Freedom From Desire (Part 5)

Why Many People Do Not Struggle to Become Free from Desire

Very few people are even aware that they are in bondage, that they are enslaved by their senses and mind. The only freedom they know is freedom for the mind and the senses. Only by God's grace do we become aware of bondage, and begin to strive for freedom from the mind and the senses. This happens at the right time. We do not begin to seek God until we are through with desire for enjoyment. When we are disgusted with worldly pleasure, we begin to truly seek God and He responds to us. Till then, God does not forcibly wean us from worldly pleasure. He lets us play with the objects of the world as long as we like. Sri Ramakrishna gives an example to illustrate this truth: "So long as the child remains engrossed with its toys, the mother looks after her cooking and other household duties. But when the child no longer relishes the toys, it throws them aside and yells for its mother. Then the mother takes the rice-pot down from the hearth, runs in haste, and takes the child in her arms."

According to the Bhagavad Gita (7.3), only very few among thousands strive for perfection; among such rare ones only one perhaps knows God in Reality. A true aspirant after desirelessness, or desire for the Highest, is not discouraged by this fact. He believes strongly that he is one among the few who strive for perfection and has faith that he is sure to belong to those rare few among them to attain perfection. He does not wait for the right time to arrive, but exercises discrimination and creates the right time for himself. Conscious that mere pious intentions are meaningless unless they are put into practice, he is up and doing in his spiritual disciplines.

How to Become Free from Desire

Disciplining the senses: Sri Krishna prescribes sense control as the first discipline to free oneself from desire: "Therefore, control your senses at the outset and kill this destroyer of Knowledge and realization." (Gita, 3.41) Our five sense organs-ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose-are like windows to the external world bringing us perceptual knowledge and, along with it, the memory and desire acquired from these perceptions. He who does not want to be swayed by desire needs to be careful about what he takes in through his senses and mind. According to the Chandogya Upanishad (7.26.2), "If the food is pure the mind too becomes pure." In his commentary on the passage, Sri Shankara explains that food is not only what we eat but what we take in through all the sense organs, and more importantly, through the mind, the most powerful of the sense organs (Gita, 10.22).

Part 6

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