What is natural is not always desirable; what is desirable is not always natural
Some people oppose regulation of sensual pleasure: “Material enjoyment is natural. Why should we unnaturally suppress that which is natural?”
The vital question here is: what is natural?
We are eternal spiritual souls encased in temporary material bodies. When we have a constricted view of our existence, that is, when we view ourselves as merely material creatures, then material enjoyment appears natural.
But what seems natural is not desirable, that is, it is unworthy of our desires. To the extent we indulge in material desires, to that extent our bodily misidentification increases, as does our eventual affliction by the inevitable material miseries of birth, old age, disease and death. Moreover, material enjoyment being temporary leaves us with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness. No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (05.22) reminds us that the wise don’t delight in sense pleasures.
As souls, delighting in eternal love with Krishna is our spiritual nature. Reviving our relationship with him is eminently desirable because it alone will grant us eternal happiness. Unfortunately, bhakti doesn’t presently seem natural to us because we misidentify excessively with our body. Nonetheless, if we use our intelligence to persevere in bhakti practices, we become purified, relish devotional happiness and realize it to be our natural mode of existing and enjoying.
Bhakti-yoga makes purification easy because it doesn’t ask us to entirely renounce the pleasures that seem natural – it merely asks us to not grant those pleasures monopoly on our desires. By regulating material enjoyment according to scriptural guidelines and by learning to love Krishna, the spiritual happiness that is actually natural for us gradually becomes relishable and feels desirable.
Thus by regulating that which seems circumstantially natural for cultivating that which is centrally natural, we can fulfill our natural longing for happiness.
“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.”