Titillating the senses ends in all pain, no gain
Our culture seems to offer us so much sensual pleasure for free. Alluring images in tantalizing poses invite us to enjoy them with our eyes for no apparent cost. Our mind prods us on: “Just titillate yourself with these images; it will relax you. I know that you are never going to enjoy these things in real-life because that will violate your devotional principles. But there’s no harm in enjoying them mentally. You deserve happiness.”
The mind is right: we do deserve happiness. However, it is dead wrong about how we can get that happiness. Far from providing happiness, sensual titillation strips us of happiness materially by increasing our torment and spiritually by increasing our tastelessness. Let’s see how:
1. Torment: Titillation may provide a momentary sense of pleasure, but it also feeds our material desires, making them stronger. And the stronger these desires become, the more they torment us with demands to satisfy them. Struggling constantly to beat down these strengthened desires drains our energy. Moreover, their increased strength makes our inner battle tougher and riskier, and raises the chances that we may fall ruinously from our standards of integrity.
2. Tastelessness: Titillation quickens the senses and slackens the spirit. The more we become materially sensitized, the more we become spiritually desensitized. Consequently, we can’t relish devotional stimuli like the delicious holy name or the gorgeous Deities. The more we find core devotional activities tasteless, the more the whole of devotional life becomes boring and burdensome.
Thus, by titillating ourselves, we end up losers both materially and spiritually: all pain, no gain. The Bhagavad-gita protects us from this double loss by urging us (2.58) to zealously avoid unnecessary contact of the senses with the sense objects.
“One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is ﬁrmly ﬁxed in perfect consciousness.”