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I've recently read the 3rd chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. At the end, the following is said to get control over the indriyas (senses):

इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते ।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् ॥ ३-४०॥

The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him. [BG 3.40]

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् ॥ ३-४१॥

Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization. [BG 3.41]

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ॥ ३-४२॥

The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence. [BG 3.42]


Also, according to many scriptures, e.g., the Yoga Vasistha Maha-Ramayana, achieving control over the indriyas (senses) is very essential and also recommended.

So, my question is:

How do I control indriyas (senses) and slay/destroy them?
(because it seems impossible to attain Jnana without this!)

  • 1
    Exercise the four fold path :- it is called sadhana chatushtayam and has been propounded by Shankaracharya in vivekachudamani. Please research this. – user1195 Oct 5 '15 at 14:58
  • "My desires are gone, I've won my senses, My mind will waver not." -- brag not like that. Can not the wind, from somewhere, bring A seed of temptation and sow it in you? --Mankuthimma – sv. Oct 4 '16 at 18:51
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A complete description of senses and how to control them have been written by the great Seer Sri Swami Sivnananda. 'Control of the Indriyas by Sri Swami Sivananda'.

Senses

Senses are not different from Mind in 'Control of the Indriyas by Sri Swami Sivananda'.

Sri Swami Sivananda says about the senses:

Indriyas are objectified desires. Will to see is the eye. Will to hear is the ear. The Indriyas (senses) have two states, static and dynamic. When the desire begins to operate, the Indriyas are put in motion. This is the dynamic state. As soon as the desire is gratified, the Indriyas shrink through Tripti (satisfaction). This is the static or passive state.

Mind and Indriyas are one. Indriya is a prolongation of the mind. The sea is fed by the rivers; the sea cannot exist without the rivers. Even so, mind is fed by Indriyas and cannot exist without Indriyas. If you have controlled the Indriyas, you have already controlled the mind. Indriya is another name for mind.

Mind is a mass of Indriyas. Mind is a higher power than the Indriyas. Mind is a consolidated Indriya. Indriya is mind in manifestation. Just as a minister obeys the king, so also, the five Jnana-Indriyas act in accordance with the dictates of the mind. Indriyas represent backwaters. The desire in the mind to eat has manifested as tongue, teeth and stomach. The desire in the mind to walk has manifested itself as legs and feet. If you can control mind, you can control the Indriyas.

How to get control over senses

  1. By practicing Bhakti:

    Every morning, afternoon, evening, and night, offer all oner senses to God. All that one see, hear, do, touch, smell and think are all offered to God. Using this practice, one will see great progress day by day. Because one will naturally try to control onerself, since one want to offer ones best to God.

    Sri Swami Sivananda in Bhakti Yoga by Sri Swami Sivananda

    Bhakti softens the heart and removes jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride and arrogance. It infuses joy, divine ecstasy, bliss, peace and knowledge. All cares, worries and anxieties, fears, mental torments and tribulations entirely vanish. The devotee is freed from the Samsaric wheel of births and deaths. He attains the immortal abode of everlasting peace, bliss and knowledge.

    The fruits of Bhakti is Jnana. Jnana intensifies Bhakti. Even Jnanis like Sankara, Madhusudana and Suka Dev took to Bhakti after Realization to enjoy the sweetness of loving relationship with God.

    Knowledge or wisdom will dawn by itself when you practice Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti is the pleasant, smooth, direct road to God. Bhakti is sweet in the beginning, sweet in the middle and sweet in the end. It gives the highest, undecaying bliss.

  2. By practicing Self-enquiry:

    Daily question onerself, who are one? How can one, the Atman, be restricted by oner senses? How silly it is that the Infinite comes under the control of the finite, instead of the other way round. As one keep enquiring into onerself, one will find that oner attachments will fade away and oner senses will no longer be able to control one. This is because one will always try to get the authentic experience of onerself.

    Self-enquiry to remove the effect of the senses

    The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus ), I am not; the five cognitive sense-organs, viz., , the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz., , sound, touch, color, taste, and odor, I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz., , the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning, I am not. …

    After negating all of the above-mentioned as “not this, not this,” that Awareness which alone remains – that I am. … The nature of Awareness [the Self] is existence-consciousness-bliss. (Ramana Maharshi, WHO, 11-2.)

  3. By practicing Selfless Service:

    Leave aside oner senses, and oner desires. There are people around one without even a morsel to eat. What use is my liberation, when my brothers and sisters are suffering. Go and selflessly serve others. As one keep serving others, oner own attachments and desires will seem meaningless and insignificant. God resides in all beings. By serving everyone, oner mind will become purified and oner senses will become under oner control.

    Sri Swami Sivananda says in 'Selfless Service by Sri Swami Sivananda'

    By doing service, you purify your heart. Egoism, hatred, jealousy, idea of superiority vanish. Humility, pure love, sympathy, tolerance, and mercy are developed. Sense of separateness is annihilated. Selfishness is eradicated. You get a broad outlook of life. You begin to feel oneness or unity of life. You develop a broad heart with broad, generous views. Eventually, you get Knowledge of the Self. You realise the 'One-in-all' and 'all-in-One'. You feel unbounded joy.

    Also

    Become a servant of humanity. This is the secret of attaining God-realisation. Seek out the lowly and the miserable; cheer up and bring a ray of comfort to them by serving them unstintingly. Console the disconsolate. Comfort the distressed. You will be blessed.

  4. By practicing Ashtanga Yoga:

    According to Ashtanga Yoga, the control of senses (Pratyahara) can be practiced with Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara (which is control of the senses). Without practicing Yama and Niyama it is difficult to attain the control of the senses.

    Sri Swami Krishnananda says in 'Pratyahara'

    Vasishtha instructs Sri Rama in the Yoga-Vasishtha: "You can drink the whole ocean, you can shake the root of the mountain, you can drink fire, but you cannot control the mind." Like binding air in a little bag is your attempt to control the sense organs.

    Sensations are nothing but desires. They are not really connected with physical things. Wrongly do we feel that we love things, hate things, want things and do not want things, on account of the deceptive operations and the reports of the sense organs operating in this manner. Wild dogs are these sensations. They bark and may attack you, also.

    What do you do? You should not be carried away by the appearance of this tornado of the desire process. Here again a kind of self-analysis is called for. Sensations, as told already, are, only desires manifesting themselves, in these five formations. We want five things in this world: we want beautiful things to see, melodious things to hear, fragrant things to smell, delicious things to taste, soft things to touch. You have no other desire in the world except these. Though you may think that you have millions of desires, they are only five, basically.

Meditation is a part of the Ashtanga Yoga Technique

What generally we call as meditation is actually concentration. Real Meditation implies the complete absorption of the Subject upon the Object.

How will concentration (Dharana) help in sense control?

By focussing on one object (Your Guru's Form, The symbol AUM, or a flame in between the eyebrows or a mantra) you lose the focus on all other objects. That way one's senses will be forgotten and eventually the True Self shines forth.

Swami Vivekananda on One-pointed Concentration.

The sense-centres are within, and their organs without; drive them into the mind and through Dhârâna (concentration) fix the mind in Dhyana. Brahman is omnipresent in the universe as is butter in milk, but friction makes It manifest in one place. As churning brings out the butter in the milk, so Dhyana brings the realisation of Brahman in the soul.

Concentration is the essence of all knowledge; nothing can be done without it. Ninety per cent of thought force is wasted by the ordinary human being, and therefore he is constantly committing blunders; the trained man or mind never makes a mistake. When the mind is concentrated and turned backward on itself, all within us will be our servants, not our masters. The Greeks applied their concentration to the external world, and the result was perfection in art, literature, etc. The Hindu concentrated on the internal world, upon the unseen realms in the Self, and developed the science of Yoga. Yoga is controlling the senses, will and mind. The benefit of its study is that we learn to control instead of being controlled. Mind seems to be layer on layer. Our real goal is to cross all these intervening strata of our being and find God. The end and aim of Yoga is to realise God. To do this we must go beyond relative knowledge, go beyond the sense-world. The world is awake to the senses, the children of the Lord are asleep on that plane. The world is asleep to the Eternal, the children of the Lord are awake in that realm. These are the sons of God. There is but one way to control the senses—to see Him who is the Reality in the universe. Then and only then can we really conquer our senses.

These methods are not mutually exclusive

That is, one can practice bhakti, while at the same time serve others selflessly, while meditating a few hours everyday and enquiring about one's true nature!!

Sri Swami Sivananda says in 'The Synthesis of Yogas'

The Yoga of synthesis alone is suitable for this modern age. The four Yogas are interdependent and inseparable. Love is endowed in service. Service is love in expression. Knowledge is diffused love and love is concentrated knowledge. Karma Yoga is always combined with Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is the fulfilment of Karma Yoga. Raja Yoga is the fulfilment of Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Jnana Yoga is the fulfilment of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga.

The importance of steady discipline and practice

Learning to read, learning to walk, learning to breath, nothing happens in a second. Everything takes time and everything requires constant practice. Similarly with sadhana.

Sri Swami Sivananda says in Control of senses by Sri Swami Sivananda

If you have the reins of the horses under your control, you can have a safe journey. The Indriyas are the horses. If you have the senses under your efficient control, you can have a safe journey in the path of Moksha. Indriyas cannot do anything without the help of the mind, their master and commander. Control of the Indriyas means control of the mind only. Control of thoughts leads to the control of mind and Indriyas also. It leads to the attainment of infinite bliss and eternal life. Control of thought is indispensable-a great desideratum for all.

The constant practice of sadhana will give one control over senses, emotions, arishadvargas, mind and even universe. One will merge into Reality.

All the best.

  • 1
    Can meditation help me? – Paṇḍyā Oct 15 '15 at 10:25
  • 5
    @Pandya Yes definitely meditation will help. There are several techniques of meditation that are preached by the sadhus. However steady practice is key, All the best! – Sai Oct 19 '15 at 16:02
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TL;DR

Short Answer

  • Sri Krishna teaches:

    Undoubtedly, O Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to control. But by practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya) it can be controlled. [BG 6.35]

    Charity, the performance of one's duty, the observance of vows, general and particular, the hearing of the scriptures, meritorious acts, and all other works — all these culminate in the control of the mind. The control of the mind is the highest yoga. [SB 23.45]

  • The purer the mind, the easier it is to control.
  • The easiest method of doing this [purifying the mind], however, is cultivating holy company.

    Sri Krishna teaches:

    Yoga, discrimination, piety, study of the Vedas, austerities, renunciation, rites such as agnihotra, works of public utility, charity, vows, sacrifices, secret mantras, places of pilgrimage, and moral rules, particular as well as universal — none of these, I say, bind Me so much as association with saints, which roots out all attachment.
    [SB 11.12.1-2]

    Sri Ramakrishna teaches:

    The wordly man must constantly live in the company of holy men. It is necessary for all, even for sannyasins; but it is specially necessary for the householder. His disease has become chronic because he has to live constantly in the midst of 'woman and gold.'

  • Mind-control is greatly helped by the practice of meditation, and meditation by mind-control.

    Things should not be able to force our minds on them. Now, how do we do this?

    It can be done by practising pratyāhāra.

    When the mind is withdrawn from the sense-objects, the sense-organs also withdraw themselves from their objects and they are said to imitate the mind. This is known as pratyāhāra.

  • The simplest and surest method of controlling the mind is through love of God.
  • Those who do not believe in God can control the mind by transcending the gunas through self-effort.

Long Answer

The following is taken from the book, The Mind and its Control by Swami Budhananda. Although it's mainly about controlling the mind, I think it applies to senses as well.

Sri Krsna was explaining in the Gita how the supreme state of Yoga was to be attained. After listening to him, Arjuna said to the Lord in understandable despair:

O Krsna, this yoga which you declare to be characterized by perfect evenness of mind, I do not see how it can endure, because of the restlessness of the mind. The mind, O Krsna, is restless, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. To control the mind is as hard, it seems to me, as to control the wind.

Sri Krsna listened to this representative complaint of man and gave a reply important for all men of all times. All Indian thinking and practice on mind-control are largely based on this teaching of Sri Krsna. He said:

Undoubtedly, O Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to control. But by practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya) can be controlled.

In these two words, abhyasa and vairagya, practice and dispassion, Sri Krsna gave the whole secret of controlling the mind.

It is the uniform verdict of all the saints of India down the ages that there is no other way of controlling the mind except through 'practice and dispassion'. This is also called 'abhyasa-yoga' or 'the yoga of practice'.


Dialogue between Sri Ramakrishna and a devotee

Sri Ramakrishna: Don't sit idle simply because your spiritual consciousness has been awakened a little. Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandalwood there are other and more valuable things — silver-mines, gold-mines and so on.

Priya: Sir, our legs are in chains. We cannot go forward.

Sri Ramakrishna: What if the legs are chained? The important thing is the mind. Bondage is of the mind, and freedom is also of the mind.

Priya: But the mind is not under my control.

Sri Ramakrishna: How is that? There is such a thing as abhyasa-yoga, yoga through practice. Keep up the practice and you will find that your mind will follow in whatever direction you lead it. The mind like a white cloth just returned from the laundry. It will be red if you dip it in red dye and blue if you dip it in blue. It will have whatever colour you dip it in.


How NOT To Make Mind-control Unnecessarily Difficult

By certain actions, dispositions, and habits of thought we make our task of controlling the mind almost impossible. It will be helpful to know what these are, so that we may avoid them.

  • If we have strong likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions, we shall not be able to control our minds.
  • If we live an immoral life we shall not be able to control our minds.
  • If we have the habit of deliberately harming others we shall not be able to control our minds.
  • If we indulge in intoxicants, live unbalanced and chaotic lives, e.g. eat, drink, talk, work, or sleep too little or too much, we shall not be able to control our minds.
  • If we habitually indulge in vain controversy, are inordinately inquisitive about others' affairs, or are too anxious to find others' faults, we shall not be able to control our minds.
  • If we torture our bodies unnecessarily, spend our energies in futile pursuits, force rigid silence upon ourselves, or become too egocentric, we shall not easily control our minds.
  • If we are over-ambitious irrespective of our capacities, if we are jealous of others prosperity, or if we are self-righteous, we shall not easily control our minds.
  • If we have a feeling of guilt, we shall not be able to control our minds. Therefore we must erase all guilt from within us. To repent for "sins committed and ask God's help for strength of will so that they may not be repeated, that is all that is needed to be free from guilt.


Holy Company Greatly Helps Mind-control

Most of our attachments are due to the preponderance of rajas in our nature. When we are in the company of a perfected soul, the powerful vibrations of his holiness penetrate within us and bring about a speedy change in the guna-composition of our mind, leading to a preponderance of sattva for the time being. How enduring this sattva-dominance will be depends on how often we frequent holy company.

Sri Ramakrishna teaches:

...The wordly man must constantly live in the company of holy men. It is necessary for all, even for sannyasins; but it is specially necessary for the householder. His disease has become chronic because he has to live constantly in the midst of 'woman and gold.'


Training The Mind To Behave

In one sense to control the mind is to train it to behave. It is like catching a wild horse and turning it into a circus horse to do feats to order. How is it done?

Swami Vivekananda teaches:

Before we can control the mind we must study it.

We have to seize this unstable mind and drag it from its wanderings and fix it on one idea. Over and over again this must be done. By power of will we must get hold of the mind and make it stop and reflect upon the glory of God.

The easiest way to get hold of the mind is to sit quiet and let it drift where it will for a while.

Hold fast to the idea, 'I am the witness watching my mind drifting. The mind is not I.' Then see it think as if it were a thing entirely apart from yourself. Identify yourself with God, never with matter or with the mind. Picture the mind as a calm lake stretched before you and the thoughts that come and go as bubbles rising and breaking on its surface. Make no effort to control the thoughts, but watch them and follow them in imagination as they float away. This will gradually lessen the circles. For the mind ranges over wide circles of thought and those circles widen out into ever increasing circles, as in a pond when we throw a stone into it. We want to reverse the process and starting with a huge circle make it narrower until at last we can fix the mind on one point and make it stay there. Hold to the idea, 'I am not the mind, I see that I am thinking, I am watching my mind act', and each day the identification of yourself with thought and feeling will grow less, until at last you can entirely separate yourself from the mind and actually know it to be apart from yourself.

When this is done, the mind is your servant to control as you will. The first stage of being a yogi is to go beyond the senses. When the mind is conquered, he has reached the highest stage.


The Simplest And The Surest Method Of Controlling The Mind

Sri Ramakrishna teaches:

The best thing for people whose minds are attracted by sense-objects is to cultivate the dualistic attitude and chant loudly the name of the Lord as enjoined in the Narada Pancaratra.

On another occasion Sri Ramakrishna said to a devotee:

Through the path of devotion subtle senses come readily and naturally under control. Carnal pleasures become more and more insipid as divine love grows in your heart. Can the pleasures of the body attract the husband and the wife on the day their child has died?

Devotee: But I have not learnt to love God?

Sri Ramakrishna: Take His name constantly. This will cleanse all sin, lust and anger, and all desires for the pleasures of the body will vanish.

Devotee: But I do not find delight in His name.

Sri Ramakrishna: Then pray with a yearning heart that He may teach you to relish His name, Undoubtedly He will grant your prayer...'I find no delight in Thy name—' If a delirious patient loses all taste for food, despair of his life. But if he relishes food even slightly, you may hope for his recovery. So I say, 'Find joy in His name'. Durga, Krsna, Siva — any name will do. And if you daily feel greater attraction for taking His name and a greater joy in it, you need fear no more. The delirium must he cured, and His grace will surely descend on you.


Summary

  • Mind-control has always, been a difficult task even for a heroic person; but it is not an impossible one. There are well-defined methods.
  • The entire secret of controlling the mind is given by Sri Krsna in the two words abhyasa and vairagya, practice and dispassion.
  • To bring these two disciplines into the stream of our life:

    Φ   we have to develop a strong will to control the mind;
    Φ   we have to understand the nature of our mind;
    Φ   we have to learn certain techniques and practise them.

  • In order to strengthen the will, we need to overcome our pleasure-motive and also understand what is involved in controlling the mind.
  • The nature of the mind is explained from the Hindu point of view in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.
  • The purer the mind, the easier it is to control. So we should practise disciplines for the purification of the mind. Our object should be to bring about a preponderance of sattva in our inner nature, and then to transcend sattva by purifying it according to authentic disciplines.
  • The easiest method of doing this, however, is cultivating holy company.
  • The Vedantic disciplines can be helpfully supplemented by the Yoga disciplines taught by Patanjali.
  • Mind-control is greatly helped by the practice of meditation, and meditation by mind-control.
  • Believers are at an advantage in controlling the mind.
  • The simplest and surest method of controlling the mind is through love of God.
  • Those who do not believe in God can control the mind by transcending the gunas through self-effort.
  • A marvelous example of excellent answer. -:) – SwiftPushkar Nov 29 '17 at 4:07
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From Bhagwat Geeta, Chapter 5

Bg 5.27-28 — Shutting out all external sense objects, keeping the eyes and vision concentrated between the two eyebrows, suspending the inward and outward breaths within the nostrils, and thus controlling the mind, senses and intelligence, the transcendentalist aiming at liberation becomes free from desire, fear and anger. One who is always in this state is certainly liberated.

  • The question is not about "When", it's about "How". This doesn't answer the actual question. – iammilind Oct 5 '15 at 12:00
  • Cant you read this part "keeping the eyes and vision concentrated between the two eyebrows", this is the answer – user3870 Oct 5 '15 at 12:04
  • No both are different & consecutive steps. Once the senses are in control, one has to keep the vision between Bhrammaras (eyebrows). Usually the eyes are closed in this situation. According to your logic in above comment it seems that, a person's eyes opened and looking between eyebrows and hence controlling senses. :-) – iammilind Oct 5 '15 at 13:07
  • Who said eyes are to be closed? Dont you know Shambavi Mudra, in which similar thing is done with eyes open. First go and study something about yog, than come and argue. Eyes are not closed, they are either made to look between the eyebrows or third eye or eyes are made to focus on tip of nose. – user3870 Oct 6 '15 at 6:41
  • If eyes are closed, person will start to feel sleepy or even might daydreaming because of thoughts, than how would he be able to concentrate. Eyes are usually half open while concentrating. – user3870 Oct 6 '15 at 6:42

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