See sense gratification as spiritual deprivation 

“You are depriving yourself of so much pleasure,” the mind whispers when we practice spiritual life seriously and regulate sense gratification.

We may neglect the mind, but it keeps repeating its proposals for sense gratification. Over time, its relentless whispers may start echoing inside us and make us feel deprived.

But the reality is that we are souls who need lasting happiness. Our need can never be fulfilled at the material level in sense gratification, which can offer at best only a few moments of titillation sandwiched between long segments of dissatisfaction. Lasting happiness is available only at the spiritual level in steady devotion to Krishna, who is the reservoir of infinite happiness.

Due to the mind’s misdiagnosis, we witlessly go away from the source of satisfaction, Krishna, and towards the cause of dissatisfaction, the sense object.

Gita savants illustrate our predicament with the example of a fish out of water. From the moment the fish comes out of water till it returns, it deprives itself. Similarly, when we give up constructive service to Krishna, we come out of the nourishing and fulfilling ocean of devotion and we start feeling tormented by dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, we fail to recognize that the torment is due to disconnection from Krishna. We unsuspectingly believe the mind’s misdiagnosis that the torment is due to disconnection from the sense object. And thus we witlessly go away from the source of satisfaction, Krishna, and towards the cause of dissatisfaction, the sense object.

To avoid being fooled thus, we need to place our faith not in the mind, but in scripture: The Bhagavad-gita (05.21) assures that those who become indifferent towards external sensations and turn inwards attain unlimited happiness. And we can reinforce our faith in scripture by recollecting our own fulfilling spiritual experiences and frustrating sensual experiences. This combination of scriptural illumination and personal recollection will convince us that the pursuit of sense gratification will cause deprivation and the practice of devotion will bring lasting satisfaction.

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