Control – The Body, Bodily Conception & Freedom
Control – The Body, Bodily Conception & Freedom.
By Mukundanghri Das.
Everything in Julie’s life had spun out of control. Her dream job as a hotshot corporate banker had turned into a nightmare. It kept her working late into the night. The heels and the power suit in the Sandton high-rise building felt no different to a prison suit in a jail cell. There just wasn’t enough hours in the day. “God, why?” she murmured to herself in frustration. “Why am I not in control?” Julie contemplated resigning from work. But it filled her with guilt for the family she has to take care of. She also could not bear losing her reputation. “What would people think of me?” she asked herself. “Everything I have worked for, everything I have become will have been for nothing. I can’t stand the thought.” Julie’s story is common. In a way we’re all a Julie. We are consumed by so much outside of our control. Our reputation and fortune in this world are dependent on others and circumstances beyond us at times. However, Julie’s (and our own) tribulation does pose a question so obvious that we tend to miss it: “What is, and is not, in our control?” Lord Krishna (BG 3.27) explains the source of Julie’s frustration is that she thinks she is in control of the outcomes and situations in her life. This perceived control is as a result of the false ego. For example, public perception about her potential decision to resign is not in Julie’s control. Yet she subjects herself to so much turmoil to control that outcome. This is, in part, a manifestation of false ego. Likewise the reason why she became a corporate banker could have been to harness a sort of social prestige. However, social honours are outside her control. But thinking she is in control she subjects herself to demands of her work, at the expense of her well-being, to uphold or ascend to a reputation viewed as successful. In either instance, Julie hands over control of her well-being to people and circumstances outside her control and in doing so, hands over her freedom. This is what Vedic scripture calls being a servant of the mind, senses, and sense objects. Or as Lord Krishna puts it, being bewildered by false ego and the modes of material nature. The tendency to try control that which is not within our power to control is what Srila Prabhupada has described as “trying to lord it over material nature”. From Julie’s case, it is evident that we cannot control everything. It is irrational to think so. Thinking you can be the controller is nothing but a manifestation of pride. We do however, have the power to control our mind and intelligence. This is one of the fundamental purposes of yoga. A controlled mind helps one discern from right and wrong, and helps to direct desires. But, and more importantly, if “misfortune” befalls us, we are not disturbed understanding that we are not in control. We have been assigned a part to act in the play. Ours is to simply act in that role to the best of our ability. Once our part on the stage has expired we withdraw in peace and contentment. How one is withdrawn is not in one’s control, therefore, it is something that we should be prepared to be detached from. It is this sense of acceptance, knowing what we can and cannot control, that frees us and brings the necessary peace within us to cultivate love of God.
Hare Krishna News – Published by ISKCON Durban. Used with permission