At the end of the third chapter, Arjun asks Shree Krishna a very practical question. He wants to know why it is that we do wrong things, even when we know it is wrong. What force is it that compels us to knowingly do wrong, almost against our will (chapter 3, verse 36)?
Shree Krishna answers that kam (desire) is the cause of our sinful actions (chapter 3, verse 37). How does desire cause us to do wrong things, seemingly against our will? He says that it veils our power of discrimination, like smoke veils a fire, like dirt, covers a mirror, and like amniotic fluid covers an embryo (chapter 3, verse 38). Normally, our knowledge of right and wrong allows our intellect to discriminate between what is a good action and what is a wrong action. But under the effect of desire, our intellect becomes clouded and loses this ability to discriminate.
For example, out of a desire to possess something, we may steal – not because we don’t know stealing is wrong – but because the desire overpowers our discrimination. Due to the desire, we feel it is more important to possess that thing than to be “good.” Another example is that out of a desire to be popular, and we may lie about something. We know it is wrong to lie, but the desire makes us feel that it is more important to be popular than to be truthful. This shows that our discrimination has been clouded by desire.
Where does desire come from?
Desire is a natural product of rajogun, which is one of the 3 qualities of maya (sattva gun is the pious quality, rajogun is the selfish quality and tamogun is the impious quality). The whole world is made of maya, so the whole world inherently has these three qualities. Our mind is also made of maya, so these 3 qualities of maya are inborn in the mind. Thus, desire is inborn in the human mind (chapter 3, verse 40). We all naturally have desires; thus we are all in danger of doing sinful actions under the influence of desire.
So, how can we overcome the effect of desires? Read the next article to understand how can one tame their desires that cause us to do sinful actions.