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Chapter 17:


Master your Senses and the Whole World will be Yours


Whatever you seek, wherever you look... whether you look for it here on earth or in the heavens or in the nether world... all that you will ever find are the five elements, and only the five elements. In all the worlds there is nothing else. Whatever you have ever desired, whatever you have ever used, whatever you have ever lost, all these myriad of things are but varying expressions of the same five elements.


Embodiments of Love,


Everything in the universe, everything that has ever been created, everything that will ever be conceived of, is made up of the gross or subtle aspects of the five elements, namely, space, air, fire, water and earth. These countless variations of the five elements have been and are forever changing with time. They are all temporary, endlessly cycling from one name and form to another.


The Transitory Nature of All Things


The flower which has blossomed today will be dried up tomorrow and it will be decomposed a few days later. Food that has been cooked today will be spoiled tomorrow and becomes poisonous the following day. Once it has become spoiled you cannot get the fresh food back. The beautiful form of today will have turned ugly by tomorrow. Even atoms making up the matter in the moon may in time end up here on earth, and atoms making up matter here on earth may go to the moon. Every seven years all the atoms which constitute the human body undergo a total change. It would be foolish indeed for you to think that the body and the sense organs which are made up of the five elements are permanent, or that any object made up of these elements has any lasting value. Only the senses will be hankering after such external, transitory things.


The Gita has shown that this impermanent complex of five elements which we call the body, mind and senses, consists of 24 principles. It is made up of the five gross sense organs, the ears, the skin, the eyes, the tongue and the nose. These reach out to the sense objects through the subtle sense organs, comprising sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. These gross and subtle senses are inextricably related. Without the subtle the gross cannot not function. For example, you may have eyes but no sight, you may have ears but no hearing, you may have a tongue but no taste.


The 24 Impermanent Principles


In addition to the gross and subtle senses there are also the five life energies which vitalize all bodily functions. One of these is related to breathing, another to elimination, a third to circulation, the fourth to digestion and the fifth to the upward flow which energizes the higher centers. Besides the 15 principles enumerated above, there are the four faculties comprising the 'the inner instrument'. This inner instrument is made up of all the different aspects of what we know as 'mind'. It consists of the thinking faculty which analyzes and reacts; the intuitive faculty, also known as buddhi, which knows the deeper purpose of life and discriminates between the real and the unreal; the subjective individual expression or ego self which is associated with the personality; and the reservoir of feelings and memory wherein the effects of past actions are stored.


All of the foregoing are contained within the five sheaths. These sheaths can be thought of as various bodies interpenetrating one another in a successively more subtle way, each one finer than the previous one. The grossest sheath is the food sheath which comprises the physical body. It is made up of physical matter. Next, the first of the subtle, intangible sheaths, is the vital sheath. It relates to the life breath and physical energy. Then there is the mind sheath which relates to the lower mind. The fourth sheath is the intellectual sheath. It is associated with the higher mind wherein the buddhi, the intuitive, discriminating faculty, is contained. These last-mentioned three sheaths, the vital, the mind, and the intellectual, all make up the subtle body of man. Finally, there is the bliss sheath, the subtlest of all the bodies. It is known as the causal body. It is beyond all aspects of mind. It is the source of all mind stuff. Within it, only a thin veil of ignorance remains to hide the true self, which is pure bliss.


The Immortal Self - Beyond the Ephemeral Individual


Together these 24 principles comprise the individual being. The wisdom teachings deal with these various principles. Their purpose is to help you realize the one transcendent principle which is beyond all these. That is the atma. It is the immortal self, the one reality that underlies all these bodily principles, but which is in no way affected by them. It is true and unchanging, whereas these 24 are just manifestations of ignorance, constantly undergoing change. Together these 24 principles constitute the illusion which makes you appear as a separate being. If you go on spending your life depending only on these changing qualities, how will you ever be able to attain the eternal bliss which is your true nature, and which is not in any way influenced by these transitory things?


The joys that you experience through your sense organs, that seem so delightful in the moment, are likely to give you sorrow later on. Such joys come and go; they are not permanent. Krishna strongly emphasized that you should not believe in these sense organs and be led astray by them. However educated you may be, whatever office you may hold, whatever position you may have, unless you gain control over your senses you will not be able to gain peace of mind. Inner peace can be obtained only by controlling the sense organs. Perhaps you think that controlling the sense organs is too difficult for you to undertake, but in the Gita, Krishna taught a number of different ways which can help you succeed in mastering them.


The Noble and the Ignoble


Krishna said in the Gita that there are two types of people, the noble ones and the ignoble ones. The noble ones are those who follow the right path, the sacred path. They seek the company of great people and practice their teachings. As a result, they experience the great spiritual truths and enjoy the inner life of the spirit. Opposed to them are those who are full of unsacred thoughts and have impure hearts, who are under the spell of ignorance and live an unrighteous life. Their evil behavior can be said to be the direct opposite of the exemplary behavior of the noble ones, just as darkness is the opposite of light. Therefore, we can describe these two categories as that of gods and demons, or beings of light and beings of darkness. Krishna said, "Arjuna, I thought up to now that you were noble, that you were a true knight, but I see that you are entering the wrong path. You are getting steeped in darkness. You are following unsacredness. It would be wrong to call you noble. You are proving yourself to be otherwise."


Krishna gave Arjuna various such admonishments in order to encourage him to make a heroic effort to manifest the qualities of true nobility. He told him, "The primary cause of your present grief is your attachment, and the basis for your attachment is ignorance. It is out of ignorance that you allow your senses to govern your actions. If you want to free yourself from attachment and sorrow then you must control your senses. You have to clearly understand the nature of the senses. In the journey of life these sense organs are important; they are like the horses of your chariot which can take you to your goal. But only when you have full control over these horses will the chariot and the person riding in it be safe. If you leave them uncontrolled it is inevitable that the chariot and its occupant will come to grief. Therefore, if you want to reach the goal safely you must take charge of these horses. In other words, you must assert absolute control over your sense organs."


The Nature of the Sense Organs


When Krishna spoke of the sense organs he mentioned that they have the capacity to measure. For example, the tongue determines the taste of foods, deciding whether a thing is sweet or bitter. It does this by measuring the relative sweetness and bitterness of the food. Similarly, the ears determine whether some music is melodious or not and the eyes discern the beauty of objects seen. In this way, all the senses measure different qualities. Krishna also spoke of certain limitations of the sense organs, as ordained by God to insure their right use. For example, you can use the nose for smelling and for breathing. If you use the nose correctly, you are obeying the commands of the Lord and will surely benefit thereby. If, instead of using the nose for breathing and smelling good things, you use the nose to inhale noxious drugs, then you are not using it in the way specified by God.


As for the tongue, you have the Lord's gentle reminder, "Child, use this tongue to talk sweetly and not to hurt others' hearts. Use words which give them joy." The other function of the tongue must also be attended to. Use your tongue to take in fresh, wholesome food which is full of vitamins and proteins. On the other hand, if you use your tongue and sense of taste for smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol you will be misusing the tongue. Then you will be disobeying the commands of the Lord and you will come to harm. In this way, you should use all of the sense organs for the specific tasks which have been assigned to them by God. Then you will be fulfilling the purpose for which each instrument has been given. This kind of regulated behavior will help you to achieve your life's goal.


As a result of the functioning of the senses, you may experience joy or grief. This joy or grief that you feel does not come from the senses themselves. It is only after the senses have come into contact with the sense objects that you will experience these feelings. For instance, suppose you are on a protracted visit to a friend in a neighboring town, and while you are away something happened in your home. No matter what happened, whether good or bad, you would experience neither happiness nor grief, joy nor sorrow, as long as your ears had not heard the news. But once you get a phone call and came to know what happened at home, if the news is good you would feel joy and if the news is bad you would feel sorrow. It is only after the senses became associated with the sense objects that the joy or grief would have come to you.


Those Bound by the Senses are Destroyed by the Senses


There are a vast number of sense objects in the world, but you should see to it that your senses do not come into contact with too many of these. They are all impermanent things. By becoming captivated with small things your whole life becomes small and impure. You can see this in a number of living beings which are victims of one or two senses. For example, when a deer hears some melodious music, it becomes fascinated by it and can easily be captured. Therefore, a deer is bound by sound. A huge elephant can be controlled through the sense of touch and therefore becomes bound by touch. In this way a number of animals can be bound and controlled through different sense organs. Take for example a moth. When it sees light it gets strongly attracted to it; it becomes bound by the light and may be destroyed by it. In a similar way, a fish will swallow the bait and gets caught because it is bound by taste. And a bee will enter a flower and be bound by the power of smell; there it can get trapped for the night when the flower closes its petals.


Each one of these beings is bound by one of the sense organs; but man is bound by all five of them and, therefore, he is even more vulnerable than all these animals. Here is a small story:


Once upon a time a great sage undertook a tour of the country. He considered each one of the five elements as his teacher. Once he happened to go to the shore of the ocean; he was enjoying the waves and the various aspects of the ocean. As he was watching, along came a wave and brought some debris to the shore. He noticed that the moment any dross fell into the ocean the waves came and pushed it back out. The sage thought to himself, 'Why should the ocean which is so deep and vast find it necessary to throw out this little bit of filth? Could it not allow even such a small impurity to remain with it?' Then he went into meditation. In that meditation he understood that if the ocean were to allow any impurities to stay in its waters, these impurities would accumulate day by day and, in time, cover the whole ocean and pollute it. He decided that the ocean must have resolved not to allow any debris or impurity to come into it from the very beginning; in that way it had been able to remain clean and pure.


In the same way, right from the start, you should see to it that impure thoughts and ideas do not enter your mind, even in a small way. Not even the minutest impurity should be allowed to enter your heart. Before such an impurity can establish a foothold, you must immediately throw it out. If you give room to it, thinking that after all it is only a very insignificant thing and it cannot really harm you, then it will start growing in the heart. Therefore, if you understand the functioning of the senses and learn to limit them to the right use for which they were intended, then you will be able to benefit from them and not be disturbed by them. If instead, you allow the senses to rule you and bind you, neither joy nor peace of mind will be yours. Here is another small story to illustrate this.


The King Who Was Ruled By His Five Wives


Once there was a great king who had five wives. But his wives never listened to him. He might have been a king to everyone else, but he was not lord over his own wives. And so he was suffering very much. He had a crown on his head, but inside his head there were only worries. 'I have become a slave of these wives and I am suffering very much,' he thought. 'Is there anyone in the world who is not afraid of his wife? If there is such a one, how does he control her? How does he manage not to be dominated by her?' To inquire into this directly by asking individual citizens would not have been considered proper, so he decided to hold a public meeting and invite all his male subjects to attend. There were two stadium-sized tents put up at the meeting-ground. One was erected on one side of the field, the other was put up on the other side.


The king announced that the first tent was meant for people who had controlled their wives, and the second one was meant for people who were controlled by their wives. All the male citizens of that country started pouring into the capital; they all went straight into the second tent. The king went there and found that this huge tent, the one that was intended for those who were controlled by their wives, was filled to capacity. He got a little courage from this for he realized that he was not the only one controlled by his wives. But before beginning the meeting he saw one lone person waiting in the first tent which was meant for those who had control over their wives. That mammoth tent was totally empty except for this one man. The king was overjoyed to see him there. He went to him and told him how glad he was to see that at least one person in his kingdom had gained control over his wife.


The king questioned him, "Tell me, good man, what is your secret in controlling your wife?" The man, trembling with fear, replied, "No sir! No sir! That is not how it is. I cannot control her. It is I who am being completely controlled by her." The king said, "Then why did you come into this tent?!!" With his knees shaking and stammering his words, the man replied, "My wife ordered me to come into this tent. She forbid me to go into the other. That is why I am here. My wife ordered me not to go inside the tent where the slaves of their wives are staying. She made me go into this one." The king got very irritated with the man and commanded him, "You must leave here immediately! Under no condition can you remain in this tent! Go and join the others in the second tent!" The citizen turned white with fear; the blood rushed out of his face. He got down on his knees and implored the king with his hands folded in supplication, "My lord, please listen to me! You may punish me. You may do anything you wish to me. But I am terrified of disobeying my wife. Please! Don't make me go to the other tent!" The king then realized that there were no people anywhere in his kingdom who were not slaves of their wives.


The Mind with its Five Wives, the Senses


This king is the mind, and he is never able to satisfy all his wives, namely, the senses. The eye demands, "Take me to a place where only the most beautiful sights are to be seen." The tongue demands that only the tastiest of foods be supplied to it. The ear commands that the most melodious sounds be played for it. The skin desires to feel only materials which are the most pleasing to touch. And the nose wants to smell the very best perfumes in the world. Who can satisfy all these desires of the senses? There is no coordination and cooperation among them. If you yield to the sense organs, they are going to give you a lot of trouble. Right from the beginning you must find a way to bring them under absolute control. Then you will have accomplished something truly worthwhile. The real hero in this world is the one who has managed to completely control his senses.


When the senses make their demands do not listen to them. Instead, turn your mind towards the higher intellect. Let it decide what is to be done. Then, the lower mind will follow and, in turn, give its commands to the senses. This way, the senses will have to obey. That is the proper way to curb the senses. A person who bases his life on his lower mind and senses will come to ruin and become worse than an animal. The wise one bases his life on his higher mind, which is his intellect, his power of discrimination and discernment and intuition. One who follows his higher mind becomes the most excellent of human beings. If you base your life on your higher mind, your buddhi, it will take you straight to the final goal. But if you base your life only on the lower mind and the senses, then every moment new changes will come about. It will become difficult to predict what will happen to you and where you will land. It is something like crossing a raging river or a storm-tossed ocean in a small boat. You do not know when your little boat will get flooded and when disaster will overtake you.


Being Ever Vigilant in Controlling the Senses


There was a great saint in ancient India. He was an extremely virtuous person; a truly wise man. He had complete control over his senses. One day it became known that his end would come soon. All his disciples assembled there and gathered around his bed. He was suffering from intense pain in the throat. He made heroic efforts to transcend the pain. He seemed to want to say something, but he could not speak. The disciples were very eager to find out what message their master was trying to give them during his last moments on earth. The disciples tried to help him in every way and implored him, "Swami you want to tell us something. We are eager to hear your message."


Summoning his last bit of energy, the sage found his voice and said, "My dear children, I have been followed all this time by maya, the power of illusion. Illusion told me, 'Everyone else has become my slave, no one has succeeded in becoming free of me, except you. You have been able to completely control your sense organs and, thereby, you have been able to conquer me.' Then I replied, 'Maya, I may have conquered you up to now, but you know and I know that I have not fully conquered you yet. There is still a little life left, and a few breaths are still to come. Until my very last breath has been taken, I will not relax until I have conquered you totally.' My dear children, until now I have been able to control the senses and conquer maya, but I do not know whether I will continue to succeed until my last breath. During these last few moments, in order to free myself from maya, I have been thinking only of God and praying to him with all my heart." Then he fell silent, and thus he consummated his life.


As this story shows, you must be careful until the very last breath of your life not to yield to the sense organs. To realize the immortal self you must control the outgoing senses. Therefore, sense-control is an integral part of the path of wisdom, as taught by Krishna. Once you gain full control of the senses, you will easily be able to master the spiritual path.


In the beginning you may be subjected to a certain amount of difficulty. When you learn to drive, you first have to go to an open field and practice there. It is only after you have learned to control the car and have mastered the art of driving that you can take the car onto the main thoroughfares and the narrow streets of the city. If you try driving in city traffic before that, it will not only be difficult for you but also dangerous. Similarly, once you have mastered the senses and are unaffected by the allurements of the world, then you can face any situation without concern or problems.


Victory Over the Senses Through Self-Inquiry


To master the senses you should develop a broad view. Enter into the spirit of inquiry and find out who is the true self and who is the false self. After developing this discriminating power you can safely move in the world while continuing to keep your sight steadily on the goal.


The wavering senses can never give you permanent joy. Only when you gain the knowledge of the true self, the immortal self, will you experience true joy. All other knowledge and education will only help you to eke out a livelihood. Knowledge of the self alone is true education. With that you will be able to enjoy the unity of all existence. Once you identify yourselves with the divinity that is in everything then there can be no further clashes arising from any sense of difference. When you experience everything as God and see the whole world as God, then even the practice of discrimination falls away. Once everything is seen as one then there is no further need for discrimination.


As Baba has mentioned before, the senses can be very dangerous; they can be like horses running wild. If you do not use the reins to control them, they will run away with the chariot and go wherever they like. Rein the senses in with the help of your mind. Let your taste, your smell, your sight, your listening, your touch, all the various sense impressions come under your control. A number of times Swami has been telling you that you should not see or hear too many things. It is only when you see a thing or hear about it that you start thinking of it. Once you think of it you develop an attraction towards it. Then you want to possess it. Once you talk about a particular thing then you think of its form. Therefore, whatever may be the object, the first thing you should ask yourself is, 'Does it have any defects or flaws?' When you realize its flaws, that it will not last, that it is ephemeral, then you will not develop any attachment for it. If you want to reach God, you must be free of false vision, false speech and a false attachment to any sensory impressions.


Control of the Tongue, the First Step in Sense-Control


Spiritual practice begins with control of the tongue. The reason for this is that the tongue has two functions. The eyes have only the one function, that of seeing. Similarly, the ears have only the one function, that of hearing. And the nose has only the one function, that of smelling. But the tongue has two functions; it can speak and it can taste. Therefore you must make a special effort to control it. You have no right to criticize others. You have no right to think badly about others. It is far better for you to think of your own shortcomings. See the good in others and remove the unreal in yourself. If you have not even developed the power to inquire into your own true self, then how can you assume the power to look into others? First get fulfillment in your own life. It is only after you have saved yourself that you can become an instrument to save others. Therefore, you should not use harmful words or give condescending looks or think impure thoughts towards any other person. Spend your time only in good thoughts, in good listening and in good talk.


In order to exercise self control you have to do some spiritual exercises. Constant practice and detachment are essential for gaining control over your senses. If you understand that all things are impermanent, you will be able to gain control over your senses and develop detachment. Your true nature is nobility. You are not base and ignoble. Enter into good paths and develop your own innate sacredness. Only when you have the light of wisdom shining inextinguishably within you, will you be able to help others through your good thoughts, good sight and good counsel. Those who do so are veritably gods. Those who display the opposite traits are demons. Demons seek only darkness. But you must resolve to give up darkness and fill yourself with light. If you choose the path of light, then whatever has been your past, the Lord will accept you and shower his grace upon you.


The Pure Brother of the Impure Demon King


The brother of the lord of the demons surrendered to Rama and fell at Rama's feet. Seeing him, the generalissimo of Rama's army warned Rama, "He is the brother of Ravana. Like his evil brother he is a demon. He loves darkness. Just because he has had some quarrel with his brother and left him, you should not trust him and give him shelter. Even though he now proclaims himself to be an enemy of his brother, it is still dangerous to believe him." Rama smiled patiently and told his commander, "Brave warrior, I accept him not because he has opposed his brother, but because he has surrendered himself to me. I will give protection to whoever comes to me and says, 'I am yours'. I do not care who he is."


The commander then said to Rama, "You have given this demon your protection, and assured him that when this war is over and his brother, Ravana, is overthrown, you will make him the king of Lanka. But suppose this evil Ravana came to you now and surrendered himself at your feet. What kingdom would you give him?" Rama replied, "If Ravana had such fine ideas and were to surrender himself to me, I would ask my own brother Bharatha, who is ruling the kingdom in my behalf, to step down. And I would make Ravana the king of my capital city of Ayodhya. I have never asked anyone for anything; asking for favors is not my way. But if Ravana were to have such good thoughts, I would ask Bharatha to give up his throne."


Throughout the ages, divine incarnations have been espousing sacred thoughts and broad ideas such as this. In that way, they set an example for the whole world to follow. The point of this story is that whatever your past, whatever impure and unsacred environment you may have been brought up in, if your resolve is pure and you surrender yourself fully to God, he will take you in. Start by mastering your senses. This is the first step in leading a noble life and getting closer to your divine source. Sense-control is the basis for all sacred action and for enjoying a worry free life.


Krishna said, "Arjuna, there is nothing that you will not be able to achieve once you have gained complete control of your senses. You will be master of the world. But, if you are a slave of the senses and get caught up in desire, you become a slave of the world. Therefore, master your senses. Make the senses your slaves. Only then will you be able to function as an instrument in my mission. Arise, Arjuna! Learn to control your senses! Do not get elated by joy or dejected by grief. The primary reason for this grief of yours is ignorance. You do not know the difference between truth and illusion, between reality and appearance, between the true self and the false self. Begin now to discriminate between them. Practice discrimination and your senses will come under control. Then all will be yours."


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