Watch what you watch
Standard dictionaries give two meanings of the word watch: “follow with the eyes” and “be vigilant, be on the lookout or be careful.” Interestingly, these two meanings correlate with the two steps for self-empowerment outlined in the Bhagavad-gita. Let’s see how.
Our contemporary materialist culture diverts us from our values and purposes by constant visual distractions. Gaudy images seducing us with hedonistic pleasures assault our eyes on the streets through billboards and in our homes through TV commercials. Most of us know consciously that these advertisements are obvious exaggerations, if not outright lies. Yet many of us don’t know their effect at the subconscious level. When we encounter an assertion repeatedly, our mind subconsciously moves that assertion from the category of the familiar to the category of the believable. This psychological tendency to subconsciously upgrade the status of repetitive impressions is exploited by ultra-visible, recurrent advertisements. If we expose ourselves unrestrictedly and uncritically to such materialist propaganda, it will subtly but surely erode our healthy skepticism, and we will be misled by unhealthy materialist infatuations.
That’s why the Bhagavad-gita (03.41) states that our journey towards self-mastery begins with regulating our senses, or, in other words, watching what we watch. If we watch (carefully evaluate with our intelligence) the images that we watch (see with our eyes), then we will have two measures for psychological self-defense at our disposal:
- Stop our eyes from seeing those images that are avoidable on our visual pathways
- Stop our mind from naively believing those images that are unavoidable
By thus watching what we watch, we will be able to keep ourselves mentally focused on pursuing life’s worthwhile purposes.
“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.”