Disciplining the senses: Senses means not only the five sense organs, but also the mind. Mind is the inner organ and the most powerful of the sense organs. In any perception the mind connects itself to the concerned sense organ and the sense object, so control of mind is fundamental to control of desires. What controls the mind? It is buddhi, the determinative and discriminative faculty, which lies dormant in us as long as we are swayed by desire.
We saw earlier that our degradation begins when our will (the dynamic aspect of buddhi) gets hooked to desire. When we succumb to a desire, our will does not have a separate existence: it merges with the mind and the senses. A man who is a slave to sense enjoyments identifies himself only with his mind and body, and is not conscious of having a separate will. He begins to grow in mental strength only when he succeeds in freeing his will from the hold of desires. Though our will is bound, it is through will alone that release is possible. Sri Krishna says that besides the senses and the mind, buddhi is also the seat of desire. (Bhagavad Gita, 3.40) But he also says elsewhere in the Gita, "Take refuge in buddhi." (2.49) Thus, all efforts at mind control primarily involve awakening buddhi, which amounts to freeing and strengthening the will.
Faith in the higher Self: Sri Krishna describes in the Gita the various aspects of human personality in order of increasing subtlety: "The senses are superior (to the gross body); the mind is superior to the senses; buddhi is superior to the mind; He (the Atman) is superior to buddhi. Knowing that the Atman is superior to buddhi, restrain your lower self with the help of your higher self, and destroy the enemy who comes in the form of desire and is hard to overcome." (3.42-3) Sri Ramanuja explains that this means controlling the mind with buddhi.
Swami Vivekananda tirelessly emphasized the glory of the Atman and the need to have immense faith in one's real nature. In his powerful letter of September 25, 1894 he infused strength into his brother disciples: "What makes you weep, my friend? In you is all power. Summon up your all-powerful nature, O mighty one, and this whole universe will lie at your feet. It is the Self alone that triumphs, and not matter." He held that faith in one's higher self is a prerequisite for true faith in God.
Faith in God's name: Sri Ramakrishna speaks of two kinds of movement in spiritual life: (1) The more you move toward the east, the more you recede from the west. In other words, the closer you move toward God, the farther you recede from desires. (2) If you move one step toward God, God moves ten steps toward you. As we struggle in spiritual life, we become more and more aware of divine help in our life.
There was a hatha yogi in Dakshineswar displaying cleansing techniques of yoga. Sri Ramakrishna's disciple Yogin (later Swami Yogananda) felt that he could not conquer lust or realize God if he did not practice those techniques. One day Yogin asked Sri Ramakrishna how to be free from lust. Sri Ramakrishna asked him to repeat the divine name, but Yogin was not satisfied. He thought Sri Ramakrishna had prescribed something useless since probably he was not aware of any practical technique. He also knew that so many people repeated the name of God and still their lust did not decrease. The next day Yogin went to the hatha yogi and while he sat listening to him, Sri Ramakrishna came there and asked Yogin to follow him back to his room. On the way, the Master remarked, "Why did you go there? Don't do that. Your mind will stick to the body if you learn those techniques. It will not thirst after God." Yogin doubted the Master and thought he was probably jealous of the hatha yogi. He thought again and decided to follow the Master's instruction. He started doing japa with some concentration, and soon began to experience tangible results.