The war against lust is a war of attrition
A war of attrition refers to a war in which victory requires wearing out the opponent. As spiritual seekers, we need to wage war against lust, the formidable illusory force that traps us in material consciousness.
However, due to our many sexual indulgences in this and previous lives, lust has entrenched itself deeply inside us. So, destroying all its inner traces is nearly impossible. And even if we could, it can still barge in at any moment from the many sexually suggestive or explicit stimuli in the outer world. Therefore, for winning the inner war, we can’t bank on eradicating lust.
The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) recommends a more realistic strategy – lifelong tolerance. Tolerating lust doesn’t mean that we tolerate lust’s making us act sinfully; it means that we tolerate lust’s inner presence without acting sinfully. This implies that we endure sexual thoughts, that may come from outside or inside, without succumbing to improper actions.
Tolerating lust thus requires attrition warfare – we need to wear lust out without being worn out by it. The prospect of having to battle lust lifelong may seem demanding and disheartening. Thankfully however, the fight becomes easier when we optimize our nourishment and minimize lust’s nourishment. We get nourished by remembering and serving Krishna because such devotional service grants us spiritual fulfillment, thereby empowering us to resist sensual pleasures. Lust gets nourished whenever we succumb to sexual indulgence; so, conversely, each time we resist temptation, we weaken lust. We automatically resist temptation when we keep ourselves busy in bhakti-yoga.
Pertinently, this verse concludes that those fixed in yoga (yuktah) are happy (sukhi). This indicates that when we fight the war of attrition with the proper strategy of positive yogic engagement, we find fulfillment during the war itself, what to speak of on attaining victory.
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