atha kena prayukto ‘yam
papam carati purusah
anicchann api varsneya
balad iva niyojitah
But, why is a man impelled to commit sin, as if by force, even against his will, O Varsneya (Krishna)?
Arjuna wants to know from Lord Krishna exactly what it is that forcibly impels a person embarking on the path of jnana yoga or the cultivation of Vedic wisdom to go against their better judgement and engage in sinful activities. A sensible man generally does not want to commit sin, but it is the desire for pleasure and prosperity, which deviates him from the performance of his duty and forces him to perform sinful acts.
kama esa krodha esa
viddhy enam iha vairinam
The Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.
The influence which is the most powerful and destructive on human beings is kama or lust followed by krodha or anger which arises from frustrated desires. Those who hypothesise contrarily are not cognisant of the subtle difference involved in the mixture of the two. Therefore it can be understood that without desire there is no opportunity for anger to manifest and indeed it does not. Since there are many causes of anger it is called a great devourer. Since anger becomes the cause of committing abominable actions it is called mahapapam or great sinner and because it is counterproductive to all human goals of righteousness it is called mahavairi or great adversary.
A person believes that worldly objects provide him pleasure, so he has a desire to acquire them in order to enjoy pleasure. This desire gives birth to attachment. So long as this process continues, he cannot get rid of sinful acts. Craving for perishable objects, is called desire, while the need for God-realization, which may appear to be like desire, is not really desire. The reason is, that desire is never satisfied, but it is strengthened by sense enjoyments while the need of God-realization, is fulfilled having realized God.
Desires are of four kinds:-
1. Desires which satisfy necessities of life.
There are four criteria for such a desire-
(i) It is born at present (as desire for food when one is hungry).
(ii) The material to satisfy is available at present.
(iii) It is impossible to live without satisfying it.
(iv) Its satisfaction does evil neither to him nor to others.
2. Desire which is personal and just, but is beyond our power. Such a desire should be rooted out, by offering it to God.
3. Satisfy the just desire of others for their welfare and within our power to satisfy. Thus by satisfying the desires of others, we get strength to renounce our own.
4. Other desires, besides, the above-mentioned ones, which can be rooted out, by reflection.
yathadarso malena ca
tatha tenedam avrtam
As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, the living entity is covered by different degrees of
The three analogies given to describe the obfuscation of wisdom by desire are significant. First is the fire being obscured by smoke? This denotes a nature predominant of Sattva where the wisdom is slightly obscured as the fire with smoke. Once the smoke clears of its own accord the fire becomes visible. Similarly a person who is of satvic temperament needs only a little help from the sastras or his guru to clear his ignorance which is only slight like smoke that conceals the fire. The next example of mirror covered with dust refers to one who has more rajas and tamas due to karma accumulated in the past lives. It takes time for a mirror to become covered with dust. This can be removed only through persistent effort like cleaning a mirror with a cloth. That is, the wisdom can be acquired only through diligent spiritual discipline. The third example of the foetus being concealed in the womb is applicable to those whose nature is predominant of tamas. The ignorance is so great that it can be removed only in course of time just as the baby is born only at the appropriate time.
There are three divisions of intellect – of the nature of ‘goodness’ (Satvic), of ‘passion’ (Rajas) and of ‘ignorance’ (Tamas). The intellect by which one knows, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, is of the nature of ‘goodness’. The intellect, by which one wrongly understands, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, is of the nature of ‘rajas’, while the intellect by which one sees all things in a perverted way (contrary to the truth) is, of the nature of ‘ignorance’.
When dirt accumulates on the surface of a mirror, it cannot reflect an object. Similarly, the dirt of desire, covers knowledge (discrimination), and a seeker cannot decide what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. Because of desire, he hankers after worldly pleasures and prosperity, and he has a downfall. This is the second stage of desire. If desire is not satisfied, it gives birth to anger. From anger arises delusion; from delusion there is destruction of discrimination; from destruction of discrimination one does not do, what ought to be done, but indulges in evil acts, such as falsehood, fraud, dishonesty, injustice, oppression and other sinful acts.
avrtam jnanam etena
Thus, a man’s pure consciousness is covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.
It is said in the Manu-Smriti that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. The fire of desire devours everything which comes into its contact. “The richer a man grows, the more he hankers after worldly prosperity. A poor man, may desire to gain only a few rupees, but when he gains them, he has desire for a hundred and then a thousand, and after that a million and then a billion and trillion and then the ownership of the entire universe. Yet, this form of desire will not be satiated. It is only, by contentment, that this desire can be subdued. In fact it is not wealth, but desire for wealth, which is an obstacle to God-realization. This desire deprives the rich and the poor equally, of God-realization, as it can never be satiated. A man can only get rid of it by renouncing it. Advancement of material civilization on the basis of sense gratification means increasing the duration of the material existence of a living entity. Therefore, this lust is the symbol of ignorance by which the living entity is kept within the material world. While one enjoys sense gratification, it may be that there is some feeling of happiness, but actually that so-called feeling of happiness is the ultimate enemy of the sense enjoyer.
Everyone, likes loving and true words, and hates harsh and false words. It means that every person has the knowledge (discrimination) of good and bad, virtue and vice, right and wrong. In spite of this knowledge, an ignorant person uses harsh language, tells a lie and does not perform his duty scrupulously, because his discrimination is concealed by desire. The main obstacle to the practice of spiritual discipline is the desire for pleasure which is born by the contact of senses with sense-objects. This obstacle lingers for a long time. Wherever a seeker indulges in pleasure, there his spiritual progress is arrested.
indriyani mano buddhir
etair vimohayaty esa
jnanam avrtya dehinam
The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust, which veils the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.
By revealing the locations where kama or lust is stationed Lord Krishna is indicating the means to defeat kama. As desire arises from contact with sense objects by seeing, hearing, touching etc. the mind is agitated and a determined effort to enjoy arises and lust manifests itself from within the mind completely overpowering the intellect and the discriminatory faculties and a person is controlled and deluded, forced to be a slave of their sense.
All actions are performed, with the body, senses, mind and intellect. If desire resides in these, it hinders the performance of spiritual actions. Therefore, a Karma yogi (man of action), having abandoned attachment and the fruit of actions, performs actions, only by the body, senses, mind and intellect, for the purification of the self.