Even if we can’t stop feeling sensual urges, we can stop feeding sensual urges

Suppose we live in a cabin in a forest with many animals living nearby. We may not be able to prevent the arrival of unwanted animals. But we can avoid feeding them, thereby taking away their incentive to return.

A similar dynamic applies to the arrival of sensual urges in our consciousness. When we strive to live a principle-centered life, we start viewing such urges as unwanted. However, despite our not wanting such urges, they still keep coming. Their recurrence may discourage us, “I am so impure; will I ever become purified?”

To counter such discouragement, we need to differentiate between feeling urges and feeding urges. To feel urges means to sense that urges are rising in our consciousness. Why do such urges arise? Because of outer perception of tempting objects or inner recollection of past indulgences or, most commonly, an indeterminate combination of both. Such triggering of urges is often inevitable. But it can be inconsequential, provided we don’t feed those urges.

Feeding urges means investing our consciousness in them, letting our emotion and imagination engage with those urges, till they grow into intentions. When we act according to those intentions, we indulge physically, thereby increasingly implicating ourselves in the chain of events that lead to future relapses. Not feeding urges is not only possible but also essential.

The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) points to the difference between feeling and feeding urges when it declares that if we tolerate our urges, we will be spiritually situated and satisfied.

How can we stop feeding our urges even when we feel them? By intelligence and intention. By intelligently differentiating between feeling and feeding urges. And by intentionally directing our attention toward something meaningful and fulfilling, such as the service of the all-attractive supreme, Krishna, thereby transcending the urge.

Think it over:

  • Why do urges arise?
  • What is the difference between feeling and feeding urges?
  • How can we stop feeding urges even when we feel them?

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