Three ways sensual desires imprison us in misery — Desire management series 4
A prison is essentially a place of restriction — a prisoner’s movements are restricted by the prison walls. But if the restrictions are not as tangible as walls, a prisoner may not even realize that they are imprisoned.
Such is the prison sensual desires trap us in. How do they imprison us? By restricting us in three subtle ways:
Restricting our sources of pleasure: Captivated by sensual desires, we can find pleasure only in particular sense objects and in nothing else. An alcoholic is bound to alcohol — without it, they feel unbearably miserable, no matter how many other good things they have.
Restricting our capacities for pleasure: Sensual desires limit our pleasure not just to certain external sources, but also to certain channels for accessing those sources. A foodaholic needs not only food, but also a stomach that can take in the food. But the stomach can take in only so much food. Even after the stomach becomes full, the craving for food still remains internally and torments incessantly.
Restricting our conceptions of pleasure: We humans have consciousness evolved enough to relish various kinds of pleasure, ranging from the gross sensual to the refined spiritual. However, when sensual desires rule our mind, we can conceive of pleasure only in sensual terms. We find incomprehensible the very idea of spiritual pleasure as categorically different from sensual pleasure (Bhagavad-gita 02.69); we enthrone sensual pleasure as life’s defining purpose (16.11). But such pleasure can be enjoyed only for a limited duration. In a day, how long can one drink, eat or mate? An hour or two, at the most. Consequently, all our remaining time — which is actually most of our life — feels boring and burdensome.
Understanding thus that sensual desires imprison us in misery, the wise stay away from sensual indulgence (05.22).
Sensual desires imprison us by restricting our sources of pleasure, our capacities for pleasure and our conceptions of pleasure.
Think it over:
Have you ever realized how sensual desires restrict:
- Your sources of pleasure?
- Your capacities for pleasure?
- Your conceptions of pleasure?
16.11: They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable.
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