Controlling our urges

By Subhag Swami - 27.10 2017

Question: Maharaj, sometimes we try to restrain our urges such as eating less. For some time we can but after a while we feel dissatisfied and cannot continue with our practices. How can we practically apply this in our lives and maintain the standard?

Answer: Everything should be done with moderation. There is a famous saying: ‘Haste means waste. Slow and steady wins the race.’ If we are given something very palatable we may say, ‘No, no. Take it away.’ But inside we are meditating on that sense object. The Gita describes this as mityacara (pretender). He wants to eat that item but forcible, against his will, he is rejecting it. Ultimately that won’t work. When alone, he will indulge much more than he normally would. It is better to be balanced. Take a little of that item and be satisfied. That is the teaching of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He instructs that we should not overly suppress our urges, rather moderately try and restrain them. When there is a feast, take a small amount of tasty prasad, not too much. And see how it is reacting upon your mind.

How does a yogi control his eating? What we think we can eat, eat half of that. A quarter should be kept empty and the other quarter should be filled with water. By following this one can have reasonable control over the senses. Apart from that one should not take foodstuffs that are highly spiced, contain excessive amounts of ghee or oil, which have too much protein and are too sweet.

One who has more spiritual strength will be able to kick out unfavourable thoughts from the mind. One who has less, may be overpowered and instead of conquering the mind, the mind will conquer him and there is a chance that we may break the principles.

It is said that the higher authorities are always observing us. The sun, moon, air, fire and the ten directions, they are noting our actions. We cannot escape this. A sadhu, who by dint of his spiritual advancement can perceive this, refrains from committing sinful activity, even though apparently no one is watching. Even after knowing about all of this, sometimes we get carried away. Why? Because of kama (lust). Therefore Krishna instructs us that we should first curb this lust. Because of this we are forced to act in such a way, even though we know we shouldn’t. If one can control this then he is advanced. It takes time.

We all have some internal enemies: kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsyara. Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains that some of these anarthas can be controlled by our spiritual strength and some can be controlled by sincere prayer to the Lord. During Krishna’s pastimes, Balaram killed some demons and so too did Krishna. These demons represent different anarthas that we all have. With earnest prayer we can overcome the anarthas represented by the demons Krishna killed. And with our spiritual strength, our sadhana, we can surpass the anarthas represented by the demons Balaram killed.

In his purport to the song ‘Bhaja hu re mana’, Srila Prabhupada says that the mind can either be the best friend or the worst enemy, depending on how we act. We should make our minds our servant. Whatever it says to us, just ignore, ignore, ignore. The mind’s tendency is to make us do something that we should not. Ultimately in the long run we will find the mind gradually coming under control. Bhaktivinoda Thakur compares the mind to a spring. If we suppress it too much then it will jump. ‘I won’t eat anything good. Nothing at all.’ One day we will find that we eat so much that we crash out!

In the society, there are individuals that somehow or other can control the senses whilst others are not so confident. Such persons are given a license for sense gratification, although this is regulated. The purpose however is to ultimately give up this desire for sense gratification. This is called pravrtti and nivritti. Therefore Thakur Bhaktivinoda says that occasionally we should give a little license of sense gratification to the mind and then immediately take it away. At the end of the day, everybody has to control their mind and senses.

Baladev Vidyabhusana explains that if we chant the Hare Krishna mantra very nicely, and keep all our senses engaged in the service of the Lord, then and only then can we control our senses, control our mind and become Krishna Conscious. Then we won’t easily become carried away. The moment even one of the senses is not engaged, maya can take over.

If however we cannot control the mind, it will lead us to hell. The uncontrolled mind will make us do things that we can never even imagine. Prabhupada says that if one can first control the tongue then the other senses can be controlled.