Reflections Along The Way

Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 3, Verses 34-43

Every one of us is unique based on our own nature (svabhāva) which is what makes us think the way we do. Knowledge gives great happiness and fulfillment. But even with all the knowledge, it is not possible to walk the talk as our nature is so powerful. That doesn’t mean we cannot tame it, it just requires extra effort because of its strength. 

First, we must understand that the mind has its own inclinations (rāga) and disinclinations (dveśa) regardless of whether something is right or wrong. There is nothing wrong with having those inclinations or disinclinations. The problem is when we have inclinations for what is not conducive to growth and disinclinations for what is conducive to growth. In the following verses, Shri Krishna guides Arjuna (us) on how to progress without letting our likes and dislikes overpower us.

Chapter 3, Verse 34

इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ ।
तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ ॥३४॥
indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāgadveṣau vyavasthitau,
tayorna vaśamāgacchettau hyasya paripanthinau. (34)

The senses naturally experience attachment and aversion to the sense objects, but do not come under their sway, for they are foes.

It is the nature of the sense organs to have attachments and aversions to the sense objects born from your own nature (svabhāva). Understanding this, you do not come under the sway of the senses as they are the looters in your life who give you sorrow. 

As long as I have vāsanās (innate tendencies), I like things that are conducive to my vāsanās and dislike things that are not conducive to my vāsanās. Understanding this, when we are not overpowered by them and don’t come under their sway, we progress spiritually. For that, self-effort is required. Empower yourself with the knowledge of scriptures and weaken the likes/dislikes so that they don’t drag you as they wish in random directions. With an alert and vigilant mind, we become stronger to conquer these senses. 

Chapter 3, Verse 35

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः
śreyānsvadharmo viguṇaḥ paradharmātsvanuṣṭhitāt,
svadharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ paradharmo bhayāvahaḥ. (35)

It is far better to perform one’s own duty, though devoid of merit than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. In fact, better is death in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with fear.

Each of us has duties (svadharma) based on our innate tendencies.  Even if we can’t perform our duties to perfection, it is better to do our own duty rather than someone else’s.

Arjuna who is a dynamic man of action was ready to renounce everything without fighting the war (Refer to Chapter 1) not because he was mentally ready to do so, it is because of his aversion to fighting with his kith and kin. His duty at this time is to fight based on his nature. He would be miserable if he renounced without sufficient preparation because his natural tendencies are suppressed and not sublimated. Therefore, It is better to conquer the senses by doing your own duty rather than performing duties that are not yours. 

Don’t try to imitate anyone. Just live your life according to your own vāsanās. If you try to imitate, you are going to create new vāsanās while suppressing the ones you already have making you very agitated. While doing your duty, do it with the feeling of surrender and reverence to the higher and accept any results you may get from your actions happily. This will help conquer the sway the senses have on the mind. 

Chapter 3, Verse 36

अर्जुन उवाच
अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः
अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः
arjuna uvāca
atha kena prayukto’yaṁ pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ,
anicchannapi vārṣṇeya balādiva niyojitaḥ. (36)

Arjuna said:
Then, by what is a person impelled to commit sin against his wishes as if by force, O descendent of Vrishni (Krishna)?

When we know something is wrong but we do it for the immediate joy of satisfying a sense organ, that is a sin. The mind becomes very agitated when we do something contradictory to our own intellectual conviction. What is the power in us that compels us to do wrong actions even though we know it is wrong? Shri Krishna answers this question from Arjuna in the next verse.

Chapter 3, Verse 37

काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः ।
महाशन महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् ॥३७॥
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇasamudbhavaḥ,
mahāśano mahāpāpmā viddhyenamiha vairiṇam. (37)

The Lord said:
It is desire later transformed into anger, born of the ‘active’. Know this as the all-sinful, all-devouring enemy here.

Shri Krishna says that the force which compels everyone to act contrary to our knowledge is lust or desire (kāma) with extreme impatience which transforms into anger (krodha) which is uncontrollable when desire is not fulfilled. 

One’s discriminatory power goes to a toss irrespective of whether a desire is fulfilled or not. If a desire is fulfilled, you want more. It is like pouring oil into a fire. Desire can never be satisfied. As you satisfy one, there are several others waiting in the queue. If a desire is not fulfilled, you are angered, hurt, jealous, etc. So in either case desire makes the mind restless, unstable, and agitated. 

Chapter 3, Verse 38

धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च ।
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् ॥३८॥
dhūmenāvriyate vahniryathādarśo malena ca,
yatholbenāvṛto garbhastathā tenedamāvṛtam. (38)

Just as a fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror by dust, as an embryo is by the womb, this knowledge gets covered by desire or anger.

Our discriminating ability and intellectual thinking are lost when desire or anger rises in us. Desire creates agitation in the mind that veils our knowledge to discriminate.

Shri Krishna gives three examples explaining how desires veil knowledge. The texture of the covering or veil depends on the kind of desire.

  1. When there is fire, the flame is covered by its own smoke. The smoke that veils the flames can be removed easily with passing winds. If the desire is sātvic, the veil on knowledge goes away with meditation like smoke disappears with just a little wind.
  2. If the desire is rājasic (passionate), it cannot be removed as easily as smoke over the flames. A little more effort is needed like wiping a mirror covered with dust to see your reflection.
  3. If the desire is tāmasic, it cannot be removed by blowing or wiping, it needs effort for a long period of time just like it takes a long time and a lot of effort for the fetus covered by the embryonic wall to come out of the womb.

Chapter 3, Verse 39

आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा ।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च ॥३९॥
āvṛtaṁ jñānametena jñānino nityavairi­ṇā,
kāmarūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca. (39)

O son of Kunti (Arjuna), the knowledge gets covered by this eternal enemy of the wise in the form of desire, which is never satisfied and burns like fire.

Knowledge and wisdom are what give us discriminatory power. Desire veils this knowledge making us act impulsively rather than wisely. Hence that is the eternal enemy of a wise person.

Desire is like a jungle fire burning tree after tree. It can never be satisfied or stopped easily. So do not give in. To conquer any enemy we need to know where the enemy is and how we can catch the enemy.

Chapter 3, Verse 40

इन्द्रियाणि मन बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते ।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम् ॥४०॥
indriyāṇi mano buddhirasyādhiṣṭhānamucyate,
etairvimohayatyeṣa jñānamāvṛtya dehinam. (40)

The senses, mind, and intellect are said to be the dwelling place (of desire). Through them, it clouds one’s knowledge and deludes the embodied.

Senses, mind, and intellect are the abodes of desire. Desire stands apart and manifests itself as the craving in the senses, the imagination in the mind of the pleasure when it is fulfilled, and the planning in the mind for fulfilling it. It confuses and deludes a person veiling our knowledge. Then we foolishly act enchanted with the things of the world outside.

Chapter 3, Verse 41

तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम् ॥४१॥
tasmāttvamindriyāṇyādau niyamya bharatarṣabha,
pāpmānaṁ prajahi hyenaṁ jñānavijñānanāśanam. (41)

Therefore, O best of the Bharatas, first bring the senses under control and slay this enemy (desire), which is the embodiment of sin and destroyer of knowledge and wisdom.

We conquer this enemy (desire) by tackling the abodes one by one. First, we learn how to conquer it at the level of the senses as it is the easiest. Destroy it completely when conquered.

It is a bit difficult to conquer it at the mind and the intellect level because of our existing vāsanās. So how do we do it?

Chapter 3, Verse 42

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः ॥४२॥
indriyāṇi parāṇyāhurindriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ,
manasastu parā buddhiryo buddheḥ paratastu saḥ. (42)

The senses are superior to the gross body, and superior to the senses is the mind. Superior to the mind is the intellect, and superior to the intellect is He (Atman).

The senses are subtler than the sense objects. The mind is subtler than the senses. Intellect is subtler than the mind. And superior to intellect is the Supreme (Atman).

We are unable to control the senses currently because we are so identified with the body and the senses play with us as they wish. If we focus on a higher ideal, the mind is involved in reaching that ideal, and the senses are controlled automatically. In this way, by focusing on a higher ideal, apprehend the enemy (desire) and destroy it.

Chapter 3, Verse 43

एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना ।
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम् ॥४३॥
evaṁ buddheḥ paraṁ buddhvā saṁstabhyātmānamātmanā,
jahi śatruṁ mahābāho kāmarūpaṁ durāsadam. (43)

Thus knowing Him who is superior to the material intellect, O mighty-armed Arjuna, restrain the lower self (senses, mind, and intellect) by the higher Self, and slay this formidable enemy in the form of desire.

If you really want to destroy the enemy, then awaken to the highest state of consciousness with greater knowledge to conquer the desire at all levels (senses, mind, and intellect). 

If you ask a child to give up his toys, he will not. But when he grows up, he throws them away himself as he is outgrown that stage of playing with the toys. In the same way, when you grow and realize the highest, you throw away your identification with the senses, mind, and intellect as you have outgrown them, thereby killing the enemy once and for all. 

This concludes Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Geeta.

ॐ तत्सदिति श्रीमद् भगवद् गीतासूपनिषत्सु
ब्रह्मविद्यायां योगशास्त्रे
श्रीकृष्णार्जुनसंवादे साङ्ख्ययोगो
नाम द्वितीयोऽध्यायः
oṁ tatsaditi śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
brahmavidyāyāṁ yogaśāstre
śrīkṛṣṇārjunasaṁvāde karmayogo
nāma tṛtīyo’dhyāyaḥ


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at