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When is a buddha not a Buddha? PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

yada samharate cayam
kurmo 'nganiva sarvasah
indriyanindriyarthebhyas
tasya prajna pratisthita

 


A person who withdraws his sense organs 
From corresponding sensory desires, 
Similar to a tortoise withdrawing his limbs, 
His wisdom is then considered steady. 
(tasya pragya pratisthata). ||2:58|| 

visaya vinivartante 
niraharasya dehinah 
rasa-varjam raso 'py asya 
param drstva nivartate

A person centered in his body 
Can control his sense organs 
But still continues to long the same way. 
A centered and steady person 
By virtue of knowing the ultimate 
(param drastva) 
Instead, gets rid of the longing (rasam) as well ||2:59||

 

A tortoise withdraws its limbs when it wants to rest. The limbs are in its control. They do not have a life of their own. The tortoise controls its limbs. It is not always so in our cases. We do not always control our sense organs (indriyas). The eyes want to see an attractive car. The feet follow. The hands are more than ready to co-operate. Sometimes it appears that they work on their own. They seem to have energy of their own. And that is why Krishna has taken this issue here. Krishna wants Arjuna to understand the relationship of our indriyas (sense organs), vaasanas (desires) and our body. The next few shlokas deal with this relationship. Tortoise is just an example, a good example indeed. It withdraws its limbs and Krishna wants us to become masters of our sense organs (indriyas) as well, so that we can also withdraw them at our will.

Krishna addresses the problem of this withdrawal in the next shloka. He knows that people are more than willing to copy the behaviors of the awakened ones. It is of course easier than become awakened. Why bother going through all the processes (saadhanas) and austerity (tapasya).

He talks like a Buddha
He walks like a Buddha
And He eats like a Buddha
But, he is not centered like a Buddha
This buddha is not really a Buddha.

Krishna is telling to Arjuna that it is possible to control the sense organs (indriyas) without getting centered. And this is a significant part that has not been very well understood. All our saints are putting so much emphasis on this control phenomenon. Every one is saying to control the sense organs (indriyas). Krishna is not so much after the control of the sense organs (indriyas). He is after the root of it all. Krishna will not appreciate if we make ourselves blind. And there is a deep reason behind it. Every sense organ is a bridge, a bridge between the outside and the inside. Every indriya has two sides.

One is how the sense organs (indriyas) work outside. This is just reporting. They are reporters similar to press reporters. That is their inherent important function. There is no point destroying this important function. Surdas gouged his own eyes. Gandhi’s three monkeys are famous for this purpose. Krishna will not agree with that. If you are driving a car, you will like your eyes to help you guiding through the roads. You will like your hand and feet to do the right thing.

The second aspect of the sense organs (indriyas) is what Krishna is more concerned about. This is the inner part of the indriyas, the ras. Ras is hard to translate, but longing or an urge comes close. We all know that wood can be used to build structures or hit some one. This is an outside property of the wood. Wood can also be used to produce energy by burning it. This is an inherent inner property of the wood. Behind every sense organ is a potential desire, longing or an urge. And that is what Krishna is concerned about.

It is possible to control the eyes from looking at a beautiful girl. When I was growing up in Ara, I felt guilty if I looked at the face of a girl. We always kept our eyes down looking at the ground like a good boy. What was going through my mind is another matter. There is a beautiful story in Ramayana. Ravana has abducted Sita. Sita dropped some of her jewelry on the way. These were found and Rama could not recognize those. So he asked his brother Laxaman if he recognized any of them. Laxman could only recognize the ones that were worn by Sita on her feet. The explanation given by so-called experts is that Laxaman was a celibate (brahmachari) and he never looked at Sita’s face. Now, that is not Krishna’s kind of celibacy (brahmachari). Krishna will argue that if some one is afraid to loose their celibacy (brahmacharya) by looking at Sita, he cannot be a celibate (brahmachari). If he is so weak, he should find another way to find the strength first. In reality Laxaman recognized the jewelry of the feet because he had been touching Sita’s feet every day.

Eyes have a reporting function. But the same eyes when obsessed with a certain desire can become tainted and see things that the mind wants it to see. Tulsidas was obsessed with desire to meet his wife. He crossed the river with help of a dead corpse. He thought the dead corpse was a block of wood. He climbed to the roof of his wife’s house by holding on to a snake. He thought it was a rope. The eyes were working for this intense desire. And that is the part that Krishna is concerned about. Awareness is the key to dropping these inner potential of the sense organs (indriyas).

A centered person has dropped the inner part of the sense organs as well. Once the inner part (the longing, urge or the desires) is dropped the outer is taken care of. The centered person then is the master of his sense organs (indriyas) and can move it (withdraw them or advance them) at his will.

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