Mastering the Mind and Senses
yogaṁ taṁ viddhi pāṇḍava
na hy asannyasta-saṅkalpo
yogī bhavati kaścana
“What is called renunciation you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, O son of Pāṇḍu, for one can never become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.2)
This is the real purpose of the practice of yoga. The word yoga means “to join.” Although we are naturally part and parcel of the Supreme, in our conditioned state we are now separated. Because of our separation, we are reluctant to understand God and to speak of our relationship with Him and are even inclined to think of such discussion as a waste of time. In a church or in a Kṛṣṇa consciousness temple, we speak of God, but people in general are not very interested. They think it is a waste of time, a kind of recreation in the name of spiritual advancement, and they believe that this time could be better used to earn money or enjoy themselves in a nightclub or restaurant.
Therefore, it is due to sense enjoyment that we are not attracted to God, and therefore it is said that those who are addicted to sense enjoyment cannot become yogis – that is, they are not eligible to participate in the yoga system. One cannot advance in any yoga system if he partakes in sense gratification and then sits down to try to meditate. This is just a colossal hoax. Such contradictory activity has no meaning. First of all, yoga means controlling the senses – yama-niyama. There are eight stages of yoga – yama, niyama, āsana, dhyāna, dhāraṇā, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, and samādhi.
In this sixth chapter, in which the Lord speaks of the sāṅkhya-yoga system, He states from the very beginning that one cannot become a yogi unless one renounces the desire for sense gratification. Therefore, if one indulges his senses, he cannot be accepted as a yogi. Yoga demands strict celibacy. In the yoga system, there is no sex life. If one indulges in sex, he cannot be a yogi. Many so-called yogis come from India to America and say, “Yes, you can do whatever you like. You can have as much sex as you like. Just meditate. I will give you some mantra, and you will give me some money.” This is all nonsense. According to the authoritative statements of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one cannot become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification. This is explicitly stated as the first condition for yoga practice.
karma kāraṇam ucyate
śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate
“For one who is a neophyte in the eightfold yoga system, work is said to be the means; and for one who has already attained to yoga, cessation of all material activities is said to be the means.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.3) According to this verse, there are those who are attempting to reach the perfectional stage and those who have already attained that stage. As long as one is not situated on the perfectional platform, he must engage in so many works. In the West, there are many yoga societies attempting to practice the asana system, and therefore they practice sitting in different postures. That may help, but it is only a preliminary process on the path to attaining the real yoga platform. The real yoga system, in its perfectional stage, is far different from these bodily gymnastics.
It is important to understand, however, that from the beginning, a Kṛṣṇa conscious person is situated on the platform of meditation because he is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa. Being constantly engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, he is considered to have ceased all material activities.
na karmasv anuṣajjate
“A person is said to be elevated in yoga when, having renounced all material desires, he neither acts for sense gratification nor engages in fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.4)
This is actually the perfectional stage of yoga, and one who has attained this stage is said to have attained to yoga. This is to say that he has connected, joined, or linked himself with the supreme whole. If a part is disconnected from a machine, it serves no function, but as soon as it is properly attached to the machine, it works properly and carries out its different functions. That is the meaning of yoga – joining with the supreme whole, serving in conjunction with the total machine. Presently we are disconnected, and our material fruitive activities are simply a waste of time. One who engages in such activity is described in the Bhagavad-gītā as a mūḍha – that is, a rascal. Although one may earn thousands of dollars daily and be an important businessman, he is described in the Bhagavad-gītā as a mūḍha, rascal, because he is just wasting his time in eating, sleeping, defending, and mating.
People do not stop to consider that they are actually working very hard for nothing. One who earns millions of dollars cannot really eat much more than a man who makes ten dollars. A man who earns millions of dollars cannot mate with millions of women. That is not within his power. His mating power is the same as one who earns ten dollars, just as his power of eating is the same. This is to say that our power of enjoyment is limited. One should therefore think, “My enjoyment is the same as that of the man who is earning ten dollars daily. So why am I working so hard to earn millions of dollars? Why am I wasting my energy? I should engage my time and energy in understanding God. That is the purpose of life.” If one has no economic problems, he has sufficient time to understand Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If he wastes this precious time, he is called a mūḍha, a rascal or an ass.
According to the preceding verse, a person is said to have attained yoga when he has renounced all material desires. Once we are situated perfectly in yoga, we are satisfied. We no longer experience material desires. We no longer act for sense gratification or engage in fruitive activity. When we speak of “fruitive activity,” we refer to activities carried out for the purpose of sense gratification. That is, we are earning money in order to gratify our senses. If one is virtuous, he engages in pious activities – he donates money to charities, opens hospitals, schools, etc. Although these are certainly virtuous activities, they are ultimately meant for sense gratification. How is this? If I donate to an educational institution, for instance, I will receive good educational facilities and will become highly educated in my next life. Being thus educated, I will attain a good position and will acquire a good amount of money. Then how will I utilize this money? For sense gratification. Thus these virtuous and fruitive activities form a kind of cycle.
We often hear the expression “a better standard of life,” but what does this mean? It is said that the standard of life in America is superior to that in India, but in both countries there is eating, sleeping, defending, and mating. Of course, in America the quality of food may be better, but the eating process is there. A superior standard of life does not mean superior spiritual realization. It just means better eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. This is called fruitive activity, and it is based on sense gratification.
Yoga has nothing to do with sense gratification or fruitive activity. Yoga means connecting with the Supreme. Dhruva Mahārāja underwent severe austerities in order to see God, and when he finally saw God, he said, svāmin kṛtārtho ’smi varaṁ na yāce: “My dear Lord, I am now fully satisfied. I am not asking for anything more. I do not want any further benediction from You.” Why didn’t Dhruva Mahārāja ask for benedictions? What is a “benediction”? Generally, benediction means receiving a great kingdom, a beautiful wife, palatable food, and so forth, but when one is actually connected with God, he does not want such “benedictions.” He is fully satisfied. Svāmin kṛtārtho ’smi varaṁ na yāce.
Actually, Dhruva Mahārāja initially searched for God in order to attain his father’s kingdom. Dhruva Mahārāja’s mother was rejected by his father, and his stepmother resented his sitting on his father’s lap. Indeed, she forbade him to sit on his father’s lap because Dhruva Mahārāja was not born from her womb. Although only five years old, Dhruva Mahārāja was a kṣatriya, and he took this as a great insult. Going to his own mother, he said, “Mother, my stepmother has insulted me by forbidding me to sit on my father’s lap.” Dhruva Mahārāja then started to cry, and his mother said, “My dear boy, what can I do? Your father loves your stepmother more than he loves me. I can do nothing.” Dhruva Mahārāja then said, “But I want my father’s kingdom. Tell me how I can get it.” “My dear boy,” his mother said, “if Kṛṣṇa, God, blesses you, you can get it.” “Where is God?” Dhruva Mahārāja asked. “Oh, it is said that God is in the forest,” his mother said. “Great sages go to the forest to search for God.”
Hearing this, Dhruva Mahārāja went directly to the forest and began to perform severe penances. Finally he saw God, and when he saw Him, he no longer desired his father’s kingdom. Instead, he said, “My dear Lord, I was searching for some pebbles, but instead I have found valuable jewels. I no longer care for my father’s kingdom. Now I am fully satisfied.” When one is actually connected with God, he is totally satisfied. His satisfaction is infinitely greater than so-called enjoyment in this material world. That is the satisfaction resulting from God realization, and that is the perfection of yoga.
When a person is fully engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, he is pleased in himself, and thus he is no longer engaged in sense gratification or in fruitive activities. Otherwise, one must be engaged in sense gratification, since one cannot live without engagement. It is impossible to cease all activity. As stated before, it is our nature as living entities to act. It is said, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” If we have no Kṛṣṇa conscious engagement, we will engage in sense gratification or fruitive activity. If a child is not trained or educated, he becomes spoiled. If one does not practice the yoga system, if he does not attempt to control his senses by the yoga process, he will engage his senses in their own gratification. When one is gratifying his senses, there is no question of practicing yoga.
Without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one must be always seeking self-centered or extended selfish activities. But a Kṛṣṇa conscious person can do everything for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa and thereby be perfectly detached from sense gratification. One who has not realized Kṛṣṇa must mechanically try to escape material desires before being elevated to the top rung of the yoga ladder.
One may compare the yoga system to a stepladder. One yogi may be situated on the fifth step, another yogi may be on the fiftieth step and yet another on the five-hundredth step. The purpose, of course, is to reach the top. Although the entire ladder may be called the yoga system, one who is on the fifth step is not equal to one who is higher up. In the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa delineates a number of yoga systems – karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, dhyāna-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. All of these systems are connected with God, Kṛṣṇa, just as the entire ladder is connected to the topmost floor. This is not to say that everyone practicing the yoga system is situated on the topmost floor; only he who is in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so situated. Others are situated on different steps of the yogic ladder.
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Bhagavad-gītā 6.5) The word ātmā denotes body, mind, and soul – depending on different circumstances. In the yoga system, the mind and the conditioned soul are especially important. Since the mind is the central point of yoga practice, ātmā refers here to the mind. The purpose of the yoga system is to control the mind and to draw it away from attachment to sense objects. It is stressed herein that the mind must be so trained that it can deliver the conditioned soul from the mire of nescience.
In the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system, these eightfold yogas – dhyāna, dhāraṇā, etc. – are meant to control the mind. Śrī Kṛṣṇa explicitly states that a man must utilize his mind to elevate himself. Unless one can control the mind, there is no question of elevation. The body is like a chariot, and the mind is the driver. If you tell your driver, “Please take me to the Kṛṣṇa temple,” the driver will take you there, but if you tell him, “Please take me to that liquor house,” you will go there. It is the driver’s business to take you wherever you like. If you can control the driver, he will take you where you should go, but if not, he will ultimately take you wherever he likes. If you have no control over your driver, your driver is your enemy, but if he acts according to your orders, he is your friend.
The yoga system is meant to control the mind in such a way that the mind will act as your friend. Sometimes the mind acts as a friend and sometimes as an enemy. Because we are part and parcel of the Supreme, who has infinite independence, we have minute, or finite, independence. It is the mind that is controlling that independence, and therefore he may either take us to the Kṛṣṇa temple or to some nightclub.
It is the purpose of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to fix the mind on Kṛṣṇa. When the mind is so fixed, he cannot do anything but act as our friend. He has no scope to act any other way. As soon as Kṛṣṇa is seated in the mind, there is light, just as when the sun is in the sky, darkness is vanquished. Kṛṣṇa is just like the sun, and when He is present, there is no scope for darkness. If we keep Kṛṣṇa on our mind, the darkness of māyā will never be able to enter. Keeping the mind fixed on Kṛṣṇa is the perfection of yoga. If the mind is strongly fixed on the Supreme, it will not allow any nonsense to enter, and there will be no falldown. If the mind is strong, the driver is strong, and we may go wherever we may desire. The entire yoga system is meant to make the mind strong, to make it incapable of deviating from the Supreme.
Sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayoḥ. One should fix his mind on Kṛṣṇa, just as Ambarīṣa Mahārāja did when he had a fight with a great aṣṭāṅga-yogī named Durvāsā Muni. Since Ambarīṣa Mahārāja was a householder, he was a pounds-shillings man. This means that he had to take into account pounds, shillings, and sixpence, or dollars and cents. Apart from being a householder, Mahārāja Ambarīṣa was also a great king and devotee. Durvāsā Muni was a great yogi who happened to be very envious of Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. Durvāsā Muni was thinking, “I am a great yogi, and I can travel in space. This man is an ordinary king, and he does not possess such yogic powers. Still, people pay him more honor. Why is this? I will teach him a good lesson.” Durvāsā Muni then proceeded to pick a quarrel with Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, but because the king was always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, he managed to defeat this great yogi. Durvāsā Muni was consequently directed by Nārāyaṇa to take shelter at the feet of Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. Durvāsā Muni was such a perfect yogi that within a year he could travel throughout the material universe and also penetrate the spiritual universe. Indeed, he went directly to the abode of God, Vaikuṇṭha, and saw the Personality of Godhead Himself. Yet Durvāsā Muni was so weak that he had to return to earth and fall at the feet of Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa was an ordinary king, but his one great qualification was that he was always thinking of Kṛṣṇa. Thus his mind was always controlled, and he was situated at the highest perfectional level of yoga. We also can very easily control the mind by keeping it fixed on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa within. Simply by thinking of Kṛṣṇa, we become victorious conquerors, topmost yogis.
Yoga indriya-saṁyamaḥ. The yoga system is meant to control the senses, and since the mind is above the senses, if we can control the mind, our senses are automatically controlled. The tongue may want to eat something improper, but if the mind is strong, it can say, “No. You cannot eat this. You can only eat kṛṣṇa-prasāda.” In this way the tongue, as well as all the other senses, can be controlled by the mind. Indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ. The material body consists of the senses, and consequently the body’s activities are sensual activities. However, above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the spirit soul. If one is on the spiritual platform, his intelligence, mind, and senses are all spiritualized. The purpose of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness process is to actualize the spiritualization of senses, mind, and intelligence. The spirit soul is superior to all, but because he is sleeping, he has given power of attorney to the fickle mind. However, when the soul is awakened, he is once again master, and the servile mind cannot act improperly. Once we are awakened in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the intelligence, mind, and senses cannot act nonsensically. They must act in accordance with the dictations of the spirit soul. That is spiritualization and purification. Hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate. We must serve the master of the senses with the senses. The Supreme Lord is called Hṛṣīkeśa, which means that He is the original controller of the senses, just as a king is the original controller of all the activities of a state, and the citizens are secondary controllers.
Bhakti means acting spiritually in accordance with the desires of Hṛṣīkeśa. How can we act? Since we must act with our senses, we must spiritualize our senses in order to act properly. As stated before, sitting in silent meditation means stopping undesirable activity, but acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is transcendental. The cessation of nonsensical action is not in itself perfection. We must act perfectly. Unless we train our senses to act in accordance with Hṛṣīkeśa, the master of the senses, our senses will again engage in undesirable activities, and we will fall down. Therefore we must engage the senses in action for Kṛṣṇa and in this way remain firmly fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and the senses. In fact, the pure soul is entangled in the material world because of the mind’s ego, which desires to lord it over material nature. Therefore the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved. One should not degrade oneself by attraction to sense objects. The more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence. The best way to disentangle oneself is to always engage the mind in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The word hi in verse 5, chapter 6 of the Bhagavad-gītā is used to emphasize this point – namely, that one must do this. It is also said,
muktyai nirviṣayaṁ manaḥ
“For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from the sense objects is the cause of liberation.” (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.7.28) The mind which is always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the cause of supreme liberation. When the mind is thus engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there is no chance of its being engaged in māyā consciousness. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we remain in the sunlight, and there is no chance of our being obscured by darkness.
Because we have freedom, or liberty, we can stay within a dark room or go out into the broad daylight. That is our choice. Darkness can be eradicated by light, but light cannot be covered by darkness. If we are in a dark room and someone brings in a lamp, the darkness is vanquished. But we cannot take darkness into the sunlight. It is not possible. The darkness will simply fade away. Kṛṣṇa sūrya-sama māyā haya andhakāra. Kṛṣṇa is like sunlight and māyā is like darkness. So how can darkness exist in sunlight? If we always keep ourselves in the sunlight, darkness will fail to act upon us. This is the whole philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness: always engage in Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, and māyā will be dissipated, just as darkness is dissipated when there is light. This is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.4):
samyak praṇihite ’male
apaśyat puruṣaṁ pūrṇaṁ
māyāṁ ca tad-apāśrayam
“When the sage Vyāsadeva, under the instruction of his spiritual master, Nārada, fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service (bhakti-yoga) without any tinge of materialism, Vyāsadeva saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead, along with His external energy, which was under full control.”
The word manasi refers to the mind. When one is enlightened in bhakti-yoga, the mind becomes completely freed from all contamination (samyak praṇihite ’male). When Vyāsa saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he saw māyā in the background (māyāṁ ca tad-apāśrayam). Whenever there is light, there is also the possibility of darkness being present. That is, darkness is the other side of light, or darkness is under the shelter of light; just as if I hold my hand up to the light, the top part of my hand will be in light, and the bottom part will be shaded. In other words, one side is light and the other darkness. When Vyāsadeva saw Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, he also saw māyā, darkness, under His shelter.
And what is this māyā? This is explained in the next verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.5):
paro ’pi manute ’narthaṁ
“Due to the external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.” Thus the illusory energy has temporarily covered the conditioned souls. And who are these conditioned souls? Although finite, the conditioned spirit souls are as full of light as Kṛṣṇa. The problem is that the conditioned soul identifies himself with this material world. This is called illusion, false identification with matter. Although the individual spirit soul is transcendental, he engages in improper activities under the dictation of māyā, and this brings about his conditioning or false identification. This is very elaborately explained in the seventh chapter, First Canto, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
In conclusion, our actual position is that of spiritual sparks, full of light. Now we are temporarily covered by this illusory energy, māyā, which is dictating to us. Acting under the influence of māyā, we are becoming more and more entangled in the material energy. The yoga system is meant to disentangle us, and the perfection of yoga is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the most effective means by which we can disentangle ourselves from the influence of the material energy.