Bhagavan Krishna, through these final verses of Chapter 3, explains the powerful influence of Kama or lust. In these verses, Lord Krishna explains the priority of the faculties humans possess starting from the physical body to the senses to the mind to the intellect to the Atma. The senses are superior to the physical body because if the senses are agitated they will transfer this agitation to the physical body and knowledge will not arise in the mind. The mind is superior to the senses and can stop them but if the mind is intent on sense gratification then knowledge will not arise.
Now in conclusion Lord Krishna establishes the fact that one should try to their utmost to destroy the powerful enemy known as Kama or lust. Knowing that Kama is the mightiest enemy, one must destroy it by withdrawing the senses, keeping the mind steady and the intellect resolute in Sattva Guna (the mode of goodness).
Thus ends the Third Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita covering the Karma-yoga, or the Discharge of One’s Prescribed Duty as an offering to Bhagavan Krishna, and conquer lust through constant contemplation of the Lord.
3.31 Shloka 3.31
ये मे मतमिदं नित्यमनुतिष्ठन्ति मानवाः।
श्रद्धावन्तोऽनसूयन्तो मुच्यन्ते तेऽपि कर्मभिः।।3.31।।
Ye me matam idam nityam anutisthanti manavah |
Sraddhavanto ‘nasuyanto mucyante te ‘pi karmabhih ||3.31||
Meaning: One who executes his duties according to My injunctions and who follows this teaching faithfully, without envy, becomes free from the bondage arising from their actions.
Bhagavan Krishna explains that it is important that one should execute the prescribed duties with complete faith, without harbouring any envy, and dedicate the fruits of such actions to the Supreme Being. Such a person is assured to be liberated from the bondage of this Samsara.
3.32 Shloka 3.32
ये त्वेतदभ्यसूयन्तो नानुतिष्ठन्ति मे मतम्।
Ye tv etad abhyasuyanto nanutisthanti me matam |
Sarva-jnana-vimudhams tan viddhi nastan acetasah ||3.32||
Meaning: But those who, out of envy disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly, are deluded and bereft of all knowledge. They are deviated from the purpose of human existence and devoid of spiritual consciousness, and are doomed to ignorance and bondage.
Those who perform prescribed Vedic activities while renouncing the results of their actions gradually gain spiritual knowledge and attain Moksha.
In this verse, Bhagavan Krishna points out that those persons who disrespect, ignore and refuse to follow the injunctions of scriptures, are fools bereft of spiritual knowledge and in such a state of ignorance all their activities are fruitless and they are hopelessly entangled in the cycle of birth and death, ad infinitum.
Spiritual intelligence is what determines the light of knowledge in the material existence. In the absence of spiritual knowledge, darkness and ignorance prevails, and knowledge becomes flawed resulting in permanent entanglement in this Samsara.
3.33 Shloka 3.33
सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि।
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति।।3.33।।
Sadrsam cestate svasyah prakrter jnanavan api |
Prakrtim yanti bhutani nigrahah kim karisyati ||3.33||
Meaning: Even a knowledge person acts according to his own nature as all living entities are controlled by their own nature. What can repression accomplish?
If it is so beneficial to follow the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, then why is not everyone following them? As an answer to this question, Bhagavan Krishna explains that a person acts according to their own nature as determined by Samskaras or impressions from past lifetimes, and because of the influence of prakriti or material nature interacting with the three Gunas, or the modes of Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), Rajas (passion, active, confused), and Tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic).
Even persons of wisdom in Vedic knowledge are hostage to their own nature. So what to say of the ignorant? The purport is that although it may be possible for such persons to abandon desires and attachment, the necessary purity of mind does not manifest to evoke feelings of dedication to the Supreme Lord Krishna.
With the overpowering influence of these deep rooted habits how can the words of the Vedic scriptures impose restraint on such a person? One is helplessly carried away by the forceful current of past life actions and impressions.
The objects of the senses are perceived through the sense organs. For e.g. hearing is perceived by the ears through sound, seeing is perceived by the eyes through sight, smelling is perceived by the nose through smells and so on. For each of the senses, one has affection and the desire to enjoy through them. But the same senses operate depending upon attraction or aversion to the sense objects. For sense objects that are pleasing one has attraction for pleasure and for sense objects that are displeasing one has aversion to displeasure. All these habits are conditioned from ancient predilections of past life reminisces. Such dualities of attraction and aversion obstructs one who would want to succeed in jnana yoga by subjugating their sense. These dualities which can be understood as different degrees of love and hate, hold a person in an iron grip and forcefully drive them to commit actions that are in conformance with the attributes of one of the three gunas of goodness, passion or sloth to which one’s nature adheres to from past life impressions. Thus, one is being constantly diverted from the real purpose of human existence, that of atma tattva or realisation of the soul and their precious human life is wasted in pursuing sense objects.
3.34 Shloka 3.34
इन्द्रियस्येन्द्रियस्यार्थे रागद्वेषौ व्यवस्थितौ।
तयोर्न वशमागच्छेत्तौ ह्यस्य परिपन्थिनौ।।3.34।।
Indriyasyendriyasyarthe raga-dvesau vyavasthitau |
Tayor na vasam agacchet tau hy asya paripanthinau ||3.34||
Meaning: Attraction and repulsion for sense objects are felt by embodied beings, but one should not fall under the control of senses and sense objects because they are stumbling blocks to the path of self-realisation.
The senses are constantly being drawn by the force of attraction and aversion. Although Bhagavan Krishna is emphasising that the effect of restraining the senses has a temporary effect only still, by exercising restraint regularly, it opens up the possibility of slowly dampening the desires and may eventually develop a lasting effect. Of course, past life impressions have a deep rooted influence on all living entities, even in the case of Brahma and others, but there is still the possibility to modify the impact by practising restraint in a regulated manner.
If everyone must act according to their nature and no living being is void of their nature then the purpose of teaching the Vedic scriptures by the spiritual master could be deemed futile and unnecessary. To emphasise this point Bhagavan Krishna repeats the word ‘indriyasya’ twice to underline all the senses.
One who is fortunate to hear through the ears the holy words of the Vedic scriptures from the spiritual master should never come under the influence of attraction and aversion because they are two great obstacles on the path of Moksha. These two, Raga and Dvesha, act as obstacles and deviates them to the false path of desires, attachment and enjoyment of sense objects.
The spiritual master teaching the Vedic scriptures rescues an aspirant from being under the influence of the dualities of attraction and aversion and guides them in the right path of offering one’s actions as yagna or worship to the Supreme Lord which is the best and surest way to attain liberation. So learning the Vedic scriptures from the spiritual master is never futile and is highly beneficial and essential.
Lord Krishna confirms that a person who embarks upon the path of jnana yoga or the cultivation of spiritual wisdom should not fall again under the influence of dualities of raga and dvesha as they undermine all efforts. The dualities of love and hate, attraction and aversion are a person’s most potent enemies and they completely frustrate one’s attempts for higher understanding.
3.35 Shloka 3.35
श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्।
स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्मो भयावहः।।3.35।।
Sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah para-dharmat sv-anusthitat |
Sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah para-dharmo bhayavahah ||3.35||
Meaning: It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, as performing duties of others is fraught with danger.
In this verse, Lord Krishna is emphasising the fact that one should perform the duties one is designated or assigned to do. Arjuna was a Royal Prince educated, trained and having the might to uphold and protect dharma. Although war enacts terrible suffering it was necessary and appropriate for Arjuna, as a Kshatriya, to engage in it.
It should not be presumed that a person abstaining from their prescribed duty and take up an ascetic life is a superior choice. What is the purpose of a warrior if not to fight on the battlefield to protect and defend Dharma.
The essence of Karma Yoga is to perform one’s prescribed duties with commitment and dedication, and with a spirit of renunciation of results. The path of karma yoga is performed by one most easily as it naturally befits the person skills who is performing it. Bhagavan Krishna emphasises that performing one’s duty, even if badly, is far superior to perform another one’s duty with perfection as it is fraught with danger.
3.36 Shloka 3.36
अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः।
अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः।।3.36।।
Atha kena prayukto ‘yam apam carati purusah |
Anicchann api varsneya balad iva niyojitah ||3.36||
Meaning: Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?
A living entity, as part and parcel of the Supreme, is originally spiritual, pure, and free from all material contamination. Therefore, by nature it is not subjected to the sins of the material world. But when it comes into contact with the material nature, it acts in many sinful ways without hesitation, and sometimes even against its will.
As such, Arjuna’s question to Bhagavan Krishna is very pertinent and he seeks to know the reason for a person to do sinful acts against it’s will. When a living entity despite fighting with itself to not sin, ends up in sinful acts as if impelled by a force not within its control.
There are numerous reasons why a person may be compelled to engage in sinful activities. The word ‘atha’ denotes what factors with which one is influenced to act in sin. Arjuna is keen to understand the underlying reasons or forces that strongly provokes someone to to act in an unrighteous manner even when the person knows that its not in his best interest to act that way.
Arjuna beseeches Krishna to tell him the reasons so that if he could understand the causes, it would be possible for him to develop strategies to counter it.
3.37 Shloka 3.37
काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः।
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम्।।3.37।।
Kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-samudbhavah |
Mahasano maha-papma viddhy enam iha vairinam ||3.37||
Meaning: Bhagavan said: It is lust which when unsated turns into anger, arising from the mode of passion; Know this lust to be insatiable, extremely sinful which is all-devouring and the greatest enemy in this world.
Bhagavan Krishna, in this verse, explicitly confirms the root cause and great impeller of sins to be “Kama” or “Lust” which is known to forcefully compel one’s senses to race impetuously towards sense objects. When lust is impeded and desires are frustrated it turns into anger, hence “Krodha” or anger is also a form of Kama as they both arise out of Rajo Guna or the mode of passion.
This suggests that to control lust one has to increase one’s Sattva guna or the mode of goodness. The effects of Rajas can be decreased with conscious focus on Sattva that can lead to a decreased level of desires. By controlling desires one can control lust and by controlling lust one can controls anger. Thus, one should note that both lust and anger are interconnected but by controlling lust one can control anger. But Kama is extremely difficult to control once it has been stimulated because it is insatiable. It does not get sated even after enjoying all forms of wealth and pleasure. The desires increase much like a fire when oil is poured on it. It rages out of control rapidly and when it is impeded it explodes into anger destroying everything in its path like a devastating forest fire.
Bhagavan Krishna says that Kama and Krodha are the greatest enemies and the forces that impel one to perform sinful acts.
3.38 Shloka 3.38
धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथाऽऽदर्शो मलेन च।
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम्।।3.38।।
Dhumenavriyate vahnir yathadarso malena ca |
Yatholbenavrto garbhas tatha tenedam avrtam ||3.38||
Meaning: As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, the knowledge is covered by this lust.
Bhagavan gives three examples of layers that act as barriers to knowledge and represents the degrees of covering of the living entity by which the pure consciousness is obscured. This covering is nothing but lust under different forms like smoke enveloping the fire, dust on the mirror, and the womb encasing the embryo.
When lust is compared to smoke, it is understood that the fire of the living spark can be perceived. In other words, when the living entity performs his duties though not consistently, he may be likened to the fire covered by smoke. Although fire is necessary for smoke, there is no overt manifestation of fire in that early stage.
The dust on the mirror refers to the need for a cleansing process of the mirror of the mind which can be achieved by meditation and chanting of Lord’s Namas. The embryo encased by the womb is an analogy that illustrates the helplessness of the child and its total dependence for everything. This stage of living condition can be compared to that of inanimate objects that they are devoid of all consciousness.
It is clear from Bhagavan Krishna’s examples that that everyone is afflicted by Kama to some degree in this world. When the senses are excited, Kama or lust manifests itself explosively completely covering the Atma, which is why Kama is such a formidable adversary. Kama covers the Atma in a thick envelope rendering it difficult to be perceived.
3.39 Shloka 3.39
आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च।।3.39।।
Avrtam jnanam etena jnanino nitya-vairina |
Kama-rupena kaunteya duspurenanalena ca ||3.39||
Meaning: 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.
Lust is never sated just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. 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.
One on the path of jnana yoga knows from the scriptures that moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death can never manifest itself until first attaining atma-tattva or soul realisation.
The word ‘Kama-rupena’ means in the form of lust and the word ‘duspurena’ means ‘it is never satisfied’. The word ‘analena’ means ‘like a fire’ which denotes the burning fire of Kama which is never satisfied and is insatiable. When the object of its desires has been acquired and the senses fully gratified then at once Kama wants more and looks for something new. It is never satisfied.
It is said that Kama covers the Atma as smoke covers fire, as dust prevents one from seeing a reflection in the mirror. This Kama prevents one from perceiving their Atma and keeps a person imprisoned in material existence just as a womb envelops the embryo and keeps it dependent.
Therefore, Kama or lust is an eternal adversary, and to achieve self-realisation one has to overcome lust.
3.40 Shloka 3.40
इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते।
एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम्।।3.40।।
Indriyani mano buddhir asyadhisthanam ucyate |
Eetair vimohayaty esa jnanam avrtya dehinam ||3.40||
Meaning: 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.
Mind is the centre of all the activities of the senses, and thus the mind is the reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification; and, as a result, the mind and the senses become the repositories of lust. Next, the intellect becomes ingrained with such lustful propensities. Lust filled intellect influences the spirit soul to acquire the false ego and identify itself with matter, and thus with the mind and senses. The spirit soul becomes addicted to enjoying the material senses and mistakes this as true happiness.
This false identification of the soul is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
Sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma idyadhih
Yat-tirtha-buddhih salite na karhicij
Janesv abhijnesu sa eva gokharah [S.B. 10.84.13]
Meaning: A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth as worship able, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is no better than a cow or an ass.
The senses becoming excited and agitates the mind and the mind becoming engrossed and envelops the intellect with this Kama. By revealing where Kama or lust covertly resides, Bhagavan Krishna is giving knowledge and guidance to control it.
The senses, the mind and the intellect which controls the discriminatory faculty, is where Kama or lust covertly resides and exercises its dominion over the Atma or Soul. Through Kama, the senses, the mind and the intellect become addicted to craving for sense objects. Kama seizes hold of the embodied beings and beguiles them by clouding their intellect and then Kama covers and envelops the Atma or Soul.
3.41 Shloka 3.41
तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ।
पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम्।।3.41।।
Tasmat tvam indriyany adau niyamya bharatarsabha |
Papmanam prajahi hy enam jnana-vijnana-nasanam ||3.41||
Meaning: Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.
Bhagavan Krishna advises Arjuna to regulate the senses from the very beginning so that he could curb the greatest sinful enemy i.e. lust, which destroys the urge for spiritual progress, and specifically, the yearning for knowledge of the Self.
‘Jnanam’ refers to knowledge of the Self or in other words, knowledge that the Soul is distinct and not the body. ‘Vijnanam’ refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul and knowledge of one’s constitutional position and its relationship to the Supreme Soul.
It is explained thus in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Jnanam parama-guhyam me yad-vijnana-samanvitam
Sarahasyam tad-angam ca grhana gaditam Maya || [S.B. 2.9.31]
Meaning: The Knowledge of the Self and of the Supreme Self is very confidential and mysterious, being veiled by Maya. It has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service and the necessary process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully.
The Supreme Lord Krishna is the maintainer and energiser of everything in Creation. Srimad Bhagavad-Gita gives us that knowledge, specifically knowledge of the Self. The living entities are part of the Lord, and therefore they are simply meant to serve the Lord.
But Kama envelops the mind and the intellect and is an obstacle to achieve Atma tattva or Soul realisation; but even after the Atma tattva is achieved, Kama is so powerful that it is able to influence even the jnanis. We see this in many Puranic stories where the even the like of great Sage Vishwamitra is afflicted by Kama. Kama is never sated and thus vigilance is required at all times before moksha or complete release from the material existence is attained.
Now Lord Krishna explains how to restrain Kama or lust which is so terrible and destructive to the development of a human being and which is the root of all evils because it obscures true knowledge.
The teachings of the spiritual master leads to inner wisdom that arises from meditation and reflection on the Supreme Lord. One must, therefore, withdraw the senses away from the sense objects from the very beginning and should remain resolute with a steady mind.
Bhagavan Krishna emphasises the need to vanquish this great enemy known as Kama, which is so terrible, that destroys both Jnana (Knowledge of Self) and Vijnana (Knowledge of the Supreme).
3.42 Shloka 3.42
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।।3.42।।
Indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah |
Manasas tu para buddhir yo buddheh paratas tu sah ||3.42||
Meaning: 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.
The senses are the outlets for the activities of lust. Lust resides within the body, but it manifests itself through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. But the mind is superior to the senses as it is active even when the body may be silent and at rest—as it does during dreaming. But, above the mind there is the determination of the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. These outlets are suspended when there is superior consciousness. Therefore, when the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely, the intelligence, mind and the senses, will be automatically engaged in the Supreme.
In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.10), it says:
इिन्द्रयेभ्यः परा ह्यथार् अथभ्यश्च परंमनः।
मनसस्तुपरा बुद्धबुर्द्धेरात्मा महान्परः॥
Indriyebhyaḥ para hy artha, arthebhyash ca param manaḥ |
Manasas ca para buddhir buddher atma mahan paraḥ || (1.3.10)
Meaning: Beyond the senses are the rudiments of objects, beyond these rudiments is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, and beyond the intellect is the great Self.
Therefore, if the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance of the senses becoming engaged in other ways.
Lord Krishna explains the priority of the faculties humans possess starting from the physical body to the senses to the mind to the intellect to the Atma. The senses are superior to the physical body because if the senses are agitated they will transfer this agitation to the physical body and knowledge will not arise in the mind. The mind is superior to the senses and can stop them but if the mind is intent on sense gratification then knowledge will not arise. The intellect is superior to the senses and the mind but if the senses are passive and the mind is not agitated; then if the intellect decides contrary and is inclined to enjoy, it will overrule the senses and the mind and directs them both to pursue pleasure. So knowledge will not arise there as well but when the senses are withdrawn from the sense objects this impulse subsides. So what is more powerful than the intellect? We see that it is Kama or lust that is greater. When Kama takes over, the mind becomes clouded and the intellect is obscured by it. The intellect reflects and contemplates actions that will gratify the senses veiling the true Knowlegde of the Atma. So, Kama is the greatest enemy of the human being because it obscures knowledge of the eternal soul.
The five senses are the main impediments to spiritual development and are arranged in a hostile formation against it. As long as the senses are primarily occupied in the pursuit of pleasure and delight in sense objects, the realisation of the Atma will never manifest.
What happens if all three aspects – the senses, the mind and the intellect were tranquil and passive? The unwavering answer is that Kama or lust which arises from desires, covertly resides deep within the heart and is always craving for sense gratification. This Kama is so powerful that it will assert its mastery over all of them and has a domineering effect by driving them to pursue actions and seek sense gratification, thereby obscuring the light of knowledge and the realisation of the Atma.
However, that which is the most powerful with its domain in the spiritual marvel is the Atma and is designated by the pronoun ‘sah’.
3.43 Shloka 3.43
एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना।
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम्।।3.43।।
Evam buddheh param buddhva samstabhyatmanam atmana |
Jahi satrum maha-baho Kama-rupam durasadam ||3.43||
Meaning: Thus knowing the individual consciousness to be superior to the intelligence, O’ the mighty armed one, steady the mind by self-realisation and conquer this insatiable and formidable enemy known as lust.
In the immature stage of material existence, philosophical speculations and artificial attempts to control the senses by the so-called practice of yogic postures can never help a man toward spiritual life. One must be engaged in continuous contemplation of the Lord while performing one’s prescribed duties to gain spiritual intelligence. However, that in itself is not a guarantee in attaining self- realisation as the powerful effect of lust needs to be firmly uprooted to gain Atma tattva.
Now in conclusion Lord Krishna establishes the fact that one should try to their utmost to destroy the powerful enemy known as Kama or lust. Knowing that Kama is the mightiest enemy, one must destroy it by withdrawing the senses, keeping the mind steady and the intellect resolute in Sattva Guna (the mode of goodness). It is important to slay this enemy Kama which will attack the mind and senses in various ways causing one to fall into delusion before one becomes powerless to resist. Kama is extremely difficult to overpower and is tenacious and formidable, yet if one dedicates all actions to Lord Krishna with their mind fixed on Him they can overcome it.
So the knowledge of Vedic wisdom and meditation on the Supreme Lord are combined as panacea to neutralise Kama from its location in the senses, mind and intellect and then destroy the great enemy. This path of selfless action unattached without conception of rewards should be practiced according to one’s capacity and knowledge as a means of gradually achieving renunciation.
So it should understood that Kama or lust is able to dominate even the intellect and thus is antagonistic to jnana yoga or the cultivation of Vedic spiritual knowledge. So one must, with firm resolve, restrain the senses right from the very beginning and keeping the mind resolutely established in the Atma, and destroy this powerful enemy known as Kama by firmly uprooting it.
Thus ends the Third Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita covering the Karma-yoga, or the Discharge of One’s Prescribed Duty as an offering to Bhagavan Krishna, and conquer lust through constant contemplation of the Lord.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat