What is it that you are enjoying? | Bhaja Govindam 3rd stanza

(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)

Naari stanabhara naabhi desham, drushtva maaga mohavesham
Etanmamsavasaadi vikaaram, manasi vichintaya vaaram vaaram || 3 ||

Meaning: Do not get obsessed with sense pleasures. Remember that these are mere raw flesh covered by skin. Think upon this again and again.

By these words, apparently it may seem that Shankara is against sense pleasures. And when we talk about pleasures, it is a general perception that it refers to sexual pleasures. We need to go deeper into the meanings of Shankara’s words, only then can we understand them.

Here, by giving the example of a woman’s body, Shankara is referring to all kinds of pleasures enjoyed by our sense organs. It is not meant that pleasures should be suppressed. It should not be. Sense organs are given to us to enjoy life. But, over indulgence in any kind of pleasure will definitely lead us to trouble.

During teenage days, the senses go wild. There is an attraction for the opposite gender, which is quite natural. But it should not become an obsession. Obsession is a disease. There are so many teenagers and youth who are affected by this disease. They are not able to control their own senses. Youth is the golden period of one’s lifetime where one can achieve the best of things in his life. Imagine how sad it will be when all that is compromised and they become addicts of various habits.

If the driver of a car will not listen to its owner and drive the car wherever he feels like, how pathetic is the situation of the driver? How can the owner ever reach his destination if he cannot control his driver? Such is the situation when our senses take charge of our lives.

When a person has indulged too much in sense pleasures in his young age, he’s addicted to it. In old age, when his health does not permit to eat certain things or engage in any sensual activity, he feels so dejected and depressed because the desire is still there even though the body is not conducive to enjoy it. And in this way, a person may have to live a dragging life for 20 – 25 years. How terrible! Who’s responsible for this? Who’s to be blamed? Think!
To change this situation is possible. Shankara says, “Think intelligently. What is it that you are enjoying? If you feel it’s the body, what is the body? Isn’t it mere flesh, blood and bones? If a thin layer of skin is removed and then the body is given to you, can you enjoy it? Think about this again and again and transcend beyond the senses intelligently.”

One should not interpret that total refrainment from pleasures is advised. What he speaks is about intelligently managing the senses so that we are happy even if we do not have the objects to enjoy.

Mind is such a tricky thing that it will cunningly convince us of what it wants to enjoy with the senses. But taming the mind is possible with regular introspection. Shankara advises to think about this, not just once in a while, but again and again.

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