Engaging our Senses in Bhakti - Part 1

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva.

Few days ago we were studying the following verse 2.61 in Bhagavad Gita where Krishna says to Arjuna,

tāni sarvāṇi saṁyamya yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
vaśe hi yasyendriyāṇi tasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā

One who restrains his senses, keeping them under full control, and fixes his consciousness upon Me, is known as a man of steady intelligence.

Our spiritual master HH Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj has said that in the whole of Bhagavad Gita, if we want to remember a single word, then it is 'saṁyam'. Srila Prabhupada, in his word to word equivalent has mentioned the meaning for "saṁyamya" as "keeping under control".  We all know that the Supreme Lord Krishna is the master of all creation. Our existence in this world is also because of His mercy. He has given us this life and all the basic necessities like air, water, food, clothing, shelter. In spite of knowing these truths, our senses go hither and thither and just like a mad elephant spoils the paddy field, our wandering senses not only drive us crazy, but also cause havoc in the lives of people around us. But how can we control our senses? Is it possible to control them?

To make us understand the practicality of  "saṁyamya"  - Srila Prabhupada in his purport to the above verse, gives us the example of life of Maharaja Ambarisha who in spite of being ruler of the whole world, was able to have perfect control over the senses even under testing situations. When Durvasa Muni out of envy, misused his mystic potency and created a demon to kill Maharaj Ambarish for having taken water, before offering him food - Maharaj Ambarish neither got agitated, nor sad. He was neither fearful, nor did he cry to Supreme Lord to protect him or provide him justice. He was simply thinking of the lotus feet of Supreme Lord in his heart and considers this incident also as Lord's mercy to return back to Him faster. This was because of his practice of engaging all his senses in the service of the Lord. In Srimad Bhagavatam verse 9.4.18-20, this is very nicely elaborated:

sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayor
vacāṁsi vaikuṇṭha-guṇānuvarṇane
karau harer mandira-mārjanādiṣu
śrutiṁ cakārācyuta-sat-kathodaye

mukunda-liṅgālaya-darśane dṛśau
tad-bhṛtya-gātra-sparśe ’ṅga-saṅgamam
ghrāṇaṁ ca tat-pāda-saroja-saurabhe
śrīmat-tulasyā rasanāṁ tad-arpite

pādau hareḥ kṣetra-padānusarpaṇe
śiro hṛṣīkeśa-padābhivandane
kāmaṁ ca dāsye na tu kāma-kāmyayā
yathottamaśloka-janāśrayā ratiḥ

Maharaja Ambarisha always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Krishna, his words in describing the glories of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the Lord's temple, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Krishna or about Krishna. He engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Krishna, Krishna's temples and Krishna's places like Mathura and Vrndavana, he engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the Lord's devotees, he engaged his sense of smell in smelling the fragrance of tulasi offered to the Lord, and he engaged his tongue in tasting the Lord's prasada. He engaged his legs in walking to the holy places and temples of the Lord, his head in bowing down before the Lord, and all his desires in serving the Lord, twenty-four hours a day. Indeed, Maharaja Ambarisha never desired anything for his own sense gratification. He engaged all his senses in devotional service, in various engagements related to the Lord. This is the way to increase attachment for the Lord and be completely free from anll material desires.

Let us meditate on how we can control these senses in our day to day life.

sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayorTo constantly engage our mind in the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord

Though mind is a subtle sense, it is very powerful and if not controlled, it will over-power us and will be the cause of our ultimate destruction. Its tendency is to wander and especially stray away towards those things which takes our consciousness away from Krishna. Ambarish Maharaj was a great devotee of the Lord. We may point this out as a excuse to say that because Ambarish Maharaj was a great devotee of the Lord, he was able to engage his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, whereas we are limited and hence it is not possible to engage our mind in Krishna. If we think honestly, we may understand that after all we are responsible for managing only our own little family, whereas Ambarish Maharaj had to take the responsibility of managing the entire world. How much more anxiety he must have had? From where he got the time to remember the Lord? The answer is that he was able to see the Lord everywhere and in everything (hariḥ sarvatra sarvadā). Hence even though he was busy managing the day to day affairs of his kingdom, he was consciously doing it as a service to the Supreme Lord and whatever the result may be, he saw Krishna in the result and dedicated it back to Him. Since he saw Krishna in everyone and in everything, even though he was engaged in the day-day affairs, he did his service of managing the kingdom immaculately, with full realization that the service, object of service and the result of service are different forms of the Supreme Lord Himself. In this way he was able to fully control the mind.

One may still argue, "How can I see Krishna in everything all the time? That is next to impossible." Srimad Bhagavatam gives us a practical way to control the mind and engage it in Krishna's service through the transcendental instruction of Jada Bharata Maharaj (SB 5.11.17):

bhrātṛvyam enaṁ tad adabhra-vīryam
upekṣayādhyedhitam apramattaḥ
guror hareś caraṇopāsanāstro
jahi vyalīkaṁ svayam ātma-moṣam

This uncontrolled mind is the greatest enemy of the living entity. If one neglects it or gives it a chance, it will grow more and more powerful and will become victorious. Although it is not factual, it is very strong. It covers the constitutional position of the soul. O King, please try to conquer this mind by the weapon of service to the lotus feet of the spiritual master and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Do this with great care.

By serving the lotus feet of the spiritual master and Lord Krishna (in other words, strictly following Their instructions) we can control the mind and automatically engage it in remembering them, all the time.

Krishna willing, we shall continue with the practical methods of controlling the senses and dove-tailing them in Krishna's service in the subsequent mails.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva,
Kalacakra Krsna das and Sudarshana devi dasi.