Bhagavan Shri Krishna has laid down three types of pleasures: Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.
Starting with sattvic, the Lord says (BG XVIII: verse 37) :
यत्तदग्रे विषमिव परिणामेऽमृतोपमम् ।
तत्सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तमात्मबुद्धिप्रसादजम् ॥
That pleasure which feels like poison at the beginning, but becomes the very nectar of life towards the end, is sattvic, and leads to happiness.
Sattvic pleasures involve study and activities involving creative art like music, martial arts, painting, acting, learning languages, rendering seva and service to society, etc. to name a few. Meditation is highest form of sattvic pleasure.
These activities require discipline, commitment and hard work in the beginning but once mastered, they become big sources of happiness for oneself and inspire others to do the same.
The next type of pleasure is rajasic. On this, Bhagavan says (BG XVIII: verse 38):
परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं राजसं स्मृतम्।।
That enjoyment which, arising from the union of senses with their objects, is at first like nectar but like poison in the end, is known as rajasic.
Most pleasures fall into this category. The type of enjoyment that is highly appealing in the beginning, but turns out to be painful later is referred to as rajasic. Rajasic pleasures are food indulgences (over eating), movies and music (excessive visual and auditory stimulation), total preoccupation with career, money, fame (worldly pursuits), etc.
Our senses are forever turned outwards towards objects to seek some form of pleasure and happiness. The “unholy alliance” between the senses and the sense objects, even though they look promising in the beginning, always results in pain later. Neither our senses belong to the sense objects nor do the objects belong to the senses. They deceive each other and can often lose interest in each other. When that happens it becomes very painful and the mind will remain agitated for a very long time unable to meditate. That is why I call it an unholy alliance. Hence, a wise person does not fall prey to such an insidious play between the two, and therefore moderates the needs and desires of the senses and their objects.
Most do not understand the need for “sense management” and often get swept away by the play of senses and suffer severe consequences later. If the senses are allowed to roam freely indulging in every object of desire either through thoughts (fantasies), actions, or both, it will always lead to agitation of the mind and interfere in sadhana. Attachment to sense objects will also lead to fear and anger and create further disturbances in our mind. By restraining the mind and body (Sama and Dama) towards such indulgences, we prevent ourselves from much pain and suffering and can easily focus on our sadhana.
Sense management through Sama and Dama doesn’t mean total abstinence. It means moderating our desires towards these pleasures, so that we don’t fall into cravings and urges which would agitate our mind. Total preoccupation and obsessions must be totally avoided and efforts must be made towards removing them if we are to succeed in our sadhana.
Last are tamasic pleasures. According to Bhagavad Gita (BG XVIII:39):
यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मनः।
That pleasure which deludes the self initially and in its result, caused by sleep, lethargy and intoxication, that joy is called as tamasic
Unlike the two other types of pleasures mentioned above, tamasic enjoyments are those which do not make you feel good at any point. Tamasic pleasures are intoxicating substances of any kind, excessive sexual thoughts and desires, excessive sleep, etc.
They are distasteful at the very beginning, in the middle and until the very end. Not only are they distasteful, but they also dull the intellect, and do not allow the mind to remain focused and concentrated on any higher goal as one falls prey to false intoxication, lethargy, dullness and sleep. YET, many people suffer from indulgences of tamasic nature. Why? Because there is some sensation of joy which has to be acknowledged even though it is unwanted and destructive. It is toxic and is a perverse form of joy and pleasure. This is what makes tamasic pleasures different from rajasic pleasures.
Such habits don’t go away easily due to repeated past actions of indulgence in these forms of enjoyments. Often those who indulge in them experience an uncontrollable urge and craving, and fail to get passed such habits. They also suffer from guilt and shame due to that.
One must never be disheartened despite repeated failures to overcome such addictions and obsessions, and strive harder each day. One will require supreme effort to overcome it but with conviction and devotion to the Lord (Higher OTHER) one can easily overcome such addictions.
With love and support from ever deepening faith in the Lord arrived through discernment (making conscious right choice) and daily meditation (at fixed time each day) such cravings can lessen in a matter of days, and finally one becomes free of being dependent on them. Once free from these pleasures one must NEVER try to flirt with them even to test one’s inner strength. One must forever guard against them and totally renounce such pleasures. If memory or craving arrives we must remind ourselves the of the limitations (dosha) and suffering (dukkha) that such pleasures bring about. Total abstinence is the requirement as regards pleasures of tamasic nature.