It is very commonly heard from Vedas how saintly personalities in the bygone ages would enter the forests in renunciation to meditate within their heart on Vishnu (and not void or an impersonal energy). ramante yogino ’nante satyānande cid-ātmani – “The mystics derive unlimited transcendental pleasures from the Absolute Truth”
This is because the yogis knew the origin of real happiness. Although the above yogic procedure is not practical for the current age, yet the Absolute Truth still remains the same for Absolute means that which never changes with time, or non-relative.
A person who has at least theoretically accepted ones eternal identity as spirit soul based on logic, with little intelligence can also understand that his source should also be eternal in nature. Being surrounded by matter, the self is entrapped into temporary conception of existence and hence cannot easily perceive eternity. However, by the grace of scriptures, realized by the bonafide spiritual master, a fortunate person can understand this and with practice, realize The Absolute Truth for Truth Works.
It has been concluded from scriptures such intelligent men begin the spiritual path by merging their consciousness into the transcendental knowledge which in the form of vibration destroys the doubts dwelling as ignorance within the heart. Such transcendental knowledge (different from mundane knowledge), purifies ones heart and further qualifies one towards higher states of transcendence:
chittvainaṁ saṁśayaṁ yogam
“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bhārata, stand and ﬁght.” (BG 4.42)
The word ‘fight’ above is significant. As goes the popular saying: “Actions speak louder than words”, one must put into practice the transcendental knowledge in order to attain the mentioned results just as one attends chemistry lab to work out the classroom theory.
The above mentioned practice involves restriction, a part of yoga. Restriction is meant for humans only since not applicable for animals. In other words human life without restriction is an animal life. Therefore the process of austerity in some or the other form must voluntarily be accepted under a bonafide guidance to qualify as a human, without which it is not possible to realize the eternal soul, being attached to bodily pains and pleasures, as recommended in Bhagavad Gita:
tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy ādau
pāpmānaṁ prajahi hy enaṁ
“Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bhāratas, 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)
To be more specific, the austerity is the process of regulation of senses. This is based on the following principle of The Bhagavad Gita:
indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur
indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
“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)
In order to curb the lust, the 5 senses, compared to the 5 horses must be strengthened against the allurement of their objects through the process of regulation. The mind being situated above the senses, currently the controller must be controlled through intelligence first in order to effectively slay the senses.
Just as a person afflicted with jaundice finds the sugarcane juice bitter in taste but with repeated intake of the same, becomes cured of jaundice and again relishes the sweetness of sugarcane juice, similarly the process of regulation may taste bitter initially due to our unrestricted enjoyment propensity since time immemorial but with gradual practice, liberation is soon experienced and regulation converts to spontaneous service unto the Absolute.
The modern idea of unrestricted enjoyment is illusion and merely poison which initially tastes like nectar. Such engagement merely leads to deep entanglement that further binds one deep into repeated cycle of birth and death. It’s incorrect to think that The Vedas is against personal enjoyment but is rather intelligently taking one towards infinite enjoyment however through restriction of senses which tastes poison in the beginning but is an eternal nectar later.
yat tad agre viṣam iva
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam
“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (BG 18.37)
Therefore an intelligent person considering that austerity and pain, being an unavoidable aspect of life is better utilized by applying in restricting ones senses which guarantees the dimension of transcendental bliss currently covered by thick layers of dirt within the heart, in the form of lust, anger, greed, illusion, envy and hatred. When the dust is cleansed, the self is soon realized.