In this important article, Ripu (The Enemy) first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.8 issue 11 in 1897, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura analyses the overpowering strength of our internal enemies, in particular, the enemy known as kāma (lust).
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
The heart of the conditioned jīva is a peculiar playground for his enemies. It is impossible to determine how much the jīva, who is engrossed in matter, is agitated by these enemies. Some people, induced by them, do such horrible things that, when they become a little sane, they become remorseful, ashamed and apprehensive. But what an extraordinary influence the enemy has! What an extraordinary bewildering potency! Again, when he is stimulated by the enemy, where does all his remorse, shame and apprehension go? After the enemy possesses him, he again sets out to do terrible deeds. Amongst these enemies, lust (kāma) is indeed the chief amongst all. All other enemies accompany lust. The form of lust transforms into anger (krodha) and when there is an excess of attachment (asakti), it is called greed (lobha). Śrī Bhagavān says:
dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ saṅgas teṣūpajāyate
saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ kāmāt krodho ’bhijāyate
krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ sammohāt smṛti-vibhramaḥ
smṛti-bhraṁśād buddhi-nāśo buddhi-nāśāt praṇaśyati
When one meditates upon something, one gradually becomes attached to it. Out of attachment comes lust, in other words, the desire to obtain that object becomes strong. Whenever there is any obstruction in attaining that object, anger appears. From anger comes delusion, from delusion comes bewilderment of memory, from bewilderment of memory comes loss of intelligence, and from loss of intelligence, everything is doomed.
When we say lust, it is understood to be asat-tṛṣṇā (the thirst for material things). The jīva that is charmed by māyā seeks knowledge, intelligence, wealth, respect, celestial pleasures, liberation etc. – all this is lust. If you want to purify your consciousness – if you want to quickly stop lust from dominating the heart – then one has to give up all these desires. Otherwise one will never be free from the clutches of lust. In general, the power of lust is seen to be somewhat stronger in the attachment of a man to a woman, and the attachment of a woman to a man, and this is why the jīva is so captivated. He can be freed from all other desires, but he cannot be freed from this. There is no recourse other than to be rid of this.
One who is fortunate enough to have a little śraddhā in Śrī Bhagavān and who has attained sādhu-saṅga, understands that this enemy is the greatest adversary on his path of sādhana-bhajana on the road to Bhagavān’s temple of prema. He also understands that this enemy, in his imperceptible way, always behaves unfavourably towards him and accepts those things that are adverse to his bhajana, endeavoring to show his extraordinary potency and activities. So, keeping himself away from all alluring objects, with the help of yukta-vairāgya and higher activities, he should try to disarm him and undoubtedly, within no time he will convert enmity into friendship.
But those who, despite having a little śraddhā, do not have sādhu-saṅga, or accept impious association, are often in danger due to lack of discretion. Amongst them, some may have heard one or two lectures on philosophy, or some may have read a few theological texts in bad association, and by doing so they identify themselves as dharmika (religious) or rasika (a relisher of rasa) – and thus they proceed to be conquered by the enemy. They say, “The jīva is an expansion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and being subject to ahaṅkāra (false ego), I was overcome by the enemy. Yet when one realises that the enemy has no authorisation over śuddha-sattva (ie. the ātmā), why should he fear the enemy again?”
These words are true, but if you gain this knowledge simply by listening to what people say, and looking through books, you cannot wage war with the enemy. When one listens in terror to the deep roar of the invading enemy, one cannot find this hidden knowledge. The senses etc. will be aroused. Therefore, going to war with knowledge is simply self-deception. While constantly engaged in sādhana, when this form of ātmā-jñāna is ignited within the heart by the continual grace of the sādhu and Kṛṣṇa, when the jīva realises that female, male, the inanimate, the animate are all one substance, when the jīva sees that the entire universe is within Śrī Bhagavān, and that Śrī Bhagavān is omnipresent, then the power to overcome the enemy is born, and he becomes perfect in all respects. Śrīman Mahāprabhu has spoken these divine words:
abheda puruṣa-nārī yakhana jānibe
takhana premera tattva hṛdaye sphūribe
(“When one realises that there is no difference between man and woman, then the reality of prema is ignited in the heart.” – Govinda Dāsa’s kaḍacā)
We see in our śāstra that one time, the best of jitendriyas (those that have conquered the senses), the greatest vairāgī, Mahādeva, left the supremely beautiful Bhagavatī and became obsessed with Mohinī-mūrti – and we tiny jīvas, insects amongst insects, have become so strong that we will wage war on the enemy and defeat him! The enemy within the heart of the bound jīva has so much power, so much courage, that if he so desires, he can drag the jīva away from the feet of Bhagavān and make him do whatever he wants. Śrī Bhagavān Gauracandra has shown this. He has explained and shown by His teachings and pastimes to some jīvas, that which is to be accepted by them. In His instructions concerning Choṭa Hari Dāsa He has said:
durvāra indriya kare viṣaya-grahaṇa
dāravī prakṛti hare munerapi mana
(“The uncontrolled senses accept the sense-objects, and even the mind of a sage can become attracted to the wooden form of a woman.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 2.118)
If the senses are tempted, it becomes impossible to suppress them. Even the form of a woman made from wood captivates a sage’s mind. This shows the enchanting power of a real woman, and how much power they have to attract unfortunate jīvas.
After accepting sannyāsa, when Śrī Śrī Mahāprabhu set out to deliver the southern states, at the special request of the devotees, especially Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, he took with him a ‘simple brāhmaṇa’ named Kṛṣna Dāsa to carry his kaupina etc. and to restore Him when He was in an unconscious state. Mahāprabhu began His journey and Kṛṣṇa Dāsa served in various ways. While traveling, Mahāprabhu came to Mallāra-deśa. There, the Bhaṭṭamārī sannyāsīs instilled greed in the ‘simple’ Kṛṣna Dāsa by giving him various kinds of evil advice and showing him their women, thus destroying his intelligence. The dam of Kṛṣṇa Dāsa’s discrimination was broken by the strong urges of lust. While he chanted the Name of Mahāprabhu, lust and all other enemies were afraid and hid far away. Upon seeing Him, the desert-like hearts of hundreds of atheists become flooded with prema. But leaving that same Mahāprabhu, who is Śrī Bhagavān Himself, Kṛṣṇa Dāsa was overcome with lust and went to the residence of the Bhaṭṭamārīs. But if the Lord did not rescue the ‘simple brāhmaṇa’ who had served him sincerely, His servants would be disappointed. Thus, Gauracandra, the deliverer of the fallen, gave appropriate punishment to the Bhaṭṭamārīs.
keśe dhari’ vipre lañā karila gamana
(“Grabbing the brāhmaṇa by the hair, He departed” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 9.233)
Through this pastime, Mahāprabhu has demonstrated that the enemy is not a trivial thing. When the bound jīva is enticed by the enemy, there is nothing he won’t do. In Prema-vivarta Vilāsa, for the purpose of teaching the jīvas, Śrīla Jagadānanda Ṭhākura tells the sannyāsīs:
svapne-u nā kara bhāi prakṛta daraśana
(“O brother, do not look at women even in your dreams.”)
This should especially be maintained by the householder devotees. A vairāgī will not look at women or meditate upon sense-objects, and although a householder Vaiṣṇava may enjoy sense-objects, by accepting yukta-vairāgya and whatever is favourable to bhakti, his mind will be completely separate from the objects of the senses – this is the meaning of this statement.
Therefore, one who desires to acquire the mercy of Śrī Bhagavān and attain bliss by being engaged in His service, should consider all these things. With the hope of defeating the enemy and rejecting him, one should stay far away from the temptations of the enemy, and in the company of pure devotees, continue with his sādhana-bhajana. Only then will one be able to attract the merciful glance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
And one who goes to subdue the enemy (by his own strength) should consider himself defeated. He loses the general of his army, gets wounded and is enslaved by the enemy. He resembles someone who puts mercury in a fire which explodes on his limbs. With a sincere mood he should accept his own faults and ignorance, and approaching Śrī Bhagavān, pray for the strength to shun bad association and the enemy’s temptations. Then due to his sincerity, Śrī Bhagavān will award him appropriate strength and deliver him.