Dear Francis, My question is about the sense object, the arts, and my search for truth. I am wondering, how should one relate to sense objects while still upholding Truth, and is it even possible to engage with sense objects while one is indifferent to them, like a sage is supposed to be? In the world I find so many opportunities to indulge desires for sensuality! I, for one, listen to much music, and have good knowledge and understanding of jazz and several other genres. Are the desires to listen to music, or say, to watch a movie, or to play an instrument, necessarily desires for sense objects that one must become “indifferent to?” Does it depend on the music or the movie? How does one reconcile such activities with the strident passages in the Gita and elsewhere about controlling one’s senses? How does one reconcile desire for such sense objects with the statements of sages like Ramana and Nisargadatta, for example, who state that pleasure and pain, and desire and fear come from the mind’s relationship with sense objects? How can a true sage be established in the Highest, and still participate in activities like art or music, which produce sensory pleasure, or perhaps even in less “noble” sensory activities? I don’t mean to sound like an ascetic here. I just notice that my mind lusts after sense objects and that it makes me feel like limited and fearful. Is it actually possible to be free of sense objects, and yet also to partake in them with one’s body? The arts have been a great source of inspiration in my life, especially music, and I am trying view them in the light of my ongoing search for Truth. With love and gratitude.
How do we control the senses? Not by effort, as we all well know, but by becoming more and more interested in something higher than the senses. Trying to harness a sensual desire only exacerbates it. When the love for the Ultimate takes birth in us, the ordinary desires may still be there, but they gradually become irrelevant in comparison with our overwhelming desire for the Truth. This process is effortless, it is the result of grace. All we can do is facilitate it, welcome it.
A true object of art is one that reveals Presence. Either art is spiritual, or it is not. As such, although an object of art is comprised of sensorial elements (sounds, images, etc), it doesn’t leave us at the sensorial and physical level. It is an object which by design points at That-which-is-not-an-object. Far from diverting us from our essence, it shows the way to it.