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
39. O Arjuna, the knowledge even of the wise ones is obscured
But this eternal enemy,
Having the form of desire,
Which is as insatiable as fire.
40. The senses, the mind, and the intellect
Are said to be its (i.e., the eternal enemy’s) abode;
With these, it confuses the embodied one,
Obscuring his knowledge.
41. Therefore, restraining the senses
First, O Arjuna,
Kill this evil demon
Which destroys knowledge and discrimination.
Notes on the Sanskrit
“Knowledge is obscured” could also be “knowledge is covered” which is a rather beautiful metaphor.
Mind= manas. intellect= buddhi.
restraining is niyamya, also controlling or subduing.
Commentaries From the Gurus
Sri Adi Shankara points out that the desire, or craving, is the enemy of a man of knowledge rather than the man of ignorance. A person who knows that his suffering is caused by craving is continually frustrated by that craving, seeing all the time that this is what is causing his pain. An ignorant person enjoys the fevered grip of the craving until its natural consequence of pain emerges. Only then does the ignorant person realize desire has caused him suffering. “So it is the persistent foe of the knower alone.”This craving and desire lives in the senses, mind, and intellect. The embodied parts of us. That is how the foe, the desire, deludes an embodied Spirit in multiple ways.
Desire is as insatiable as fire. I’ve definitely observed this. There is always more desire. It is never satisfied for long. I love that image of the fire.
It is “embodied” ones who get confused. That’s us. Once we are in a body, our perception becomes limited. We have the knowledge, it is just obscured by the passions, angers, and desires we experience in an embodied form.
It is up to us to control our senses. To learn to be the master of our sense perceptions and not be deluded by them.
Though a demon and an enemy are mentioned, they don’t seem to be literal beings. I think they are a metaphor for that craving that is within us. There are times when I hear a seductive voice in my thoughts that tempts me or taunts me. I have always thought of that voice as a demon. I think it is helpful to personify it to help us see the truth that that voice is not “us.” It is not our self. It comes from the parts of us that are temporary, not eternal. They come from the flesh part and not the soul part.
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- Brian Hanechak
- Amit Agarwal