Sunday, 30 July 2017

Desire and its control

Gita essays – 4 

Lord Krishna observed in His concluding remarks on karma yoga  that one who follows karma-yoga attains spiritual success and one who does not is spiritually lost. Arjuna now has a doubt as to why people do not follow karma yoga even when they know that karma as yoga uplifts leading to liberation, while as mere karma it is binding one to samsara.  So he asks a question generalising this paradox as a problem of choosing between punya and papa. His question runs as (3-36):
अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः। (Atha kena prayukto’yam paapam charati poorushah)
अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः।। (Anicchann api vaarshneya balaad iva niyojitah)
Oh Krishna! Prompted by what, does a person commit sin, even against his wishes, as though he is constrained by force?

“Everybody knows what is right and what is not right, what is good and what is bad. Yet when it comes to action why some people invariably choose the wrong?”  is the question.  In the context of Lord’s advice the question can be rephrased as “What is the obstacle to the pursuit of karma yoga; in spite of knowing its superiority; what prevents people from following karma yoga?”  Lord Krishna has earlier stated  that raga-dveṣha (likes and dislikes)  born of vasanas (habits) pull a person astray and now Lord amplifies the statement and goes to the roots and says that the preventing factor is kama-krodha (desire-anger) born of the quality of Rajas. When a person's desire is not gratified or thwarted, it turns into anger against those whom he sees as obstacles and so anger can also be classified as a variation of desire. When the quality of Rajas is dominant, a person is constrained to seek satisfaction of his desires and that becomes the dominant motive overriding other considerations.  If the intellect is infected by the virus of desire one loses his discrimination and has no qualms of conscience to make compromises with higher values. Therefore Sri Krishna says desire is the man's greatest enemy on the earth because man commits sin only at the command of desire against his will and better judgment and desires are insatiable and cannot be completely satisfied, as one fulfilled desire fuels another.  One can get rid of this virus only through the constant practice of detachment. 

Desires fall under three categories  Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.   Of these Satvic desires veil the discrimination just as smoke envelopes fire.  The veiling is thin and hence it requires only a little effort to remove it, like the rise of the slight wind  dispelling the smoke.  For the Rajasic desires where intellect is covered by desire prompted agitations, the example given by Lord is one of dust on a mirror.  Dust blocks completely the reflection in a mirror and requires more time and effort for removal and it is the same way with the efforts for the removal of the dirt of Rajasic desires from the mind. In the case of a Tamasic desires higher virtues are shut out by baser instincts as in the case of a foetus in the womb covered with amnion fluid.  As the covering can be removed only after lapse of a definite period of time the low desires can be removed only after a longer period of spiritual efforts by the Tamasic person.

Lord also diagnoses senses, mind and intellect as the seat of desires.  The sense organs transmit the stimuli received from the objects of enjoyment to the mind which working in close collaboration with the intellect starts living in the experience of sense enjoyments and nourishes further desires. So the problem is to be tackled at source i.e at the level of senses, mind and intellect itself.  This is done through the control of senses, mind and intellect through sama, dama and viveka. Sama is control of senses. Dama is control of mind and viveka is discrimination. Through sama one takes care to filter the external stimuli that enter the mind.  Through dama one exercises control over the thoughts as thoughts initiate action.  Through viveka one acquires the wisdom that any amount of acquisitions will not add to security and that desire oriented agitations are an impediment to one’s personal spiritual experiences as well as to one’s acquiring spiritual knowledge through the study of scriptures. The last two verses (42&43) that conclude the third chapter of Gita reveal the superiority of Self, Atma, over senses, mind and intellect and the final step in anger-control  as Self-knowledge, Athma Jnanam.
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः। (Indriyaani paraanyaahur indriyebhyah param manah)
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।। (Manasastu paraa buddhir yo buddheh paratastu sah)
They declare that the senses are superior (to the body); superior to the senses is the mind; superior to the mind is the intellect; and one who is superior even to the intellect is He—the Self.
एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना। (Evam buddheh param buddhwaa samstabyaatmaanam aatmanaa)
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम्।। (Jahi shatrum mahaabaaho kaamaroopam duraasadam)
O Arjuna! Thus, knowing Him who is superior to the intellect and restraining the (lower) self by the (higher) Self, slay thou, the enemy in the form of desire, hard to conquer!

The physical body is gross, external and limited. As compared to this the senses are superior because they are subtler and more internal and have a wider range of activity.  Superior to the senses is the mind as it can direct the function of the senses. Superior to the mind is the intellect because it is endowed with the faculty of discrimination and decisiveness; when the mind doubts, the intellect decides. But the Self is superior even to the intellect because the intellect draws its power to illuminate from the Self alone. The Self is the in-dweller in the body, the witness of the activities of the body, senses, mind and intellect.  So when one gets established in Self-knowledge, one looks upon oneself not as a doer or enjoyer but only as a witness of the play of life and is also free from the influence of gunas.  As a gunatheetha, one is also free from raga-dvesha and kama-krodha.


  1. Desire and Anger - the two enemies of Man. Our sages have realised the effect of these on our life. Seeds of desires are Vāsanās. Unsatisfied desire manifests itself as Anger. Hence our tradition has paved for us a way to cleanse ourselves from these two aspects at least once in a year in the form of Kāmōkārsheet Japam. The mantra goes like this: कामोकार्षीन्नमोनमः | कामोकार्षीत्, कामः करोति, नाहं करोमि, कामः कर्ता, नाहं कर्ता,कामः कारयिता नाहं कारयिता | एषते काम कामाय स्वाहा || मन्युरकार्षीन्नमोनमः | मन्युरकार्षीत्, मन्युः करोति, नाहं करोमि, मन्युः कर्ता, नाहं कर्ता,मन्युः कारयिता नाहं कारयिता | एषते मन्योमन्यवे स्वाहा || By repeating this mantra we purify ourselves before the Upākarmā.

  2. விருப்பங்கள் , ஆசைகள் , பேராசைகள் , கோபம் , காமம் ஆணவம் மனிதனை முட்டாளாக்கும் குணங்கள். துளசி தாசரும் இந்த நான்கு குணங்கள் இருப்பவன் பண்டிதன் ஆனாலும் முட்டாள் தான் என்கிறார். இதை மீண்டும் மீண்டும் தெரிந்த மொழிகளில் சமுதாயத்தின் முன் வைக்கவேண்டும்.
    ஆங்கிலம் அகிலஉலக அளவில் விழிப்புணர்ச்சி ஏற்படுத்தும். தமிழ் நாட்டில் இன்று வடமொழி சஸ்கிருதம் தேவை இல்லை என்ற சன் டிவி விவாதம் . அதில் தி.க உறுப்பினர் பேச்சு மிகவும் அறிவின்றி இருந்தது. தமிழக புண்ணியஸ்தலங்கள் பெயர்கள் அனைத்திலும் தமிழில் இருந்து வடமொழியில் மாறி உள்ளது என்ற வாதம் எப்படி புரியவில்லை. ஸ்ரீரங்கம் என்பதை திருஅரங்கம் என்று மாற்றினால் தமிழாகுமா? வைத்தீஸ்வரன் கோயில் , மீனாக்ஷி என்று அனைத்தும் வடமொழி.