This article was rotting in my ‘to be published’ folder for a few weeks now. After reading Divya ji’s article today and the acceptance it received from os.me family, I feel the below article is ready to be published.
Forbidden fruit is a name given to the fruit growing in the Garden of Eden which God commands mankind not to eat. In the biblical narrative, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are exiled from Eden.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. – Genesis 2:16–17
As a metaphor outside of the Abrahamic religions the phrase typically refers to any indulgence or pleasure that is deemed illegal or immoral by the conditioned society.
I never thought I would be writing on this topic, but a recent post from Swamiji gives me the courage and perspective to talk about it.
In my observation, for eons the societal framework has neglected the influence of biology on human behaviours. Instead of understanding the real reasons behind a particular type of behaviour and trying to channelise the underlying energy, generations of people have adopted the techniques of building resistance and fear. Somehow, we humans have deduced that building fear is the easiest route to control/stop any kind of behaviour or action.
Talking about desires, one of the most difficult and challenging desire is the forbidden desire, i.e., sexual desire.
If we look back into Vedic texts, the origin of sexual desires has been well explained. The texts also suggest certain disciplines to channelise these desires, so that, humans experience this drive of energy to its fullest and at the same time not lose sight of overall vision of life. These life hacks were well incorporated into one’s daily life depending on which stage of life a person was ( Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha or Sannyasa.).
But as time progressed, civilisations started losing the essence of the message communicated in Vedas. The prescribed methods started to lose its originality and meaning. The prescriptive approach soon became rules and commandments (I don’t mean “the commandments”). This has led to generations of people lacking the right direction towards understanding oneself (both their biology and psychology).
It’s no secret that each and every human is driven by sexual desires at one or the other point of time and in varying magnitude. It’s the actions driven by these desires that have been subject of debate and even sorrow in many of the households. (I will restrict myself to talking only about sane people in this post.)
Over the past few centuries, people have tried to use stories from mythology to “channelise” the actions and behaviours of people. The easiest route has been to emphasise on the consequence of accumulating “sin” in one’s karmic account. But do these stories really work in the contemporary society? Are they really communicated in the right way? Are they really put on the table keeping in mind both the biology and psychology of us humans? I doubt.
When Hanumanji went to Lanka looking for Maa Sita, his first experience of Ravana’s inner rooms (his Bhoga sthana) is well documented in Valmiki Ramayana. Paraphrasing the episode,
Hanumanji notices a sea of bodies of women lying on the floor who were not at all aware of where their clothing was. At the inner most part of the huge room was Ravana sleeping on his bed fully intoxicated by alcohol and in company of the most beautiful women on the planet. After scanning through all the rooms and unable to find Maa Sita, Hanumanji leaves the room to search at other places.
There are 2 aspects to this small episode in Ramayana. Firstly, it narrates the magnitude of Ravana’s desires. Secondly and most importantly, it portrays how Hanumanji was unmoved by the scene in front of him as he was driven by the task in hand.
In my experience, this episode and infact Ravana’s life has been used as analogy to communicate how desires like his would lead to consequence of all 10 heads being beheaded. But do people really get it? Is consequence a good enough bait? Is knowledge of consequence enough to channelize one’s desire? Remember Ravana was no ordinary person. There have been very few learned people described in mythology who had more knowledge of Vedas than Ravana.
If a Vedic Scholar like Ravana himself could not get over his desires, how can a layman today get it? So, there is surely more to it than just having the knowledge of what consequences of directionless desires are.
I had once heard in a discourse in Telegu language that a married man desiring about another women is born a lizard in his next life. While I am not sure if the universe really works that way, I am made to believe that it is true looking at the number of cases of Infidelity I have heard of and number of lizards that I have seen on the walls.
True or not, stories like these can only work on the basis of fear and nothing else. People with short sighted mindset and driven by desires hardly care if they would be destroyed by Ravana or born as a lizard. In a world driven by instant gratification, do the logic (read bait) of consequences have any meaning, especially when the “consequence” is not served out immediately. (The accounts department up there takes some time to publish Karmic reports I believe :P)
Does this mean there is no way to actually put things into perspective in today’s time and to help people develop right frame of mind towards desires?
For people who are genuinely open to solution, here are few “life hacks” that I have heard from the contemporary masters.
In one of the Swaminars in 2018, Om Swamiji had given a beautiful answer when asked about habit forming “undesirable” desires. I have paraphrased it below.
Imagine one has a habit of eating sweets and cannot resist having them. To get rid of this habit use the simple trick of mindfulness. Just before eating focus on the state of mind and of the sense organ i.e. tongue, have the sweet and immediately rinse your mouth. Focus on the state of your tongue now. Become aware if really there is any change? Use this analogy for any other desire.
Everything remains the same for the sense organ before and after having the sweet. The only addition is the calories that went into your body.
The most practical hack that I have heard is again in a discourse from one of the most learned Telugu orators of our times. This was especially pointed out for people who are driven by sexual desires.
Whether you eat pudding in a steel cup or a silver cup, the pudding and its taste remains the same. Do not run around in your life for experiencing variety of crockery.
Trying to resist one’s sense organs is like stepping on the head on a snake, the moment you lose your mindfulness and lift the leg, it will be ready to bite.
Small hacks and mindfulness can help us in concentrating more on the biology of our desires rather than trying to resist them under the pressure of conditioning that society puts forward.
Jai Shri Hari!