Our senses which are mostly uncontrolled are compared to deadly serpents. Just as a bite of a snake kills a person similarly the wild senses many a times drive a person crazy to the extent that the person destroys himself. So scriptures ask us to take steps to subdue our senses. But controlling senses isn’t that simple. Even great personalities in the past have been brutally defeated by their senses.
Let us take the example of sage Viswamitra. In dense jungle, in summer, in winter, in rain without food and water he was performing penance for thousands of years. Menaka, the gorgeous heavenly lady, was asked by Indra, the king of heaven, to break the severe penance of the determined sage who had totally withdrawn himself from all worldly activities. And she accomplished her mission effortlessly.
She used a weapon which was extremely lethal and rarely has anyone survived its attack. In that dark forest the cry of the ferocious animals did not frighten the brave sage. But as soon as the sound of Menaka’s tinkling anklet entered his ears, his eyes which till now was absorbed in meditation lustily & frantically began looking for her and within no time his thousands of years of effort went in vain.
This incident teaches us that how powerful our senses are, how our senses can make us insane at any moment and how just by withdrawing the senses from sense objects may not help us to control the senses.
Sacred literatures tell us that the best way to control our senses is by engaging it in devotional activities. Once our senses get higher spiritual taste it won’t then hanker for lower material sensory pleasures which ultimately open floodgates of misery.
King Ambarish, a great devotee of Lord Krishna, by his own example taught us how each senses can be used in Krishna’s service. “He fixed his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa, engaged his words in describing the abode of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the temple of the Lord, his ears in hearing the pastimes of the Lord, his eyes in seeing the form of the Lord, his body in touching the body of the devotee, his nostrils in smelling the flavor of the flowers offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasi leaves offered to Him…” Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (9.4.18-20).
Initially our senses will resist our efforts to engage it in spiritual activities as it will not experience much pleasure in it. It is said that for a person suffering from jaundice the taste of sugarcane juice is bitter. But if he continues taking it as a medicine, he gets cured and in the healthy state he starts enjoying the juice. Similarly, now we are spiritually sick but if we continue taking the medicine of devotional activities our poisonous senses will eventually get purified. And in a spiritually healthy state our senses will not make us miserable but will relish being in service of Krishna and giving us unlimited pleasure.