Scripture Study: Bhagavad Gita, book three verses 36 – 38

Scripture Study: Bhagavad Gita, book three verses 36 – 38 April 4, 2017

We are doing a scripture study together: reading along through some scriptures and discussing the passages. Here are all of the posts on the previous verses for the Gita: Bhagavad Gita Study

From the Winthrop Sargeant translation of The Gita

36. Arjuna spoke:
Then impelled, by what
Does a man commit this evil,
Unwillingly even, O Krishna,
As if urged by force?

37. The Blessed Lord spoke:
This force is desire, this force is anger;
Its source is the rajas guna.
Voracious and greatly injurious,
Know this to be the enemy.

38. As fire is obscured by smoke,
And a mirror by dust,
As the embryo is enveloped by the membrane,
So the intellect is obscured by passion.

Notes on the Sanskrit

impelled= prayuktas, which is “impelled, ordered, set in motion, caused”

evil= paapam, hwich is “evil, misfortune, harm.”

desire= kaama, which is “desire, love (lust), greed.” Yes, this is the same word as the Kama Sutra. Though in this case it appears to be referring more to attached and selfish want rather than sexual desire.

anger=krodhas, which is “anger, wrath, fury.”

Voracious= ashana, which is “eating, consuming.”

fire = vahnis, meaning the “bearer” and in this case refers to Agni, the ancient God of fire.

Commentaries From the Gurus

“The foe of the whole world is this craving that proves disastrous to all living beings. Craving, impeded by some one or other, changes into wrath. So wrath, too, is this very thing born of rajas.”

“Just as luminous fire is obscured by the non-luminous smoke, born together with fire…so is this knowledge by craving.”

Bhagavad Gita Bhaasya of Sri Shankaracharya

My Thoughts

Verse 27 is powerful!

It is anger and attachment/desire that impels us to disregard our duty. Anger is dangerous. It must be seen as the enemy.

Verse 28 has beautiful metaphors. I love that explanation of intellect being obscured by being too angry and passionate. In this day and age it is all too easy to fall into doing this. Like when I get worked up over politics on Facebook and intellect and logic go out the window!

I really feel like these verses are speaking to me this week.

In the Sri Shankara commentary he adds that the metaphor goes deeper. Fire is luminous but it is obscured by something non luminous (the smoke) but both are born together at the same time. As the saying goes, where there is smoke there is fire. They come into the world together. So perhaps that means that it is understandable and natural for passion and craving and anger to arise along with intellect and learning. But it is up to us to grow the intellect part while seeing beyond the smoke.

The mirror example is a little easier to process, as it is a simple matter to clean the dust from the surface of a mirror. But then again, the dust does not disappear. We wipe it away but it still exists. The “passion” is there but we must see past it and stay level-headed.

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  • Brian Hanechak

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  • Salma Dinani

    I’ve never read it but definitely interesting excerpts you shared.