In our life, we must distinguish between our needs and our desires. We have natural, physical needs – when you are hungry, you want food; when you are thirsty you want to drink something. These are natural; they cannot be categorized under desire or kaama.
Categories of Desire
The desire for realization of Truth, for Liberation, or desire for God, are all desires and there will be some agitation until the desire is fulfilled. This type of desire which is for one’s own upliftment will not make you engage in sinful acts. Such a desire cannot be said to be mahashaani or mahapaapama.
So the desire that should be considered as your enemy is the desire for more and more sense pleasures, indulgence and gratification of the senses. Greed for more power, wealth and pleasures can never be fulfilled. These desires are very different from fulfilment of our natural needs. Here we are talking about the extrovert mind and the consequent seeking of pleasure in sense objects. Such desires only go on multiplying. Sri Krishna says ‘viddhi enam iha vairinam – understand this to be your enemy. It makes you do wrong things.
Overcoming harmful Addictions
It is true that some desires are very strong and difficult to overcome. They cause so much sorrow that you think, ‘I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this’. For example, someone suffering but addicted to alcohol or drugs, says, ‘I want to quit’. Unfortunately, by that time the habit has become so ingrained, the inclination (vasana) has gathered strength and become so deep rooted that it cannot be easily overcome. Just his saying that he wishes to give it up is very superficial; it is not a strong desire. Mark Twain said “Giving up cigarette smoking is the easiest thing to do. I have done it a hundred times”. We are just like him!
Another reason for ‘feebly’ wanting to give up something is because we like it. It gratifies our senses and we enjoy it, even though we know it is harmful. That is why Bhagwan says: ‘Kaama esha, krodha esha rajoguna tamsovaha ….’
Thus, we may say that we do not want to do a particular thing, but secretly we enjoy it. Sometimes I say, I want to give up a particular habit because it is considered wrong or undesirable by others. But the fact is that deep down, I do not think that it is wrong.
If you do not want to do a certain thing, nobody can force you to do it. Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda used to say that if somebody does not want to attend a Gita lecture, twenty horses cannot bring him here. Often in our lives we fail to do many things which may benefit ourselves or others but we are unable to do so. Why? Because there is no real will or desire to do so.
So the reason why we commit sin is because of ignorance, wrong notions or the power of habits which have gained such a strong grip over us that they push us into doing something that we may not want to do.
Hence, Sri Krishna answers Arjuna’s question by stating that desire is the enemy within that forces a person to do wrong things. But that is not the end of His response. The Lord goes on to describe what happens when desire arises in our mind.
To be continued…
The Author is the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.