Chapter II, Verse 58
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
When again who can withdraw his senses completely (at will) from the sense-objects as a tortoise draws its limbs (or temptations) then his wisdom is well-established.
The ability to withdraw the senses to their point of origin within is evidence of wisdom.
All physical sense experiences are past events.
Consider the anatomical mechanics of the senses. Let’s assume for a moment that sense experiences happen “outside” the body. Let’s consider what happens with hearing. Sound hits the tympanic membrane in the ear, the nerves register the vibration, the information travels to the brain, the brain recognizes and interprets the information and finally the brain shares that information with one’s consciousness.
Each of the five senses, hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell, operate the same way when viewed from the outside to the inside. Each experience has already happened by the time the brain acknowledges and interprets it.
When one is able to withdraw from the sensory experience at will (not by damaging or drugging the nervous system), he realizes a deeper truth. The physical senses report past events only. These past sensory events are the “fruits” of the labor of consciousness.
The one who is able to withdraw from the senses at will is able to be present in the moment rather than react to the sensory experiences of the past. Wisdom is born in the present moment. The intellect (the library of ignorance) is only stocked in the record of the past, including the experiences of the senses.
When Krishna tells Arjuna that one quality the wise may display is the ability to withdraw the senses within like the turtle withdraws its appendages, he indicates how to identify a person who is able to “be here now” in the moment.
The vast majority of humanity is compelled by desires (attachments) and guided by the intellect (the storehouse of past events). Both the motive and the guide in this lifestyle lead to never-ending cycles between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, intellectual capacity and stupidity. Only when one transmutes the limited experiences of the flesh for the greater experiences of expanded awareness is he able to become wise..
Learn to concentrate. Learn to meditate. Learn and apply the tools, like introspection, that produce wisdom. If in doubt about whether or not you are progressing toward a goal of expanded awareness, seek out a wise-one who displays the qualities that Krishna lists in these verses.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
Compare Sanskrit words for variations on “indifference”.
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