heloses his reason, and becomes like a ship tossed by storms upon the high ocean. • Men are deceived by illusion in hoping to reap the fruits of those six things, whose effects are studied by persons of spiritual insight, who thereby reap the fruits of their clear perception.
  5. 5. Qualities of the Self-Realized (From: The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Sankhya and Yoga) Sthitapragnya (Of steady wisdom, of stable mind)Gita, Ch. 2, verse 54: • Arjuna said: O Krishna! What is the mark of a God-realised soul, stable of mind and established in Samadhi (perfect tranquility of mind)? How does a man of stable mind speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?Gita, Ch. 2, verse 55: • The Blessed Lord said: Arjuna, when one thoroughly dismisses all cravings of the mind, and is satisfied in the Self through (the joy of) the self, then he is called Stithapragnya (stable of mind or of steady wisdom)Gita, Ch. 2, verse 56: • He whose consciousness is not shaken by anxiety under afflictions nor by attachment to happiness under favourable circumstances; he who is free from worldly loves, fears, and angers – he is called a muni of steady discrimination.Gita, Ch. 2, verse 57: • He who is unattached to everything, and meeting with good and evil, neither rejoices nor recoils, his mind is stable.Gita, Ch. 2, verse 58: • When like a tortoise, which draws in its limbs from all directions, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, his mind is stable.Gita, Ch.2, verse 59: • Sense-objects turn away from him who does not enjoy them with his senses; but the taste for them persists. This relish also disappears in the case of the man of stable mind when he sees the Supreme.Gita, Ch.2, verse 60: • Turbulent by nature, the senses even of a wise man, who is practicing self- control, forcibly carry away his mind, Arjuna.Gita, Ch.2, verse 61: • Therefore, having controlled them all and collecting his mind one should sit for meditation, devoting oneself heart and soul to Me, and who thus subjugates his senses, is known to have a stable mind.
  6. 6. Gita, Ch.2, verse 62: • Brooding on sense objects causes attachment to them. Attachment breeds craving; craving breeds anger.Gita, Ch.2, verse 63: • Anger breeds delusion; delusion breeds loss of memory (of the Self). Loss of right memory causes decay of discriminating faculty. From decay of discrimination, annihilation of (spiritual life) follows.Gita, Ch.2, verse 64: • But the man of self-control, roaming among material objects with subjugated senses, and devoid of attraction and repulsion, attains an unshakable inner calmness.Gita, Ch.2, verse 65: • With the attainment of such placidity of mind, all his sorrows come to an end; and the intellect of such a person of tranquil mind soon withdrawing itself from all sides, becomes firmly established in God.Gita, Ch.2, verse 66: • He who has not controlled his mind and senses can have no reason; nor can such an undisciplined man think of God. The unthinking man can have no peace; and how can there be happiness for one lacking peace of mind?Gita, Ch.2, verse 67: • As a boat on the waters is carried off course by a gale, so an individual’s discrimination is driven from its intended path when the mind succumbs to the wandering senses.Gita, Ch.2, verse 68: • Therefore, Arjuna, he, whose senses are completely restrained from their objects, is said to have a stable mind.Gita, Ch.2, verse 69: • That which is night (of slumber) to all beings is wakefulness (luminous) to the man of self-mastery. And what is wakefulness to ordinary men, that is night (a time for slumber) to the divinely perceptive sage.Gita Ch.2, verse 70: • As the waters of different rivers enter the ocean; which though full on all sides remains undisturbed, likewise he in whom all enjoyments merge themselves attains peace; not he who hankers after such enjoyments.
  7. 7. Gita, Ch.2, verse 71: • That person realizes peace who, relinquishing all desires, exists without craving and is unidentified with the mortal ego and its sense of “mine-ness.”Gita, Ch. 2, verse 72: • O Arjuna! This is the ‘established in Brahman” state. Anyone entering this state is never (again) deluded. Even at the very moment of transition (from the physical to the astral), if one becomes anchored therein, he attains the final, irrevocable, state of Spirit-communion.