Conquest of senses leading to self-mastery is well recognised as the prime indispensable condition for true progress in spiritual Sadhana. Now, while attempting at sense-control it should be borne in mind that the real and effective method lies in concentrating your attention at the control of the mind. Because the actual senses are not the Karmendriyas or the fleshy externals situated in the physical body, but are the Jnanendriyas that have their seat in the Manomaya Kosha. The outward physical sense-organs are merely the vehicles through which the Jnanendriyas get their cravings satisfied. They form as it were the executive or labour corps, carrying out the bidding of their subtle counterparts in the mental sheath. Therefore, if through control of mind and Pratyahara the clamour of the inner-five is subdued, then the Karmendriyas become as mere fleshy appendages with no power to incite or to excite the person. Upon the indrawn mind the sound entering through the avenue of the ear fails to register. The nose inhales and draws in different odours but all unaware to the mind. The man with self-absorbed mind gazes with vacant unseeing eyes, for though the wide-open eyes gaze outward, yet, the mind perceives naught. Tap a man on the back while he is intently engaged in deep study, he will not heed you, for he fails to feel the tap. Thus it is essentially the craving and goading of the inner quintuplet of subtle organs that sets up the agitation and turbulence in the physical senses of man.
This gives the clear clue as to where the wise Sadhaka ought to direct his efforts when aiming at the conquest of senses, eradication of cravings and self-mastery. Yet it is forgotten by most Sadhakas with the result that you frequently find that in a sudden fit of extreme austerity they try to wrestle with the outward senses in an intense effort to stifle them, starve them and trample them into submission. They seemingly succeed very well in the beginning and thus encouraged they even intensify the erroneous process. And when the outer physical repression thus assumes a degree of violence, its repercussions upon the individual’s psyche begin to manifest in a series of disastrous symptoms. The person commences to exhibit reactionary tendencies in a variety of ways. The prominent form that the sum-total of these reactionary symptoms assumes is a total breaking away from the hitherto rigidly maintained self-control, or in other words, auto-violent physical repression. It is marked by a loosening of all restraint and going head-long into a period of indulgence. Together with this a number of minor upheavals also take place, which have the unfortunate effect of leaving a lasting impression upon the person. They work themselves into his subconscious system and get lodged as certain vague complexes and indefinable neuroses that baffle the routine analysis.
When the Sadhaka has undergone this experience while living a life of seclusion, then his case becomes all the more difficult. The scope and opportunity for caution, criticism and correction by others is absent. He is left all to himself, and when a person is being swept away by a sudden strong current of extreme sensuousness and Rajas, then discrimination and sane analysis are rendered inoperative. Whereas if the Sadhaka happens during this period to be amongst many others, in a community or an institution the beholders, themselves being Sadhakas familiar with this line of life, will not fail to observe his gradual change and the progressive intensification of his thoughtless repression till the breaking point is reached. Those with a little experience and insight will easily read the symptoms and diagnose his gradual heading towards the apex of his auto-violence and warn him in time of the inevitable reaction and its enviable consequences. Thus where the concerned person himself cannot analyse his case, the observers point out to him what the matter is and analyse it for him to a certain extent.
But here too it has been observed that, more often than not, when such well-intentioned warning and advice is offered, it is met with a distinct hostility and a spirit of aggressive defiance on the part of the Sadhaka. His aggressive attitude, when analysed, will be found to proceed from the three factors, namely, an unconscious fear, a curious perversion of reasoning and a compensation process.
In the first case even though he knows and feels that his conduct is improper, yet, he aggressively repels all advice and suggestion, for if he listens to them and follows accordingly, it would mean the recovery of his poise and self-control again. This would deprive him of the pleasures that he is determined to taste. That part of his self, dominated for the period by the Bhoga Vritti, is afraid that if he is submitted to their good counsels and admonitions, he would have to forego the pleasures he is about to plunge into. This fear builds up a defence reaction of the protest which manifests itself as the attitude of aggression, which is so invariably present in the majority of such cases. This forms the exasperating feature which the external witnesses find it hardly possible to understand or to tolerate. It becomes so strong and marked that at times it ends the patience of those very well-wishers who seek to warn and draw him out of the slough he has fallen into.
In the second case, by an extraordinary twist of logic, the person convinces himself that he is justified in his actions. He feels that the period of restraint and abstinence has somehow entitled him to have a round of indulgence now and he resents any suggestion to the contrary. This very resentment itself is a sure indication of the blunder, for his innermost self knows that he is totally wrong. But this is suppressed in the subconscious. This is a delusion, purely the outcome of the individual’s mind clouded by passion.
A little thought will clearly show that he is plunging into indulgence because he had convinced himself beforehand that it was his due, but in spite of himself he was plunged into it by the force of the revolting senses, so long repressed by the aspirants’ auto-violence. Then justification of it comes later on, after the mischief is done. Thus it is not so much in the nature of an explanation as to why he is doing it, but rather a perverse attempt in asserting that he is right in what he is doing. It is the justification that follows the misconduct. To try to convince yourself, at such times, that you are acting thus because you know what you are going to do is right, is just like putting the cart before the horse. You do wrong and say that you are right.
In the third case it is a compensation process. The aspirant is acutely aware that he has fallen in the estimation of the others who thought much of him and of his self-control and austerity. His ‘reputation’ has suffered. He feels inferior. To cover this up and to make up for it in the eyes of others, he unconsciously adopts this aggression which is closely akin to Dutch-courage.
It might be thought that the analysis and statement of this third ‘Compensation’ factor is a matter of purely academic psychological interest and unnecessary in the investigation into a spiritual aspirant’s inner movement and development. This is not so. This analysis has a definite bearing upon and significance to the Sadhaka. For this desire of ‘compensation’ and the consequent aggressiveness arises from the fact that the aspirant has not turned away from his old allegiance to his lower egoistic self. He is still identified with it. He wants to keep up its prestige. Hence the urge towards compensation as a face-saving device. This is unbecoming to an aspirant who is expected to willingly place himself in the hands of the higher Sattivika part in him right from the moment he enters the spiritual path. He has failed to subjugate his Asuric ego to the distastes of his higher mind. As an alternative he should at least surrender himself to his Guru. This too he has not done. Also, besides this, he has totally neglected even the fundamentals of the path. The prime qualifications of Yama and Niyama provide these. If he had tried to develop humility, this aggressive compensation will never be necessitated. The fault would be readily accepted and the lesson learnt. Neither having the humility nor the intellectual honesty to admit one’s own error, he adopts this pervert method. Now it will he clear how this analysis of ‘compensation’ though purely psychological yet throws much light upon the inner neglect and defect in the very build-up of his spiritual life. It reveals the lack of the very elements of ethics in him. Ethics is the very basis of spiritual life. Therefore, in handling such cases, much tact, delicacy and understanding insight become necessary. How to deal exactly with them is a very difficult matter and depends to a great extent upon the peculiar circumstances and the particular person concerned.
Here a doubt will be raised as to how can this method be erroneous? Is it not stated that if you withdraw the fuel, the fire will die down by itself and are not the sense-objects and their enjoyment the fuel for the fire of the senses? Yes, true. If the senses are the ‘fire’, then the objects may be called the fuel. A little careful reflection will show that actually the senses are not the real ‘fire’. The above analogy has to be pushed one more step inward into the next circle of the being’s five-circled field of individualised consciousness. The outer orgy and vulgar whirling of the senses amidst objects is in fact analogous to the crackling and the heat generated by the inner fire. The real fire is actually the intense irritation and restlessness of the subtle Jnanendraiyas whose heat, blaze and crackle are manifested as the rampaging of the Karmendriyas in the field of sense-objects. It is the Jnanendriyas that derive satisfaction from the indulgence. The actual enjoyment of taste is not done by the boneless piece of flesh inside the mouth, nor does the rough and criss-crossed skin of the palm experience the pleasurable feeling of sensuous fleshy contacts. The tongue does not taste. It conveys the taste. Likewise the external dermis just conveys contactual feelings.
The Jnanendriyas constitute the ‘fire’ and these are fed by the fuel of memory (of previous enjoyments), imagination, brooding and deliberate dwelling, mentally, upon tastes, pleasurable sensations and the attractive nature of sense-objects, and constant hoping and a keen, eager expectation and anticipation. All these constitute the fuel. The supply of this fuel is to be put an end to by strictly restricting the extent and nature of past memory, checking all imagination, resolutely stopping all mental indulgence or dwelling, and readily giving up hoping, anticipation and expectation. This is the reason for the advice ‘Forget the past, give up planning for the future, live in the solid present’. This is again the basis of the declaration that real Tyaga lies in the renunciation of Sankalpa-Vikalpa. This is precisely why you are told that mind-control is world-control.
The above control of the mental Vikaras is to be achieved more through positive non-violent methods than by the negative auto-violent process of forcible repression. Establishing of harmony and inner rhythm (as opposed to agitation) through Asanas and Sattvika diet, thinning the mind by Pranayama, diverting the imagination into higher and nobler supersensual channels by regular Svadhyaya (study Of scriptures and spiritual books) and Sravana, the practice of dwelling upon a definite Lakshya, are some of the important methods to be actively employed by every earnest aspirant to succeed in self-restraint.
You must set up a guard over the mind. There must be continuous discrimination and firm checking. Vichara and ready ‘Nirodha’ should never be stopped. Man is usually lazy and unwilling to take up the important task. Moreover vanity also is at the back of this reluctance to employ this inner method of restraint. Because this is purely a subjective, inner training. It does not get advertised and acquires no publicity. Whereas physical austerity and forcible methods appear heroic for all to see and admire. This vanity is very subtle and not realised easily. But, however, moral indolence and lethargy is the main cause, coupled with the luke-warm nature of the Sadhaka’s aspiration. If you are truly eager for progress you will make sincere attempts at practising this real mental control. You must shake off all mental indolence and cooperate willingly with the higher mind in its task of non-cooperation with the sensuous self. Without doing this you fail miserably in your auto-violent methods and blame other sundry factors and persons or turn totally averse and heedless to spiritual practices and progress. This is a great blunder and also you will be the greatest loser thereby.
In concluding this topic there is one point to be taken note of. It may be asked, is there absolutely no virtue in or no use of controlling the external senses at all? Surely there is. It is quite necessary to control them also. But its implications and limitations have to be properly grasped and understood first. A fetish is not to be made of it. Done with common-sense, it becomes a helpful training. As modes of Titiksha such tussle with the senses is to be recommended. An occasional total downright ‘knock-out’ of one or more of the senses is quite all right. As for instances a complete waterless fast and all-night vigil once in a month or even twice on Ekadasi days are indeed most helpful. But then it is to be known in its true light, i.e., as a method and not as the ultimate objective. Also, mistake should not be made of considering it as the one and only method in Yoga. Its place in the spiritual path is one among the various methods in attaining self-mastery. As an auxilliary means of getting established in the inner process of true self-control, it is necessary. As a method of developing Titiksha, it is admirable. Doubtless, it has its utility, and equally also it has its limitations, and when foolishly carried to irrational extremes, definitely it has its dangers. It turns into a harmful auto-violent process, that at times permanently breaks down the practitioner’s capacity for Sadhana. Then its logic would be as bad as that of a man who, wishing to arrest the rapid swelling-up of a toy rubber balloon, grasps it with both hands and forcibly squeezes and presses it inward. The result will not be difficult to guess. The correct procedure will be to arrest the inflow of air being pumped in by the inflater. This latter technique of control is precisely what is achieved when you set about to subdue and restrain the jnanendriyas by checking and arresting all the thoughts, memories, imaginations, hankerings and sensuous anticipations that influence the Jnanendriyas into a blaze of irresistible desire and fierce passion.
External sense-restraint is an important and effective instrument for the acquisition of a prize. But by itself, it is not the prize. It is a sharp instrument, and any improper use of it will hurt the user. Understand its proper place in Sadhana and become wise. Make use of it in the proper way and master the mind. You will be successful. You will be crowned with glory.