Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Avidya- Kama- Karma – Desires Drive Actions

srimad_bhagavad_gitakarmano hyapi boddhavyam, boddhavyam ca vikarmanah

karmanas ca boddhavyam, gahana karmano gatih

My desires arise from the karmic imprints of my past life (vasanas). It is these desires that drive my actions. I have the ability to choose either to indulge in the desires or refrain from indulgence. My intellect can help me make these choices and create better vasanas.

1) I am defined by the actions I indulge in. My actions are outer manifestations of my vasanas. If I indulge in a morally weak action, a vice, ill treat someone, deal with a situation without thought, speak rudely, it is essentially thoughtless actions as decided by my vasanas.

2) Unless I involve my intellect, I give my vasanas free will to decide how I behave, act, speak or exist. If I use my intellect to think through an action (behavior or speech) before I indulge in it, then my vasanas lose  the power to overwhelm me.  Only my intellect has the power to direct me, to act or speak in a way that won’t hurt people involved.

3) When my desires alone drive all my actions, without the help of my intellect, then the actions (the way I speak or behave) that result from such desires don’t qualify as karma.  Such actions often turn out to be of malicious intent (vikarma) that create even stronger desire to indulge in amoral actions. It is a vicious cycle that I cannot get out of. Without involving the higher realm of my mind (the intellect), I have no hope for respite from the cycle.

4) My first lesson is to gracefully accept that desires stem from vasanas or the karmic imprintof past actions. Such actions usually tend to be vikarmic or undesirable actions;  How can I hope to understand the subtle differences between action and unaction before that?

5) All desirable actions  that contribute to my self development and growth, qualify as good karma. When I use my life force (atman) for opportunities that keep me busy, productive, constructive, vibrant and happy, then I am involved in good Karma. So it becomes incredibly important to ponder over every action before I  indulge in it.

karmanya karma yah pasyed, akarmani ca karma yah
sa buddhiman manusyesu, sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt

1) When I have perfected all my actions to be karma and not vikarma (forbidden actions), will it mean that I have become perfect?  It’s not what I do that makes me what I want to be (perfect). I don’t have to be engaged in spiritual activity to be called spiritual. If the underlying intention of all my actions is spiritual – focused on the atman – then I am spiritual.

3) So long as I am able to detach myself from my body, mind and intellect and identify with the underlying spirit of truth (atman), so long as ‘ the awareness principle’  (tat-tvam-asi) is at work and I train my mind to introspect and observe, not just when I am busy speaking or doing something but even when I am inactive, then I can hope to reach a divine state of mind or state of perfection. When my mind is chaotic and agitated how can I expect to succeed?

4) As long as I am not involved in actions purely driven by desire (to please others or myself), as long as my actions are a discharge of duty without expecting it to pay back in some form, as long as I am not affected by what others think of me or my actions, I may still hope to reach the state of a karmayogi.


Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita: The power of the Trigunas


kanksantah karmanam siddhim, yajanta iha devatah

ksipram hi manuse loke, siddhir bhavati karma-ja

1) I know that when I invoke the Creator sincerely, I will experience divine interference. Yet, I am so caught up in pleasures that give me instant gratification. I am involved in actions that drive me away from divinity.

2) I give in to my sensual pleasures that satisfy my ego, I make no time for spiritual understanding. The eternal bliss through spiritual invocation seems so implausible, imagined and futuristic compared to the pleasure that material comforts give me today.

3) I am an evolved being, different from the rest of the animal kingdom. I am capable of thinking from a higher realm of my mind. I have to be more introspective and not look for opportunities and situations that enrich my senses and leave me impoverished spiritually.


catur-varnyam maya srstam, guna-karma-vibhagasah
tasya kartaram api mam, viddhy akartaram avyayam

1) My temperament and innate tendencies depend entirely on the texture of my thoughts (Gunas). The ratio of the trigunasSattva- Rajas- Tamas– is what drives the actions (karma) that I get involved in.

2) When I reflect on which of the trigunas have been the primary driving force of all my past actions, I realize that there has been a constant competition for superiority among the trigunas within me and Sattva has not always won. I aspire to be more satvic in my actions and way of life here on.

2) So far, most of my actions have been driven essentially by two of the lower gunas – Rajas and Tamas, Passion and indolence. I am at that stage in life where I am reflecting on deeds and past actions and understand that I have the power to change the default ratios of the trigunas that make me who I am.

As Brahmacharini Vishaka ji beautifully concluded with this shloka:

janmanaajayathay shoodraha, karmanaajaayathay dvijaha

I have the power to control my gunas and the freedom to choose my actions, even though the texture of my thoughts (varnas) that made me who I was at birth, was not entirely my choice.


Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : On Understanding Divinity


The ‘Gnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga‘ (Chapter 4 of The Bhagawad Gita) outlines the God principle. Whenever dharma (righteousness) fails and corrupt practices take over, we have depended on a manifestation of divinity (an avatar of God) to interfere, to prune out the negativity and bring about harmony and cosmic equilibrium in the Universe.

In the exact same way, there comes a time in each of our lives when we realize that we have lived our lives on our own terms and may not be necessarily proud of the quality of life that we have created for ourselves. For some of us, our spiritual journey begins then- when we want to set right our priorities, our goals and seek to do something more meaningful with the rest of our lives.

As I begin my spiritual journey, I naively believe that to be called a seeker, I have to understand the creator. I am easily carried away by any teaching that promises me ways to seek the creator. In my reductive capacity to understand, I will try and make sense of the God principle.


janma karma ca me divyam, evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma, naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna

1) I have begun to realize that my search for divinity must start within me. If I don’t understand his creation (myself), what hopes can I nurture of understanding the

2) Divinity lies within me. Every little act of kindness I indulge in, every time I make someone feel blessed and happy, every opportunity I use to serve someone in need, is a gesture of divinity.

3) When I am engulfed in a sense of unworthiness, as I often do, I am clogging up my divinity and not letting it flow freely. I have to let myself experience the divinity
that I am capable of expressing.

4) I have to understand that there is only one divine being that is the karta (doer) of all actions and the karmaphala or the fruit of all the actions belong only to Him. When I recognize that I am not the doer (that I have only borrowed the life force to think and act like I do), I will stop wanting to be acknowledged for whatever I have done. Only when I have the maturity to accept that, I can hope to escape the cycle of birth to repeat after this life.

vita-raga-bhaya-krodha, man-maya mamupasritah
bahavo jnana-tapasa, puta mad-bhavamagatah

1) I humbly believe that there is a reason why I have been given life on Earth- to complete my karma.  How can I hope to meditate on the Lord if I am preoccupied with the unfinished karma haunting my thoughts?

2) For now, as I begin my spiritual journey to seek, to understand and appreciate the divinity within and around me, I commit to listen, reflect and absorb all teachings
that my Guru shares with me.

3) I will not judge anyone based on the path he/she chooses to seek the ultimate truth. I now know and appreciate that  the path each of us choose to reach the ultimate goal can be different and is not in any way lesser or inferior to the path I choose.

ye yatha mam prapadyante,tamstathaiva bhajamyaham
mama vartmanuvartante, manusyah partha sarvasah

1) My religion permits me to invoke the Creator in any form I choose.  So long as I am sincere in my effort, I have the freedom and the space to choose how I tread the path to spirituality.

2) I know that there is a spiritual path that will help me live a better quality of life, I am willing to find out more, through my Guru and the satsangs I attend.  Armed with what I find out, I hope that the newly learned principles will guide me to act and live a way of life that is worthy of the divinity in me.


Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : On Reflections and Repentance








arjuna uvaca

aparam bhavato janma, param janma vivasvatah
katham etad vijaniyam, tvam adau proktavan iti

1) If I continue to look at my world as comprising of just me, my actions, how they affect me and my ego, then I am caught in the  microcosm (Jeeva Shrishti) that does not allow me to look at how my actions and deeds affect the macrocosm (Eshwara Shristi)

2) With that microcosmic view of the world, a supreme being seems like a distant reality, beginning a spiritual journey then becomes a challenge.

3)  The more my actions feed my ego, the more clouded and petty my perspectives. I cannot see anything beyond the “I, me and mine” world.


sri-bhagavan uvaca
bahuni me vyatitani, janmani tava carjuna
tanyaham veda sarvani, na tvam vettha parantapa


1)      The reason I have come to live my life the way I live it now is the result of my vasanas (karmic imprints) of my previous lives.

2)      I don’t remember where I have been, what roads I have traveled or where I am headed. The choices I make in this life are not my choices. It is the design of the cosmic will.

3)      I am ignorance personified, I am clueless about the ‘big plan’ and that is why I look at life with a narrow and petty perspective(Jeeva shrishti)

ajo ‘pi sann avyayatma, bhutanam isvaro ‘pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya, sambhavamy atma-mayaya


1)      When I am not equipped to recall details of my journey so far and where I am headed, how can I be anything but ignorant?

2)      I have a constant sense of deprivation, needs and wants. I can begin my spiritual journey only when I move away from this materialistic world of needs and wants.

3)      I am forever looking for opportunities to escape one situation and often get into other situations without reflecting on what I have learnt from my past actions.

4)      I have to learn to move from selfish living to unselfish living before I aim for selfless action. I have to teach myself to celebrate abundance and cultivate a sense of gratitude.

yada yada hi dharmasya, glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya, tadatmanam srjamy aham


1)      I sense a decline in my values, my morality and my ethics. I sense a need for a spiritual journey, to find myself, to find my lost values.

2)      As my desires go up, I make compromises in my values and principles in life. Where is the scope for a spiritual journey? I sincerely want to be liberated from these desires that plague me.


paritranaya sadhunam, vinasaya caduskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya,sambhavami yuge yuge


1)      When things go out of my control, am I doing my bit to correct the situation? Do I believe that there is a higher power who will intervene and show me the right path?

2)      I want to nurture the qualities that brings others happiness and kill those qualities that are my flaws, that hurt people and spread unhappiness.

3)      I am conscious of the fact that I have to take effort. I need help to step into a higher realm. I have a choice to allow myself to evolve, to protect my good qualities and destroy my bad qualities.


Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita: On Controlling Desires

The last of the verses in Karma Yoga talks about how difficult it is to control desires unless you make conscious effort.

indriyani mano buddhir, asyadhisthanam ucyate
etair vimohayaty esa,jnanam avrtya dehinam

1) Only when I see, taste, feel or experience something, I know how enjoyable it is and they become the objects of my desire. It is safe to say, that my desires creep in through my sense organs. My mind enjoys the perceived sensations and my intellect remembers the joy from the desires met and tempts me to relive them over and over again.

2) The vicious cycle of Avidhya- Kama- Karma works infinitely. When I do not make any effort to overcome my ignorance (Avidhya), I will have no control over my desires (Kama) and will be encouraged to get involved in actions (Karma) that will satisfy my ego.

3) My ego veils my sense of judgement and prevents me to differentiate the right from the wrong, and therefore I always choose an action that satisfies my desires, boosts my ego and betrays my judgement.

tasmat tvam indriyany adau, niyamya bharatarsabha
papmanam prajahi hy enam, jnana-vijnana-nasanam

4) I realize that  my mind and intellect get involved in the desires when my sense organs send the signals to them from the objects around me.  If I don’t want to let my mind and intellect be involved I have to stop picking signals from tempting actions, thoughts and objects with my sense organs.

indriyani parany ahur, indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir, yo buddheh paratas tu sah

5) I know that I do not have ultimate control over my intellect, mind, senses and body, today. It will take me years of meditative practice, hours of introspection, conscious attempts at correcting my deviations from the ideal path and living by the values in the scriptures instead of just attempting to understand it.

6) It helps to know how much work is involved to be able to control desires. It gives me a reason, a purpose, a direction, a path I have to take, to a goal that I can achieve.

7) Being an extrovert (the entire world will vouch that I am one) is not one of the qualities of a spiritual seeker. If my goal is to be more introspective, I cannot be at the periphery of my personality, interacting with the external world and being unavailable for myself. Brahmacharini Vishakaji says,’Extroverts seldom have space inside of themselves. They seldom turn within, to find themselves’. That gave me something to reflect about.

evam buddheh param buddhva, samstabhyatmanam-atmana
jahi shatrum maha-baho , kama-rupam durasadam

8) The lessons from Karma Yoga, encourages me to be mindful and alert about every action I take. I realize that it is easier to think, say and do mindlessly and it takes incredible effort to be mindful. It comes with practice. By learning to be mindful and alert, I hope to exercise control over my desires and temptation to deviate from what is right action.

9) When I fail in my attempt to control my desires, and mindlessly allow my ego to drive my actions to fulfill my desires, I know how far I am from realizing the divinity within me, how far I am from letting go of my ego.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita: On Desire and Anger

This week the four verses we discussed, revolved around the emotions of desire and anger. Through the dialogue that Arujna and Lord Krishna engaged in, my learning for this week is thus.

arjuna uvaca 
atha kena prayukto ‘yam, papam carati purusah 
anicchann api varsneya, balad iva niyojitah

1) I reckon that there is a force, (call it my bad Shoulder Angel) within me, that makes me act, speak or behave in a way that may not be the ideal or right way. I have no control over it, even if I do realize that I am wrong.

2) The only way I can measure how far I have deviated from the ideal is by introspection. A Seeker, will measure himself against the ideal man as portrayed in the Gita, to take stock of how far he has deviated or how much he has to work towards changing his ways to be anywhere close to the ideal man.

3) If I question my motives, actions and words, introspect and measure myself against the teachings, it will help me stay humble and grounded. I have to make a conscious effort not to allow my ‘satvik ego’ ( I do not become pure and holy because I attend Gita Satsang every week) interfere in the way I deal with situations, people and work I do.

sri-bhagavan uvaca 
kama esah krodha esah, rajo-guna-samudbhavah 
mahasano maha-papma, viddhy enam iha vairinam

4) When I am spiritually ignorant, my mind is pre occupied with endless desires for material things, for attention, for validation, for love, for importance. When I am unable to fulfill my desire, it turns to anger. I look for ways to express my anger. I have come to appreciate that desire and anger are two sides of the same coin.

5) This desire-anger emotion is a hindrance to my intellect and does not allow me to introspect or reflect if I have chosen to do the right thing. This further tempts me to invariably compromise on my values and make irrational decisions.

6) I know now that I should not look outside of me for help to overcome my desire- anger emotion. Introspecting and awakening my senses to spiritual ideologies maybe the answer.

dhumenavriyate vahnir, yathadarso malena ca
yatholbenavrto garbhas, tatha tenedamavrtam

7) My desires veil my intellect and interfere with my wisdom, my rational capacity and my ability to control my anger.

8) Even my satvik pursuits is a form of desire- Desire to understand the teachings from the scriptures, desire to be attached to a guru. If I don’t watch out, I will soon find myself preaching the lessons from the Gita to the others, before I apply the learning in my life. (Popular way to lose friends!)

9) Some of my desires may be difficult to overcome than some others. Some of my desires have to run its course before I exhaust the attachment to them, before they become undesirable. Some of my desires will change form and become other kinds of desires. I appreciate and understand the truth that my happiness quotient entirely depends on lowering the number of desires I entertain instead of the increasing the number of desires I fulfill.

avrtam jnanam etena, jnanino nitya-vairina
kama-rupena kaunteya, duspurenanalena ca

10) I have no one else to point fingers at but myself for the insatiable desires I experience. The more I work towards satisfying my needs, wants and desires, the more likely they will increase in number and size. I lose my sense of telling apart the good from the bad, the important from the unimportant when I work towards fulfilling my desires, needs and wants.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita: Am I a Seeker?

This week we discussed three verses from Karma Yoga that talked about what differentiates a Seeker.

My key takeaways from this week’s lesson:

sadrsam cestate svasyahprakrter jnanavan api
prakrtim yanti bhutani , nigrahah kim karisyati

1)As I embark on this journey of understanding the lessons in the Bhagawad Gita, I constantly remind myself that just being knowledgeable about Karma Yoga does not make me a Karma yogi. I have to walk the path, abide by the teachings and apply what I have learnt to reach a state of sthitapragya (steady intellect). I know the journey is long and arduous. What matters is that I have begun the journey. Therefore I am a Seeker.

2) I understand and appreciate the fact that even though I may succeed in grasping the essence of the Gita, my natural instincts of thought, will still interfere in the way I view behave and deal with people. I have to consciously put to practice, the learning. I dare not call myself a Seeker, if I blame all my actions on my natural instincts of the mind.

3) Despite my conscious efforts of referencing the lessons from the Gita to go about my life, if I fail and continue to blame my nature for the way I deal with things, people and situations around me, then I will give myself time to evolve. I will accept that I am not ready for higher learning. I am reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

4) I know and understand that I cannot choose to be a Seeker on a few days of the week or only when it suits me. I will consciously allow the teachings of the Gita to interfere with my nature and learn to channel my train of thought to be worthy of being called a Seeker.

indriyasyendriyasyarthe, raga-dvesau vyavasthitau
tayor na vasam agacchet, tau hy asya paripanthinau

5) The fact I like a certain person, food, or activity has nothing to do with how fabulous the person, the food or activity is. Similarly, my dislike of a person, food or activity has nothing to do with how terrible the person food or activity is.  Any attachment or aversion I feel is decided by how I have filed the information in my mind as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, how my mind perceives the external stimuli. My buddhi (intellect) is ultimately responsible for how I deal with external stimuli (person, food or activity)

6) As a Seeker, I am expected to be in control of my buddhi. When my buddhi is in control, then my natural instincts stop controlling how I perceive external stimuli and allows me to experience the stimuli without judging them as good or bad. As a Seeker, I have to learn to be less caught up in my own drama. I have to unlearn to be a happy victim of my life.

sreyan sva-dharmo vigunah, para-dharmat svanusthitat
sva-dharme nidhanam sreyah, para-dharmo bhayavahah

7) I choose to be at peace with who I am instead of yearning to be like someone else. My personality (Svabhava) is the external manifestation of my predetermined inborn nature (Svadharma). Just to please someone, if I place a constraint on my natural inclinations and alter my personality to be someone else that I am naturally not, then the pretence only hurts and does not keep me happy in the long term.

8) My personality does not depend on where I was born or to whom, which religion I belong to or what caste. It largely is the result of my thoughts, shaped by my past. To be at peace with the choices I make, I should act according to my thoughts, however imperfect or flawed they are. I have to let my true nature make the choices and not force myself to follow the choices someone else makes for me – even though the alternate choices may be the right or a better choice. By doing that, I help purge my way of thinking, and that alone will let me adapt to a newer way of thought.