We can’t avoid perceiving sense objects, but we can avoid pursuing them
The culture assaults our senses with perceptions of tempting sense objects and we often can’t avoid those perceptions. How then can we protect ourselves from being tempted?
By understanding the vital difference between perceiving sense objects and pursuing them. Though we can’t avoid perceiving sense objects, we can avoid pursuing them provided we don’t let our imagination transform perceptions into obsessions.
The Bhagavad-gita (02.70) points to the subtle but critical difference between pursuing and perceiving through its enigmatic usage of the alliterative compound word kama-kami, desirer of desire.
The Bhagavad-gita (02.70) points to the subtle but critical difference between pursuing and perceiving through its enigmatic usage of the alliterative compound word kama-kami, desirer of desire. Here desire refers to the inward flow of desire, that is, the flow of alluring sensory impressions into our consciousness. And desirer refers to the one who lets desire flow outward, that is, one who lets the outside-in perception become an inside-out intention to pursue those objects.
Urging us to not become a desirer of desire, this Gita verse offers us the metaphor of an ocean staying undisturbed despite the flow of rivers into it. The ocean stays undisturbed because the water in it is far greater than that in the rivers. Similarly, we can stay undisturbed when we have within us a reservoir that offers far greater happiness than what is offered by sense objects. The best such source is Krishna, the all-attractive supreme person who loves us eternally. He can fill us with oceanic love and the resulting happiness if we just open our heart to him by practicing bhakti diligently.
Once we start seeking and savoring devotional happiness, we will feel fulfilled in Krishna and won’t feel that we are missing happiness by abstaining from sense objects. Then we will perceive them without feeling goaded to pursue them. Refusing to let them captivate us, we will keep moving towards Krishna by focusing on our service to him.
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