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Chapter 6: The Master of the Senses

yathā hṛṣīkeśa khalena devakī
kaṁsena ruddhāti-ciraṁ śucārpitā
vimocitāhaṁ ca sahātmajā vibho
tvayaiva nāthena muhur vipad-gaṇāt

O Hṛṣīkeśa, master of the senses and Lord of lords, You have released Your mother, Devakī, who was long imprisoned and distressed by the envious King Kaṁsa, and me and my children from a series of constant dangers.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.8.23

Devakī, the mother of Kṛṣṇa and sister of King Kaṁsa, was put into prison along with her husband, Vasudeva, because the envious King was afraid of being killed by Devakī’s eighth son (Kṛṣṇa). The King killed all the sons of Devakī who were born before Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa escaped the danger of child-slaughter because He was transferred to the house of Nanda Mahārāja, Lord Kṛṣṇa’s foster father. Kuntīdevī, along with her children, was also saved from a series of dangers. But Kuntīdevī was shown far more favor because Lord Kṛṣṇa did not save the other children of Devakī, whereas He saved the children of Kuntīdevī. This was done because Devakī’s husband, Vasudeva, was living, whereas Kuntīdevī was a widow and there was none to help her except Kṛṣṇa. The conclusion is that Kṛṣṇa bestows more favor upon a devotee who is in greater dangers. Sometimes He puts His pure devotees in such dangers because in that condition of helplessness the devotee becomes more attached to the Lord. The more the attachment is there for the Lord, the more success is there for the devotee.

Devakī, the devotee who became the mother of Kṛṣṇa, was not an ordinary woman. After all, who can become the mother of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Kṛṣṇa agrees to become the son only of the most advanced devotee. In their previous lives, Devakī and her husband underwent severe austerities, and when Kṛṣṇa therefore appeared before them, wanting to give them a benediction, they told Him that they wanted a son like God. But where can there be another person equal to God? That is not possible. God is asamaurdhva; that is, no one can be equal to or greater than Him. There cannot be any competition. One cannot say, “I am God, you are God, he is God, we are all God.” No. One who says this is a dog, not God, for God is great, and He has no competitor. No one is equal to Him; everyone is lower. Ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa āra saba bhṛtya: the only master is Kṛṣṇa, God, and everyone else is His servant, including even great demigods like Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva, not to speak of others. Śiva-viriñci-nutam. In the śāstra, the Vedic scriptures, it is said that Lord Kṛṣṇa is offered respect even by Lord Śiva and Lord Brahmā, the topmost demigods.

Above the human beings there are demigods. As we human beings are above the lower animals, above us there are demigods, the most important of whom are Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva. Lord Brahmā is the creator of this universe, Lord Śiva is its destroyer, and Lord Viṣṇu, who is Kṛṣṇa Himself, is its maintainer. For the maintenance of this material world there are three guṇas, or modes of material nature – sattva-guṇa (the mode of goodness), rajo-guṇa (the mode of passion), and tamo-guṇa (the mode of ignorance). Lord Viṣṇu, Lord Brahmā, and Lord Śiva have each taken charge of one of these modes – Lord Viṣṇu of sattva-guṇa, Lord Brahmā of rajo-guṇa, and Lord Siva of tamo-guṇa. Yet these three controllers are not under the influence of the guṇas. Just as the superintendent of a jail is not a prisoner but the controlling officer, so Lord Śiva, Lord Viṣṇu, and Lord Brahmā control these three guṇas and are not under the control of the guṇas.

But above all others, the supreme controller is Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Hṛṣīkeśa. The word hṛṣīka means “senses.” We are enjoying our senses, but ultimately the controller of the senses is Kṛṣṇa. Consider my hand, for example. I claim, “This is my hand. I can fight you with a good fist.” I am very much proud. But I am not the controller; the controller is Kṛṣṇa, because if He withdraws my hand’s power to act, the hand will be paralyzed. Although I claim, “It is my hand, and I shall use it,” when it is paralyzed I cannot do anything. Therefore, I should understand that although I possess this hand by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, I am not its controller. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

A sane man will think, “If this hand is ultimately controlled by Kṛṣṇa, then it is meant for Kṛṣṇa.” This is a commonsense understanding. I claim, “This is my hand, this is my leg, this is my ear.” Even a child will speak this way. If we ask a child, “What is this?” he will say, “It is my hand.” But regardless of what we claim, actually it is not our hand; it is given to us. Because I wanted to use my hand in so many ways, Kṛṣṇa has given it to me: “All right, take this hand and use it.” So it is a gift from Kṛṣṇa, and therefore a sane man always consciously thinks, “Whatever I have in my possession, beginning with this body and my senses, is actually not mine. I have been given all these possessions to use, and if everything ultimately belongs to Kṛṣṇa, why not use everything for Kṛṣṇa?” This is intelligence, and this is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Everyone is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa (mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ), and therefore everyone’s senses are also Kṛṣṇa’s. When we use the senses for Kṛṣṇa’s service, we attain the perfection of life. Therefore, hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate: when by our senses (hṛṣīkeṇa) we serve Hṛṣīkeśa, the real master of the senses, that service is called bhakti. This is a very simple definition of bhakti. Hṛṣīkeśa-sevanam, not hṛṣīka-sevanam – service to the supreme master of the senses, not to the senses themselves. When we use our senses for sense gratification, we are in māyā, illusion, but when we use our senses for the gratification of the master of the senses, that service is called bhakti.

In this material world, everyone is generally using his senses for sense gratification. That is māyā, illusion, and that is the cause of one’s bondage. But when one comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, when one becomes purified and understands that these senses are actually meant for satisfying Kṛṣṇa, then he is a liberated person (mukta-puruṣa).

īhā yasya harer dāsye
karmaṇā manasā girā
nikhilāsv apy avasthāsu
jīvan-muktaḥ sa ucyate

“A person who acts in the service of Kṛṣṇa with his body, mind, intelligence, and words is a liberated person, even within the material world.” One should come to understand, “My senses are meant to serve the master of the senses, Hṛṣīkeśa.” The master of the senses is sitting within everyone’s heart. In the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15) the Lord says, sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo: “I am seated in everyone’s heart.” Mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca: “And from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness.”

Kṛṣṇa is so merciful that if we want to use our senses in a certain way, He will give us the chance to do so. The senses are not ours; they are Kṛṣṇa’s, but Kṛṣṇa gives us the opportunity to use them according to our desires. For example, each of us has a tongue, and suppose we want to eat stool. We may say, “Kṛṣṇa, I want to taste stool,” and Kṛṣṇa will say, “Yes, take this body of a hog and eat stool.” The master is present – Kṛṣṇa. He will give us an appropriate body and remind us, “My dear living entity, you wanted to eat stool. Now you have the proper body in which to do so.” Similarly, if one wants to become a demigod, Kṛṣṇa will give one a chance to do that also. There are 8,400,000 forms of life, and if one wants to engage one’s senses in a particular type of body, Kṛṣṇa will give one the chance: “Come on. Here is the body you want. Take it.” But eventually one will become exasperated by using one’s senses. Ultimately one will become senseless. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Don’t act like this. Your senses are meant for serving Me. You are misusing your senses and are therefore being entrapped in different types of bodies. Therefore, to get relief from this tedious business of accepting one body and then giving it up to accept another and again another in continued material existence, just give up this process of sense gratification and surrender unto Me. Then you will be saved.” This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

At the present moment, our senses are contaminated. I am thinking, “I am American, so my senses should be used for the service of my country, my society, my nation.” Or else I am thinking, “I am Indian, and my senses are Indian senses, and therefore they should be used for India.” In ignorance, one does not know that the senses belong to Kṛṣṇa. Instead, one thinks that one has American senses, Indian senses, or African senses. This is called māyā, illusion. In material life, the senses are covered by designations such as “American,” “Indian,” and “African,” but when our senses are no longer contaminated by all these designations (sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam), bhakti begins.

To think “I am an American. Why shall I take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and worship a Hindu god?” is foolishness. If one thinks, “I am Muhammadan,” “I am Christian,” or “I am Hindu,” one is in illusion. One must purify the senses so that one can understand, “I am a spirit soul, and the supreme spirit soul is Kṛṣṇa. I am part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, and therefore it is my duty to serve Kṛṣṇa.” When one thinks in this way, one immediately becomes free. At that time, one is no longer American, Indian, African, this, or that. At that time, one is Kṛṣṇa-ized, or Kṛṣṇa conscious. That is what is wanted. Therefore Kuntīdevī says, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, Hṛṣīkeśa, You are the master of the senses.”

For sense gratification we have fallen into this material condition and are suffering in different varieties of life. Because this is the material world, even Kṛṣṇa’s mother was put into suffering. Devakī was so advanced that she became the mother of Kṛṣṇa, but still she was put into difficulties by her own brother, Kaṁsa. That is the nature of this material world. The living entities in this world are so jealous that if one’s personal interest is hampered, one will immediately be ready to give trouble to others, even to one’s nearest relatives.

The word khala means “jealous.” This material world is a world of jealousy and envy. I am envious of you, and you are envious of me. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, however, is meant for one who is no longer jealous or envious. By becoming free from jealousy and envy, one becomes a perfect person. Dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satām (Bhāgavatam 1.1.2). Those who are jealous and envious are within this material world, and those who are not are in the spiritual world. Therefore, we can test ourselves. If we are jealous or envious of our friends or other associates, we are in the material world, and if we are not jealous we are in the spiritual world. There need be no doubt of whether we are spiritually advanced or not. We can test ourselves. Bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktir anyatra ca (Bhāgavatam 11.2.42). When we eat, we can understand for ourselves whether our hunger is satisfied; we don’t have to take a certificate from others. Similarly, we can test for ourselves whether we are in the material world or the spiritual world. If we are jealous or envious, we are in the material world, and if we are not we are in the spiritual world.

If one is not jealous, one can serve Kṛṣṇa very well, because jealousy and envy begin with being jealous of Kṛṣṇa. For example, some philosophers think, “Why should Kṛṣṇa be God? I am also God.” This is the beginning of material life – to be envious of Kṛṣṇa. “Why should Kṛṣṇa be the enjoyer?” they think. “I shall also be the enjoyer. Why should Kṛṣṇa enjoy the gopīs? I shall become Kṛṣṇa and make a society of gopīs and enjoy.” This is māyā. No one but Kṛṣṇa can be the enjoyer. Kṛṣṇa therefore says in Bhagavad-gītā, bhoktāraṁ yajña: “I am the only enjoyer.” If we supply ingredients for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment, we attain the perfection of life. But if we want to imitate Kṛṣṇa, thinking, “I shall become God and enjoy like Him,” then we are in māyā. Our natural position is to provide enjoyment for Kṛṣṇa. In the spiritual world, for example, Kṛṣṇa enjoys, and the gopīs, the transcendental cowherd girls, supply the ingredients for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment. This is bhakti.

Bhakti is a relationship between master and servant. The servant’s duty is to serve the master, and the master supplies whatever the servant needs.

nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām
eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān

(Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13)

The Vedic literature informs us that Kṛṣṇa can supply all the necessities for one’s life. There is no scarcity and no economic problem. We simply have to try to serve Kṛṣṇa, and then everything will be complete.

If Kṛṣṇa desires, there may be ample supplies. In America, for example, there is an ample supply of everything needed, although in other countries this is not so. For instance, when I went to Switzerland I saw that everything there is imported. The only thing supplied locally is snow. This is all under Kṛṣṇa’s control. If one becomes a devotee, one will be amply supplied with food, and if one does not become a devotee one will be covered with snow. Everything is under Kṛṣṇa’s control, so actually there is no scarcity. The only scarcity is a scarcity of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Of course, the world is full of dangers. But Kuntīdevī says, “Because Devakī is Your devotee, You saved her from the distresses imposed upon her by her envious brother.” As soon as Devakī’s brother heard that his sister’s eighth son would kill him, he was immediately ready to kill Devakī. But Devakī’s husband pacified him. It is the duty of a husband to protect his wife, and therefore Devakī’s husband said, “My dear brother-in-law, why are you envious of your sister? After all, your sister will not kill you; it is her son who will kill you. That is the problem. So I shall deliver all the sons to you, and then you may do whatever you like with them. Why should you kill this innocent, newly married girl? She is your younger sister, and you should protect her, just as you would protect your daughter. Why should you kill her?” In this way he placated Kaṁsa, who believed Vasudeva’s word that he would bring all the sons so that if Kaṁsa wanted he could kill them. Vasudeva thought, “Let me save the present situation. After all, if Kaṁsa later gets a nephew, he may forget this envy.” But Kaṁsa never forgot. Instead, he kept Devakī and Vasudeva in prison for a long time (ati-ciram) and killed all their sons. Finally, Kṛṣṇa appeared and saved Vasudeva and Devakī.

Therefore, we must depend on Kṛṣṇa, like Devakī and Kuntī. After Kuntī became a widow, the envious Dhṛtarāṣṭra was always planning ways to kill her sons, the five Pāṇḍavas. “Because by chance I was born blind,” he thought, “I could not inherit the throne of the kingdom, and instead it went to my younger brother. Now he is dead, so at least my sons should get the throne.” This is the materialistic propensity. One thinks, “I shall be happy. My sons will be happy. My community will be happy. My nation will be happy.” This is extended selfishness. No one is thinking of Kṛṣṇa and how Kṛṣṇa will be happy. Rather, everyone is thinking in terms of his own happiness: “How shall I be happy? How will my children, my community, my society, and my nation be happy?” Everywhere we shall find this. Everyone is struggling for existence, not thinking of how Kṛṣṇa will be happy. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is very sublime. We should try to understand it from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā and try to engage our senses for the service of the master of the senses (hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanam). Then we shall actually be happy.