Desire is the constant enemy of the wise man. In this context the term ‘wise’ refers neither to a man of enlightenment nor an ‘ignorant’ man who continuously seeks pleasure from the outside world.
The man of enlightenment is not troubled by desires as he is always content and revelling in the Infinite Self.
The ‘ignorant’ person feels very happy when a desire crops up; he rushes to fulfil it and enjoys the consequent result. His main preoccupation is to satisfy all the desires that arise in his mind.
Dilemma of the Wise
It is the ‘in-between’ man, who is disturbed by desire. He has understood that desires cause problems and agitations. They lead to wrong doing. Yet, at the same time, he is unable to give them up. That is a very unenviable position. Let us take the example of a simple desire of going to watch a movie. We know it is a useless movie, but still head to the Cineplex. On reaching there, we feel guilty, ‘What a foolish thing I have done. It is a waste of time and money.’ Hence, we neither enjoy the movie nor can we give it up.
Such people are constantly troubled by their desires. When a desire crops up, they cannot overcome it; but when they attempt to fulfil it, the wisdom and understanding gained through previous experiences interfere with the enjoyment. Therefore, the person laments, ‘Anything that I want to enjoy, I know it is illegal, immoral or fattening. But what to do, I just can’t give it up! I have read so much about the evil effects of overeating, drinking and smoking, that I have stopped reading altogether!’ He does not heed the warning of the intellect because he does not have the will power to say, ‘No’.
Abode of Desire
Now, having discussed who the enemy is and how it veils our wisdom and understanding, Sri Krishna tells us where the foe, desire, resides and its methodology of operation. Thereafter, Bhagavan reveals how to gain victory over this mighty and seemingly invincible enemy. He gives a complete and perfect answer to Arjuna’s question.
The Lord points out that the dwelling places of desire (kama) are the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin), the mind and intellect. Through these, desire deludes man. It puts a veil over the ‘light’ of his understanding and knowledge. When a thief wishes to rob a house, he first cuts off the power supply and telephone lines. In the resulting darkness and confusion, he is able to operate better and walks away with many valuables. Similarly, when desire arises it first veils the ‘light’ of discrimination in us, thereby rendering us incapable of benefiting from our wisdom and understanding. Our ‘head light’ is off. Confused and groping in the dark, we become overwhelmed by desire and are unable to fight it.
To be continued…
The Author is the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.