We read from Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Chapter Three: “Karma-yoga.”
tasmat tvam indriyany adau
papmanam prajahi hy enam
Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
The Lord advised Arjuna to regulate the senses from the very beginning so that he could curb the greatest sinful enemy, lust, which destroys the urge for self-realization and specific knowledge of the self. Jnana refers to knowledge of self as distinguished from non-self, or in other words, knowledge that the spirit soul is not the body. Vijnana refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul’s constitutional position and his relationship to the Supreme Soul. It is explained thus in Srimad–Bhagavatam (2.9.31):
jnanam parama-guhyam me
sa-rahasyam tad-angam ca
grhana gaditam maya
“The knowledge of the self and Supreme Self is very confidential and mysterious, but such knowledge and specific realization can be understood if explained with their various aspects by the Lord Himself.” The Bhagavad-gita gives us that general and specific knowledge of the self. The living entities are parts and parcels of the Lord, and therefore they are simply meant to serve the Lord. This consciousness is called Krsna consciousness. So, from the very beginning of life one has to learn this Krsna consciousness, and thereby one may become fully Krsna conscious and act accordingly.
Lust is only the perverted reflection of the love of God which is natural for every living entity. But if one is educated in Krsna consciousness from the very beginning, that natural love of God cannot deteriorate into lust. When love of God deteriorates into lust, it is very difficult to return to the normal condition. Nonetheless, Krsna consciousness is so powerful that even a late beginner can become a lover of God by following the regulative principles of devotional service. So, from any stage of life, or from the time of understanding its urgency, one can begin regulating the senses in Krsna consciousness, devotional service of the Lord, and turn the lust into love of Godhead—the highest perfectional stage of human life.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
In the beginning of the movement in America, one of the first young men to come forward to serve Srila Prabhupada was Bruce Scharf, who was later initiated as Brahmananda dasa. Brahmananda had taken a class in English literature, and the professor had asked the students to give an interpretation of the motives of a character in a story. So, Brahmananda told Srila Prabhupada that he had interpreted the motivations of the character in a cosmic, or spiritual, way and that the professor had explained the motives in terms of lust, or sex desire. Srila Prabhupada replied, “Your professor was right: In the material world everything is impelled by lust.”
Because of lust, we remain encaged in the physical body, which is full of misery. Both the gross body and the subtle body, which includes the mind, suffer pain and anguish. We want to become free from the bondage of the material body. As long as we are imprisoned in the material body, we have to suffer greatly. And we never know what may come next. Things may go well for a while—for years even—but then all of a sudden something goes wrong that we had never expected. And the result is that we suffer great pain—physical, mental, or both.
A sober, intelligent person will think, “As long as I am in this material body, I am subject to so many miseries, but my nature as a spiritual soul, is joyful.” The soul is by nature eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss (sac-cid-ananda). But the body is the opposite: asat, acid, and nirananda—temporary, full of ignorance, and full of misery. The eternal soul imprisoned in a temporary body is in an awkward position, an incompatible situation. Therefore an intelligent, wise, sober person will endeavor to become free from the bondage of material existence, from the cycle of birth and death in the material world. And as long as we identify with the body and act on the impulses of the body to enjoy the senses, we will have to take birth again.
Contemporary society has made much propaganda in favor of enjoying the senses without restriction. They say that there is no problem with sensual gratification; the problem is that we feel guilty about it. If we can get rid of the sense of guilt, we can really enjoy the senses. This theory may sound attractive to materialistic persons who want to enjoy the senses, and we also don’t insist that you should avoid sense gratification because it is “bad” or “evil.” There is sense gratification even in the spiritual world—spiritual sense gratification. But the problem with material sense gratification is that it increases our material attachment and bondage, which extends our duration of suffering in this material world, extends our prison sentence. And it is also not true that the sense of guilt or shame in relation to sense gratification or sex is just a false imposition by society. Experimental studies of children who were taught from the very beginning that there is nothing wrong with sex and that they should have as much as they want revealed that even they felt there was something not quite right about it. Even without moral instructions and admonitions from others, they felt some guilt and shame. They felt bad.
Every culture has restrictions on sex indulgence, and the general rule is that if one wants to have sex he or she should get married; the husband should be responsible for the wife, and the wife should be faithful to the husband. There is restriction, regulation, as indicated in the verse (niyama). But even such regulation does not qualify a person to be liberated from the repetition of birth and death. The only qualification for that is Krishna consciousness.
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