[Advaita-l] Desire and its Management - A brief study

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Jul 9 12:50:04 CDT 2010

Shrigurubhyo namaH

The shloka 3.39 of the Bhagavadgita

आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा ।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च ॥

3.39 O son of Kunti, Knowledge is covered by this constant enemy of the wise
in the form of desire, which is an insatiable fire.

Jnanam, Knowledge; is avrtam, covered; etena, by this; nityavairina,
constant enemy; jnaninah, of the wise. For the wise person knows even
earlier, 'I am being induced by this into evil.' And he always [Both at the
time when desire arises in him, and also when he is forced to act by it.]
feels distressed. Therefore, it is the constant enemy of the wise but not of
a fool. For the fool looks upon desire as a friend so long as hankering
lasts. When sorrow comes as a consequence, he realizes, 'I have been driven
into sorrow because of longings', but certainly not earlier. Therefore it is
the constant enemy of the wise alone.

In what form? Kama-rupena, in the form of desire-tha which has wish itself
as its expression is kama-rupa; in that form-; (and) duspurena, which is an
insatiable; analena, fire. That which is difficult to satisfy is duspurah;
and (derivatively) that which never has enough (alam) is analam.

Again, having what as its abode does desire, in the form of a viel over
Knowledge, become the enemy of all? Since when the abode of an enemy is
known, it is possible to easily slay the enemy, therefore the Lord says:
3.40] Translation and commentary copied from:


In this shloka, the word 'jnAni' is used to mean: viveki.  He who has the
viveka jnanam pertaining to vishaya-s and their binding nature.

   1. This viveki, even at the beginning of the bhoga that has started, is
   aware that 'by this kaama, vishaya, I have been pushed into this 'anartha',
   2. The end of the bhoga comes with the consequences - then also he is
   3. Thus, both at the beginning AND the end of the bhoga the viveki is
   afflicted by the misery the bhoga/vishaya has brought.
   4. For this reason, this kaama is termed 'nitya vairee' for the viveki.
   The word 'nitya' means: throughout the bhoga, from beginning to end and
   5. Now, for the ajnani, the aviveki, this is what happens:
   6. He is devoid of the viveka jnanam regarding the vishaya/bhoga.  So, he
   is happy at the beginning of the bhoga.
   7. He realizes the problem only at the end of the bhoga that 'because of
   my longing only I have come to this state of misery'.  But not at the
   beginning itself.
   8. Since the viveki has the realization at the beginning itself, he is in
   the regret mode at the beginning of the bhoga itself.
   9. It is not because of longing that the viveki gets this bhoga; it is
   because of prarabdha.
   10. It is uninvited at this moment; he has to face it.  He can if it is
   within his power, avoid the bhoga itself.
   11. In the case of the aviveki, he courts the bhoga as if it were his
   friend.  He does not know at the start that it is going to land him in
   trouble.  So, he has no scope to avoid the bhoga at the beginning stage
   12. This makes the difference between the two: viveki and aviveki.
   13. The message of the shloka is:  Since it is the nitya vairee of the
   viveki, one should take every step to thwart the bhoga at the beginning
   stage itself, if possible.
   14. The next shloka 3.40 provides the method of avoiding the bhoga by
   knowing the adhishthanam of bhoga: the sense organs, the manas, the buddhi.
   The viveki will be careful in dealing with the sense organs, mind and
   buddhi.  That is, he will constantly strive to give no room  to temptation
   that arises from the sense contacting the vishaya, the mind dwelling upon
   the vishaya's plus points and the buddhi drawing conclusions about the
   advantages of the vishaya.  In all these areas the viveki, with his prior
   experience of the bhoga giving him nitya duhkha, both at the beginning and
   the end, strives to free the senses, mind and intellect from contacting the
   15. A very fine case for contemplating on the message given out above is:
    In contemporary history, here is an incident reported by Swami
   Saradananda in  'Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master':

   (Quote) The Master: 'Ah, lust does not vanish till God is realized.  *So
   long as the body lasts, a little of it continues even after realization but
   then it cannot raise its head.*  Do you think I myself am altogether free
   from it? At one time I thought I had conquered lust.  When I was sitting
   under PanchavaTi such an onrush of lust came that it seemed to be beyond
   my power of control.  I then wept rubbing my face against the dust on the
   ground and said to Mother, ' I have done a great wrong, Mother.  I shall
   never again harbour the idea that I have conquered lust.'  It was then only
   it vanished.' (unquote)
   16. In this incident, we can see how miserable R felt even at the start.
   He took steps to see that the desire did not find consummation.  He
   succeeded in thwarting it.  It is only because he knew beforehand that bhoga
   is dukhakaram.
   17. This incident answers our question about the 'nitya' vairi nature of
   bhoga as well as the prayojanam of that knowledge that it is nitya vairi.
   18. The aviveki's duhkham is very intense as he is not prepared for it.
   Whereas the viveki's duhkham is not very intense as he knows beforehand,
   even at the beginning of the bhoga, that the entire bhoga is duhkham alone.
   ये हि संस्पर्शजा भोगा दुःखयोनय एव ते । आद्यन्तवन्तः कौन्तेय न तेषु रमते बुधः
   (5.22), विषयेन्द्रियसंयोगात् यत्तदग्रेऽमृतोपमं । परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं
   राजसं स्मृतम् ॥ (18.38) [Please see the Bhagavadgita for the translation and
   the commentary of Shankara Bhagavatpada]
   19. It is very fitting that the Lord says: jnAnino nityavairiNaa in this
   verse after identifying the places where kaama resides and the advice to
   'not to get into their clutches  - tayorna vasham aagacchet. (3.34)
   20. And it is also most noteworthy that Bhagavatpada had talked about
   'puruSha prayatnam' at the beginning of 3.34.

So, to conclude, the 'nitya vairi' nature of kaama for the viveki is taught
with a view to aid this purusha prayatna.
  The sub /other commentaries  are all in tune  with the bhashyam.
Anandagiri gives a very clear idea about understanding the bhashyam.   He
only pointed out that 'kaama can be viewed as a vairi even before the
anartham of the bhoga comes about. ' So, for the viveki, his own past
experience, others' experience and the shastra guru upadesham - all help him
see the pain of bhoga even at the beginning of the bhoga - which comes to
him  praarabdha vashaat.  It is only when viewed this way we can appreciate
how valuable the purusha prayatnam (personal effort as different from fate)
based teaching of the Lord and Bhagavatpada are.

It would be good to study all the verses referred to above with the

Om Tat Sat

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