Slavery To The Senses

Author
Swami Vivekananda
557 words, 8K views, 19 comments

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

We are grateful to Rupali Bhuva for offering this hand-made painting for this reading.

We are all slaves to our senses, slaves to our own minds, conscious and subconscious. The reason why a criminal is a criminal is not because he desires to be one, but because he has not his mind under control and is therefore a slave to his own conscious and subconscious mind, and to the mind of everybody else. He must follow the dominant trend of his own mind; he cannot help it; he is forced onward in spite of himself, in spite of his own better promptings, his own better nature; he is forced to obey the dominant mandate of his own mind. Poor man, he cannot help himself. 

We see this in our own lives constantly. We are constantly doing things against the better side of our nature, and afterwards we upbraid ourselves for so doing and wonder what we could have been thinking of, how we could do such a thing! Yet again and again we do it, and again and again we suffer for it and upbraid ourselves. At the time, perhaps, we think we desire to do it, but we only desire it because we are forced to desire it. We are forced onward, we are helpless! We are all slaves to our own and to everybody else's mind; whether we are good or bad, that makes no difference. We are led here and there because we cannot help ourselves. We say we think, we do. It is not so. We think because we have to think. We act because we have to. We are slaves to ourselves and to others. 

Deep down in our subconscious mind, the great boundless ocean of subjective mind, [lie] all the thoughts and actions of the past. Each one of these is striving to be recognized, pushing outward for expression, surging, wave after wave, out upon the objective mind, the conscious mind. These thoughts, the stored-up energy, we classify as natural desires, talents, etc. But that is because we do not realize their true origin. We obey them blindly, unquestioningly; and slavery, the most helpless kind of slavery, is the result; and we call ourselves free. Free! We who cannot for a moment govern our own minds, nay, cannot hold our minds on a subject, focus it on a point to the exclusion of everything else for a moment! Yet we call ourselves free. Think of it! We cannot do as we know we ought to do even for a very short space of time. Some sense-desire will crop up, and immediately we obey it. Our conscience smites us for such weakness, but again and again we do it, we are always doing it. We cannot live up to a high standard of life, try as we will. The ghosts of past thoughts, past lives hold us down. 

All the misery of the world is caused by this slavery to the senses. Our inability to rise above the sense-life -- the striving for physical pleasures -- is the cause of all the horrors and miseries in the world. [...] The mind uncontrolled and unguided will drag us down, down, for ever -- rend us, kill us; and the mind controlled and guided will save us, free us. 

 

Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk, philosopher and author. Excerpt above from his talk in 1900.