The purpose of discipline is not to torture ourselves, but to transcend ourselves
The idea of discipline often evokes in us an inaudible sigh, if not an audible groan – it appears to be a deprivation, as a form of self-torture.
However, the purpose of discipline is not to torture ourselves, but to transcend ourselves. That is, transcend our lower self – our impulsive mind that is seduced by the promises of quick pleasures.
This mind impels us towards choices that lead to the underutilization of our potential. When we are in material consciousness, that pleasure-seeking nature is misdirected by our mind towards worldly pleasures. And when those pleasures are restricted, the mind makes us feel that it is a torture for ourselves.
However, even the best material pleasure is insubstantial, in fact insignificant, when compared to the steady fulfillment available at the spiritual level in loving and serving Krishna.
Trying to control the mind merely by negating its impulses is neither pleasurable nor sustainable. That’s because we are pleasure-seeking beings, for as souls, ananda is a part of our intrinsic nature.
But as long as the mind misdirects us towards worldly pleasures, we stay caught in those fleeting and unfulfilling shadow pleasures. These pleasures become the limiters that we need to transcend if we are to regain our right to spiritual happiness.
Discipline, specifically the discipline of regulated devotional service, is meant to help us transcend the mind and its infatuation with material pleasures and its consequent incarceration of our mental activity with the material realm, as the Bhagavad-gita (06.28) indicates. The more we fix the mind on Krishna by steady practice, the more we access spiritual happiness. Thereby we realize that we have transcended ourselves – our past conceptions of enjoyment – and have attained a far greater, richer, sweeter fulfillment – the joy of pure eternal love for Krishna.
“Thus the self-controlled yogi, constantly engaged in yoga practice, becomes free from all material contamination and achieves the highest stage of perfect happiness in transcendental loving service to the Lord.”