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Giving Up Desire – Anger – Greed For A Peaceful Life

Sri Krishna considered desire (kama), anger and greed to be the threefold entry to hell and ruin of the Self. ‘Therefore let man renounce these three.’ Arjuna asked him what prompted a man to commit sin in spite of himself, driven as if by force. Sri Krishna’s reply: ‘They are desire and anger, arising from rajas. They are the enemies, all-devouring and the cause of sin.’ (3.36-7) And he asked Arjuna to discipline the sense organs first and then kill desire, which destroys one’s knowledge and wisdom. And he further said that the enemy called desire could be killed only if one is anchored in the Atman, the spiritual Self behind the body, senses, manas and buddhi. (3.41)

Desires become troublesome only when the will – buddhi in action – becomes tagged to them by a resolution (sankalpa). We know that any puja begins with a sankalpa like ‘On this auspicious day… I perform this puja with such and such an end in view.’ The idea is to fix the will on the act of puja so that the mind does not stray. When the will gets hooked to desire, the descent is certain and systematic: the will (and the manas) get connected to the senses, which come in contact with sense objects Sri Krishna wanted us to give up these desires born of sankalpa: ‘Renouncing all the desires born of the will (sankalpa), drawing back the senses from their pursuits by strength of mind, let a man gradually attain tranquility with the help of buddhi coupled with fortitude. Once the mind is established in the self, he should think of nothing else. (6.24-5)

An important truth is worth remembering here. The satisfaction of desires does not help us get rid of them. King Yayati’s life is a lesson in point. Cursed to premature old age, the king could become young again only if someone exchanged his youth for the king’s old age. His last son agreed to do this. The story goes that Yayati enjoyed sense pleasures for a thousand years – Puranic hyperbole – at the end of which wisdom dawned on him. He exclaimed, ‘Never can desires be quenched by enjoying sense objects. Like fire fed with ghee they only flame up all the more.’

Source – Excerpts from Prabuddha Bharata Editorial June 2003 Issue.