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Do not Drive with your Foot on the Brake

Now, some of you may be thinking that if young children are taught sense control they would turn into inert, helpless human beings? But nobody is telling them that they should not make use of their senses. It is only that they should learn to control them properly. There are brakes in a car, and whenever there is danger you use the brakes to stop the car. When Swami is asking you to control the senses and to control the mind, some of you might be wondering if you would be able to live at all and carry on your routine functions. Swami is not asking you to drive with your foot on the brake, but to use the brakes when necessary to control the car, whenever there is some danger. It is when there is some danger, such as impure thoughts, impure feelings, impure sights, impure hearing and so on, that you have to exercise control. If you do not have any brakes at all you will surely come to grief. A bullock which cannot be brought under control, a horse without reins, a car without brakes, a person without sense control, are all extremely dangerous and heading for disaster.

"Therefore, Arjuna," Krishna said, "control your senses and your mind, and recognize the defects that are inherent in all the objects of the world. When you turn from the changing manifestations and establish yourself in the unchanging basis, then you will be able to live happily anywhere, because you will be established in the source of all happiness, the atma, which is eternal bliss."

The wisdom teachings do not admonish you to give up your family or give up your worldly duties. Be in the world. Use your senses. But do so in a proper and ethical way, appropriate to each time and circumstance, never forgetting your true purpose. The Gita teaches the importance of discipline, of observing limits in all your activities. The brakes are used in a car for the welfare and protection of the passengers, so that they can safely reach their goal. In the same way, the senses must be brought under control and used for the welfare and protection of the individual, so that it can complete its journey safely. That is why Krishna was so insistent that Arjuna develop sense-control.