While knowledge curbs the senses, devotion conquers the senses
Knowledge, specifically spiritual knowledge, helps us understand our spiritual identity and thereby recognize the necessity of controlling the senses that drag us towards material enjoyment and away from self-realization.
Yet spiritual knowledge alone is not enough. It tells us why sense control is good for us, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense control feel good. And we can’t go very far on the spiritual path if our feelings are constantly tripping us. That’s what happens when we base our spiritual journey on knowledge alone. The Bhagavad-gita (02.60) states that even knowledgeable seekers endeavoring for sense control are dragged down by the impetuous senses.
That’s why Gita wisdom goes beyond knowledge to devotion as the key for spiritual progress and success. Devotion connects us with Krishna, the all-attractive reservoir of all pleasure, and thus enables us to relish higher spiritual happiness that makes checking the lure of sensual pleasures much easier. Bhakti-yoga is sensory spirituality – it offers the senses satisfying spiritual engagement as in, say, beholding Krishna’s beautiful form, hearing his relishable pastimes and singing his sweet kirtans.
Significantly, while going beyond knowledge to devotion, the Gita doesn’t reject knowledge, but incorporates it within devotion. That knowledge is integral to devotion which guides us to redirect our heart towards Krishna and to spiritualize our actions in this world. The Gita provides us such knowledge. By studying it, we can curb the senses. And by devotionally focusing on Krishna, we can conquer the senses. The Gita (02.61) assures us that if we curb our senses (samyamya) and fix our consciousness on Krishna, we will be able to conquer the senses (vasha). The higher taste from devotion will replace the senses’ greed to enjoy sense objects with the longing to experience Krishna. The senses energized by this devotional longing will accelerate, not decelerate, our spiritual progress.
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