It’s so easy to lose our concentration on Kṛṣṇa it’s scary. In a split second our mind can get carried away thousands of miles away from where it’s supposed to be but that isn’t even our biggest problem. A bigger problem, I would argue, is that even when our mind is somewhat under control it is too corrupted to be of any use. It makes us chant with offenses and that never brings any results.
Lust, anger, greed, envy – we can chant with all those things on our minds and it would look okay externally but we will never ever make any progress this way, which is frustrating. As Śrila Prabhupāda used to say – if you want fire, wood needs to be dry. Wet wood would only produce smoke but not light and no heat. Moreover, this frustration eats away at our hearts, eats away at our faith. After some time we completely forget that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant to be blissful and even ordinary, material happiness seems to become out of reach.
We can whip ourselves up by giving in to the mode of passion, getting into arguments, convincing ourselves of our righteousness, or even seeing greater faults in others. It might overshadow frustration for a little while but even satisfaction of beating our “enemies” can’t hide lack of genuine Kṛṣṇa consciousness for long.
We need to give up our anarthas and purify our mind, there’s no other way, no amount of chanting will make us closer to Kṛṣṇa if what we really want is to keep our material attachments. Kṛṣṇa is absolutely attractive, one might say, but let’s not forget that we have our independence, too, and we know how to misuse it. Besides, even if chanting wins out at the end it might take a lot longer than we can comprehend in our present life timeframe. Victory in the next thousand lifetimes is no victory at all, we don’t have that much patience and suffering can get brutal.
The most troublesome and difficult to overcome temptation is sex. Maybe not, but it certainly feels so, mostly because sex makes us break our vows. I don’t know any devotees who struggle with alcohol, meat eating, or gambling, but sex affects everyone and its effect is ruinous. So, I’ve put up some ideas on how to keep it at bay.
Giving up sex in the present day society seems impossible, don’t even start. People can understand teetotalers but not brahmacāries. Looking at the state of the world it’s hard to disagree. If you talk about people who masturbate in front of their computers they are too far gone, it’s incurable. There’s a custom nowadays to include porn preferences in people’s profiles. Not publicly, of course, but when NSA wants to know about you they include your porn habits in your file, too, or so the wisdom goes.
As I said, there’s not much you an do about that. Temptation of sex must be fought a lot earlier. It’s like catching cancer in terminal stages – too late to do anything. I also thought of driving analogy – imagine you try to make a turn into a really tight drive-through space and you realize that you calculated your approach wrong. There’s nothing you can do but to back up and try again, pushing forward and hoping that you get clear is not going to work. Wheel can’t turn any sharper, you need to get out and do it again.
Same with temptation of sex – it’s too late to fight it when your whole body is on fire with lust. Well, it’s never too late to fight, but that would be the equivalent of backing up, going forward would be impossible. I don’t know what to do in these situations – take a shower, but that is dangerous, too. Think of your mother? Call someone and talk about other things to take your mind off sex? Chant very loudly and pray for lust to go away? All these things work, some better than others, but that is not what I’m proposing here.
I’m proposing to chant very very attentively when lust is nowhere near. That will establish the “baseline”. Catch that feeling, remember it, observe the stillness of your mind, get comfortable with it. This is very important, the sense of purity, we should never lose it even when things go wrong.
Next, watch very carefully how that purity disappears with even a slightest forethought of sexual enjoyment. Watch how the cloud of lust covers your consciousness. The earlier you catch this moment the better because this is when lust is at its weakest.
As soon as you notice that lust is approaching, identify the source and purge it from your mind. There aren’t any particular lusty thoughts at the moment yet, nothing concrete, but there’s this subconscious anticipation. You see a woman in the street and you want her to turn around to see her face – that’s lust creeping in. You remember your old romantic acquaintances, you don’t think of sex but lust is already there because that’s where warm memories come from. You see a guy on TV trying to woo a girl and you sympathize with him – that’s lust, his lust rubbing off on you. Purge it. Catch it early on and fight the temptation before it gains traction.
That’s why remembering the baseline is so important – it increases our sensitivity to the subtlest forms of sex enjoyment where everyone else would see nothing. That’s why Lord Caitanya was so strict about avoiding women – it helps to keep baseline extremely low. If we keep women’s company all the time we tend to become numb to lust until it becomes too late.
Think of college students who have no problems with girls flashing boobs, or western Europeans who have no problems with sunbathing nude in the middle of the city or changing swimwear in public. The are not agitated, correct, but that doesn’t mean they have conquered sex desire, they just made their senses too numb to notice. We don’t want to be like them, we can’t afford to be like them.
There was a photo on the internet of big Hare Kṛṣṇa kīrtanīyās posing in a swimming pool in a group hug with some girls, brāhmana threads hanging off their shoulders and beer bottles in their hands. They argued it was root beer or something but that is even not the point. The point is that women should be completely absent form our lives, apart from our wives, mothers, or daughters, of course.
There’s simply no other way, we can’t keep relating to people on sexual basis, however subtle, and hope to attain Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.
One might say – but they are not agitated! What’s the problem? Problem is their baseline – they don’t know how complete sexual abstinence feels and so they don’t know lust in their hearts until it physically affects their bodies, which is already too late, as I explained earlier.
Oh, and we should forget the idea that we can live “normal” lives and advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness at the same time. It’s nonsense. Kṛṣṇa requires complete surrender which means complete renunciation. And no, yukta-vairāgya is not a permission to mingle with opposite sex. We have plenty of great ācāryas who practiced yukta-vairāgya but not one of them kept company of women.
The desire to lead normal live is in itself preclusion to any spiritual progress, it’s an anartha and it should be given up.
I hope this idea is useful, personally, I found it as the only way to keep my nose clean and avoid getting myself into impossible situations.