etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ
sarvām apīmāṁ pṛthivīṁ sa śiṣyāt
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.1.9–10) Parīkṣit Mahārāja placed a number of intelligent questions before Śukadeva Gosvāmī. One of these questions was: “Why do people undergo atonement if they cannot control their senses?” For instance, a thief may know perfectly well that he may be arrested for his stealing, and he may actually even see a thief arrested by the police, yet he continues to steal. Experience is gathered by hearing and seeing. One who is less intelligent gathers experience by seeing, and one who is more intelligent gathers experience by hearing. When an intelligent person hears from the lawbooks and śāstras, or scriptures, that stealing is not good and hears that a thief is punished when arrested, he refrains from theft. A less intelligent person may ﬁrst have to be arrested and punished for stealing to learn to stop stealing. However, a rascal, a foolish man, may have the experience of both hearing and seeing and may even be punished, but still he continues to steal. Even if such a person atones and is punished by the government, he will again commit theft as soon as he comes out of jail. If punishment in jail is considered atonement, what is the beneﬁt of such atonement? Thus Parīkṣit Mahārāja inquired:
dṛṣṭa-śrutābhyāṁ yat pāpaṁ
jānann apy ātmano ’hitam
karoti bhūyo vivaśaḥ
prāyaścittam atho katham
kvacin nivartate ’bhadrāt
kvacic carati tat punaḥ
prāyaścittam atho ’pārthaṁ
He compared atonement to an elephant’s bathing. The elephant may take a very nice bath in the river, but as soon as it comes onto the bank, it throws dirt all over its body. What, then, is the value of its bathing? Similarly, many spiritual practitioners chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and at the same time commit many forbidden things, thinking that their chanting will counteract their offenses. Of the ten types of offenses one can commit while chanting the holy name of the Lord, this offense is called nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ, committing sinful activities on the strength of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Similarly, certain Christians go to church to confess their sins, thinking that confessing their sins before a priest and performing some penance will relieve them from the results of their weekly sins. As soon as Saturday is over and Sunday comes, they again begin their sinful activities, expecting to be forgiven the next Saturday. This kind of prāyaścitta, or atonement, is condemned by Parīkṣit Mahārāja, the most intelligent king of his time. Śukadeva Gosvāmī, equally intelligent, as beﬁtting the spiritual master of Mahārāja Parīkṣit, answered the King and conﬁrmed that his statement concerning atonement was correct. A sinful activity cannot be counteracted by a pious activity. Thus real prāyaścitta, atonement, is the awakening of our dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Real atonement involves coming to real knowledge, and for this there is a standard process. When one follows a regulated hygienic process, he does not fall sick. A human being is meant to be trained according to certain principles to revive his original knowledge. Such a methodical life is described as tapasya. One can be gradually elevated to the standard of real knowledge, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by practicing austerity and celibacy (brahmacarya), by controlling the mind, by controlling the senses, by giving up one’s possessions in charity, by being avowedly truthful, by keeping clean and by practicing yoga-āsanas. However, if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a pure devotee, he can easily surpass all the practices for controlling the mind by the mystic yoga process simply by following the regulative principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness – refraining from illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling – and by engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord under the direction of the bona ﬁde spiritual master. This easy process is being recommended by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
First one must control his speaking power. Every one of us has the power of speech; as soon as we get an opportunity we begin to speak. If we do not speak about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we speak about all sorts of nonsense. A toad in a ﬁeld speaks by croaking, and similarly everyone who has a tongue wants to speak, even if all he has to say is nonsense. The croaking of the toad, however, simply invites the snake: “Please come here and eat me.” Nevertheless, although it is inviting death, the toad goes on croaking. The talking of materialistic men and impersonalist Māyāvādī philosophers may be compared to the croaking of frogs. They are always speaking nonsense and thus inviting death to catch them. Controlling speech, however, does not mean self-imposed silence (the external process of mauna), as Māyāvādī philosophers think. Silence may appear helpful for some time, but ultimately it proves a failure. The meaning of controlled speech conveyed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī advocates the positive process of kṛṣṇa-kathā, engaging the speaking process in glorifying the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The tongue can thus glorify the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord. The preacher of kṛṣṇa-kathā is always beyond the clutches of death. This is the signiﬁcance of controlling the urge to speak.
The restlessness or ﬁckleness of the mind (mano-vega) is controlled when one can ﬁx his mind on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. The Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 22.31) says:
kṛṣṇa – sūrya-sama; māyā haya andhakāra
yāhāṅ kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra
Kṛṣṇa is just like the sun, and māyā is just like darkness. If the sun is present, there is no question of darkness. Similarly, if Kṛṣṇa is present in the mind, there is no possibility of the mind’s being agitated by māyā’s inﬂuence. The yogic process of negating all material thoughts will not help. To try to create a vacuum in the mind is artiﬁcial. The vacuum will not remain. However, if one always thinks of Kṛṣṇa and how to serve Kṛṣṇa best, one’s mind will naturally be controlled.
Similarly, anger can be controlled. We cannot stop anger altogether, but if we simply become angry with those who blaspheme the Lord or the devotees of the Lord, we control our anger in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu became angry with the miscreant brothers Jagāi and Mādhāi, who blasphemed and struck Nityānanda Prabhu. In His Śikṣāṣṭaka Lord Caitanya wrote, tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā: “One should be humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the tree.” One may then ask why the Lord exhibited His anger. The point is that one should be ready to tolerate all insults to one’s own self, but when Kṛṣṇa or His pure devotee is blasphemed, a genuine devotee becomes angry and acts like ﬁre against the offenders. Krodha, anger, cannot be stopped, but it can be applied rightly. It was in anger that Hanumān set ﬁre to Laṅkā, but he is worshiped as the greatest devotee of Lord Rāmacandra. This means that he utilized his anger in the right way. Arjuna serves as another example. He was not willing to ﬁght, but Kṛṣṇa incited his anger: “You must ﬁght!” To ﬁght without anger is not possible. Anger is controlled, however, when utilized in the service of the Lord.
As for the urges of the tongue, we all experience that the tongue wants to eat palatable dishes. Generally we should not allow the tongue to eat according to its choice, but should control the tongue by supplying prasāda. The devotee’s attitude is that he will eat only when Kṛṣṇa gives him prasāda. That is the way to control the urge of the tongue. One should take prasāda at scheduled times and should not eat in restaurants or sweetmeat shops simply to satisfy the whims of the tongue or belly. If we stick to the principle of taking only prasāda, the urges of the belly and tongue can be controlled.
In a similar manner, the urges of the genitals, the sex impulse, can be controlled when not used unnecessarily. The genitals should be used to beget a Kṛṣṇa conscious child, otherwise they should not be used. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement encourages marriage not for the satisfaction of the genitals but for the begetting of Kṛṣṇa conscious children. As soon as the children are a little grown up, they are sent to our gurukula school, where they are trained to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees. Many such Kṛṣṇa conscious children are required, and one who is capable of bringing forth Kṛṣṇa conscious offspring is allowed to utilize his genitals.
When one is fully practiced in the methods of Kṛṣṇa conscious control, he can become qualiﬁed to be a bona ﬁde spiritual master.
In his Anuvṛtti explanation of Upadeśāmṛta, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura writes that our material identiﬁcation creates three kinds of urges – the urge to speak, the urge or demands of the mind and the demands of the body. When a living entity falls victim to these three types of urges, his life becomes inauspicious. One who practices resisting these demands or urges is called tapasvī, or one who practices austerities. By such tapasya one can overcome victimization by the material energy, the external potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
When we refer to the urge to speak, we refer to useless talking, such as that of the impersonal Māyāvādī philosophers, or of persons engaged in fruitive activities (technically called karma-kāṇḍa), or of materialistic people who simply want to enjoy life without restriction. All such talks or literatures are practical exhibitions of the urge to speak. Many people are talking nonsensically and writing volumes of useless books, and all this is the result of the urge to speak. To counteract this tendency, we have to divert our talking to the subject of Kṛṣṇa. This is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.10–11):
na yad vacaś citra-padaṁ harer yaśo
jagat-pavitraṁ pragṛṇīta karhicit
tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham uśanti mānasā
na yatra haṁsā niramanty uśik-kṣayāḥ
“Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all-perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there.”
yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api
nāmāny anantasya yaśo ’ṅkitāni yat
śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ
“On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by puriﬁed men who are thoroughly honest.”
The conclusion is that only when we talk about devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead can we refrain from useless nonsensical talk. We should always endeavor to use our speaking power solely for the purpose of realizing Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
As for the agitations of the ﬂickering mind, they are divided into two divisions. The ﬁrst is called avirodha-prīti, or unrestricted attachment, and the other is called virodha-yukta-krodha, anger arising from frustration. Adherence to the philosophy of the Māyāvādīs, belief in the fruitive results of the karma-vādīs, and belief in plans based on materialistic desires are called avirodha-prīti. Jñānīs, karmīs and materialistic plan-makers generally attract the attention of conditioned souls, but when the materialists cannot fulﬁll their plans and when their devices are frustrated, they become angry. Frustration of material desires produces anger.
Similarly, the demands of the body can be divided into three categories – the demands of the tongue, the belly and the genitals. One may observe that these three senses are physically situated in a straight line, as far as the body is concerned, and that the bodily demands begin with the tongue. If one can restrain the demands of the tongue by limiting its activities to the eating of prasāda, the urges of the belly and the genitals can automatically be controlled. In this connection Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says:
śarīra avidyā jāla, jaḍendriya tāhe kāla,
jīve phele viṣaya-sāgare
tā’ra madhye jihvā ati, lobhamāyā sudurmati,
tā’ke jetā kaṭhina saṁsāre
kṛṣṇa baḍa dayāmaya, karibāre jihvā jaya,
sva-prasāda-anna dila bhāi
sei annāmṛta khāo, rādhā-kṛṣṇa-guṇa gāo,
preme ḍāka caitanya-nitāi
“O Lord! This material body is a lump of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths leading to death. Somehow or other we have fallen into the ocean of material sense enjoyment, and of all the senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable. It is very difﬁcult to conquer the tongue in this world, but You, dear Kṛṣṇa, are very kind to us. You have sent this nice prasāda to help us conquer the tongue; therefore let us take this prasāda to our full satisfaction and glorify Your Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and in love call for the help of Lord Caitanya and Prabhu Nityānanda.”
There are six kinds of rasas (tastes), and if one is agitated by any one of them, he becomes controlled by the urges of the tongue. Some persons are attracted to the eating of meat, ﬁsh, crabs, eggs and other things produced by semen and blood and eaten in the form of dead bodies. Others are attracted by eating vegetables, creepers, spinach or milk products, but all for the satisfaction of the tongue’s demands. Such eating for sense gratiﬁcation – including the use of extra quantities of spices like chili and tamarind – is to be given up by Kṛṣṇa conscious persons. The use of pan, haritakī, betel nuts, various spices used in pan-making, tobacco, LSD, marijuana, opium, liquor, coffee and tea is indulged in to fulﬁll illicit demands. If we can practice accepting only remnants of food offered to Kṛṣṇa, it is possible to get free from māyā’s victimization. Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk products and water are proper foods to offer to the Lord, as Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself prescribes. However, if one accepts prasāda only because of its palatable taste and thus eats too much, he also falls prey to trying to satisfy the demands of the tongue. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught us to avoid very palatable dishes even while eating prasāda. If we offer palatable dishes to the Deity with the intention of eating such nice food, we are involved in trying to satisfy the demands of the tongue. If we accept the invitation of a rich man with the idea of receiving palatable food, we are also trying to satisfy the demands of the tongue. In Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 6.227) it is stated:
jihvāra lālase yei iti-uti dhāya
śiśnodara-parāyaṇa kṛṣṇa nāhi pāya
“That person who runs here and there seeking to gratify his palate and who is always attached to the desires of his stomach and genitals is unable to attain Kṛṣṇa.”
As stated before, the tongue, belly and genitals are all situated in a straight line, and they fall in the same category. Lord Caitanya has said, bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe: “Do not dress luxuriously and do not eat delicious foodstuffs.” (Cc., Antya 6.236)
Those who suffer from diseases of the stomach must be unable to control the urges of the belly, at least according to this analysis. When we desire to eat more than necessary we automatically create many inconveniences in life. However, if we observe fasting days like Ekādaśī and Janmāṣṭamī, we can restrain the demands of the belly.
As far as the urges of the genitals are concerned, there are two – proper and improper, or legal and illicit sex. When a man is properly mature, he can marry according to the rules and regulations of the śāstras and use his genitals for begetting nice children. That is legal and religious. Otherwise, he may adopt many artiﬁcial means to satisfy the demands of the genitals, and he may not use any restraint. When one indulges in illicit sex life, as deﬁned by the śāstras, either by thinking, planning, talking about or actually having sexual intercourse, or by satisfying the genitals by artiﬁcial means, he is caught in the clutches of māyā. These instructions apply not only to householders but also to tyāgīs, or those who are in the renounced order of life. In his book Prema-vivarta, chapter seven, Śrī Jagadānanda Paṇḍita says:
vairāgī bhāi grāmya-kathā nā śunibe kāne
grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe yabe milibe āne
svapane o nā kara bhāi strī-sambhāṣaṇa
gṛhe strī chāḍiyā bhāi āsiyācha vana
yadi cāha praṇaya rākhite gaurāṅgera sane
choṭa haridāsera kathā thāke yena mane
bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe
hṛdayete rādhā-kṛṣṇa sarvadā sevibe
“My dear brother, you are in the renounced order of life and should not listen to talk about ordinary worldly things, nor should you talk about worldly things when you meet with others. Do not think of women even in dreams. You have accepted the renounced order of life with a vow that forbids you to associate with women. If you wish to associate with Caitanya Mahāprabhu, you must always remember the incident of Choṭa Haridāsa and how he was rejected by the Lord. Do not eat luxurious dishes or dress in ﬁne garments, but always remain humble and serve Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in your heart of hearts.”
The conclusion is that one who can control these six items – speech, mind, anger, tongue, belly and genitals – is to be called a svāmī or gosvāmī. Svāmī means master, and gosvāmī means master of the go, or senses. When one accepts the renounced order of life, he automatically assumes the title of svāmī. This does not mean that he is the master of his family, community or society; he must be master of his senses. Unless one is master of his senses, he should not be called gosvāmī but go-dāsa, servant of the senses. Following in the footsteps of the Six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, all svāmīs and gosvāmīs should fully engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. As opposed to this, the go-dāsas engage in the service of the senses or in the service of the material world. They have no other engagement. Prahlāda Mahārāja has further described the go-dāsa as adānta-go, which refers to one whose senses are not controlled. An adānta-go cannot become a servant of Kṛṣṇa. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.30), Prahlāda Mahārāja has said:
matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā
mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
“For those who have decided to continue their existence in this material world for the gratiﬁcation of their senses, there is no chance of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, not by personal endeavor, by instruction from others or by joint conferences. They are dragged by the unbridled senses into the darkest region of ignorance, and thus they madly engage in what is called ‘chewing the chewed.’”