Saturday, April 27, 2013

the exercise guide

Verse 2.68: Therefore, O mighty-armed, one whose senses are restrained from their objects is certainly of steady intelligence.

I love to ponder the meaning of words. When reading today's verse, the word exercise came to mind and how both it's meanings are so applicable. As a noun, it is indicative of an activity that requires physical effort to help one maintain health and well-being. When used as a verb, however, it means to use or apply something, like a process.

For the past little while now, Krsna has been presenting a practical means by which we can control our senses (i.e. a process to exercise). That is, engagement of the senses as a service as opposed to using them in a self-serving way through the transformation of consciousness. Repeatedly, it's been highlighted that artificial repression of our senses is the difficult path which is not recommended for long term success.

In the beginning, however, some repression is needed and I wanted to highlight that. Even though one may theoretically understand and agree that we can transform our senses as vehicles to help us realize our true selves (i.e. eternal souls), it's hard to kick a bad habit. Simply put, it's hard to stop doing something you've been doing for lifetimes! That is, operating on the "what's in it for me" platform most of the time. This doesn't apply to all of us, but it certainly applies to many of us!

Therefore, in the beginning we may need to voluntarily control our wandering senses; we may have to exercise restraint. Some might question, "Hey, isn't the Gita being contradictory then? On one hand it's saying that we shouldn't artificially repress our senses, but on the other hand it's saying we need to control them."

This is why it's so important to have bhakti guides and friends to help us understand things in context. It's like in colouring. Remember when we were young and it seemed that the whole goal was to just try to colour inside the lines of our colouring book? Those of you who are artistically inclined didn't stay on this level forever. Looking back, some may even comment that it was a necessary exercise to gain more control over the hands. Now as matured and evolved artists, you utilize that control when needed but don't hang on to it since its not the end goal in and of itself.

Similarly, in the beginning, it may be hard for us to always work in the consciousness of service and bhakti. There will be times when we will need to just "say no" to the dictates of our mind. We will need to practice exercising that restraint. Doing that, in combination with practicing acknowledgement for all the gifts we have received from the Divine will, however, lead to the time when we won't need to practice that restraint. It will become natural and joyful.

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