16.12 – Our bonds are not prisoner’s shackles, but puppeteer’s strings
We treasure freedom as an inalienable right and resist anything that threatens it.
However, we think of freedom largely in terms of the freedom to pursue various forms of material pleasures.
Gita wisdom expands our conception of freedom by extending it to the spiritual level. As everything material is temporary, so is the pleasure from even the best material enjoyments. To get lasting happiness, we need to attain spiritual reality, wherein we as souls can rejoice in eternal love for Krishna. Our own misdirected desires for enjoying material things drag us away from spiritual reality and chain us to material reality, as the Bhagavad-gita (16.12: asha-pasha) indicates.
Unfortunately, we rarely see material desires as bonds because they are not like prisoner’s shackles – they do not immobilize us. To the contrary, they are like puppeteer’s strings – they activate us, making us dance to their tunes. Just as the casual eye doesn’t see how the strings are making the puppets dance, so we don’t see how material desires make us dance. In fact, we imagine those tunes to be our own tunes: “I want to enjoy that.” Only later when the infatuation passes do we wonder: “Why did I do that? What made me act like this, against my values?”
Gita wisdom answers: “The puppeteer’s strings.”
The way to break free from the puppeteer’s strings is by discrimination and devotion. When we use our intelligence to carefully observe ourselves, then we can catch material desires as soon as they start tugging us. And by praying to Krishna for inner strength and using the fulfillment coming from his remembrance as an inner sword, we can cut off those strings. By consistent cultivation of devotion, we eventually reclaim our right to spiritual freedom – the freedom to rejoice forever with Krishna.
16.12 – Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.