Out of sight is out of the mind provided the mind is out of it
“Out of sight is out of mind” is a common saying that embodies a sound principle for self-regulation. For example, if we are fasting and if we allow delicious food to lie in front of us, we make fasting unnecessarily difficult. If food is not immediately visible or readily accessible, then we avoid such unnecessary difficulty.
The Bhagavad-gita (02.58) recommends such a strategy when, through the example of a tortoise withdrawing its limbs into a shell, it urges us to avoid unnecessary contact between the senses and the sense objects. Of course, the Gita verse focuses on the withdrawal of the senses, whereas the above saying focuses on the removal of the sense objects Still, the underlying principle remains the same – avoid unnecessary contact between senses and sense objects.
While this principle is valid, it is not complete as a guideline for self-regulation. We may put a thing out of sight, but it may still stay very much in our mind if we let our mind stay in it, that is, if we let ourselves stay mentally attached to it. Recovering alcoholics may well keep no alcohol in their vicinity – and yet find themselves dragged to the vicinity where alcohol is available if they let themselves dwell on it mentally. They need to get their mind out of it by finding some other activity for absorbing themselves.
The Gita reiterates this point of the inadequacy of mere distancing from temptation when it states that the craving for enjoyment remains (02.59) and can degrade even discerning people striving for self-control (02.60). Therefore, as a complete strategy for self-mastery (02.61), it urges us to not just strive for sense control but to also fixe our consciousness on Krishna, the supremely fulfilling object of thought.