Meaning of the #Shlok
In this sutra, Krishna is explaining the principle of knowledge. Knowledge is anyway a popular topic of discussion across the world. Everybody is very keen to acquire knowledge and become wise. But the question is, in what does knowledge lie… in the scriptures, in school-colleges or in voluminous books? Krishna is saying that knowledge doesn’t lie in any of these! A human being’s soul is the most knowledgeable of all in this world. But just the way the fire gets hidden behind smoke, the reflection is unclear on a dust-covered mirror and the womb is hidden by after-birth; in the same way, the knowledge of a human being’s soul remains hidden by a human being’s desire.
Here the word ‘desire’ needs to be explained specifically. Don’t understand ‘desire’ to mean carnal attraction between a man and woman. I have often said that Krishna is speaking from a high stature; if you can’t rise to it then at least don’t bring it down to your level. There’s no wisdom hidden in celibacy. And anyway, in this Gita itself Krishna has said despite not having any lust in me I still behave in accordance with my worldly deeds. For, if I abstain from being around women because I don’t have any lust left in me and in future that is believed to be religion then I will be hailed as a hypocrite. Meaning, I will become the one responsible for the extinction of mankind. If everyone believes celibacy to be a way of life then in a century or two, won’t mankind be wiped out from the face of earth? And Krishna himself had married eight times; given birth to 56 children. Now, a righteous man like Krishna, will at least not tell others to do something which he himself isn’t doing. He’s not some religious leader who wants to further his ashram. He’s a doer, he has built Dwarka on his own efforts.
Anyway…here, by ‘desire’ Krishna means want. Because every want that is hidden with a human being compels him to do something or the other. And this compulsion of doing one’s deeds induced by one’s want is ‘desire’. Besides, if a person doesn’t have any want then he doesn’t have any reason at all to desire something. This establishes clarity with regards to desire. Now, let’s also understand what Krishna is referring to as ‘knowledge’. And for the sake of that just think, if someone doesn’t have any want in his mind won’t he do any of his deeds? Of course he will do it! And he will do it even better that the desirous ones. Take the example of Arjuna itself. Perhaps never was there a doer born who was greater than him. Then what is the difference between Krishna’s desire and our want? The difference is that those who don’t have to do any deeds to fulfil their own wants their deeds stem from the knowledgeable soul; whereas our deeds stem from our lust. So, you need to understand that basically these deeds which stem from the erudite soul is what Krishna calls ‘knowledge’. Hence simply put, understand that it is deeds itself which are the basis of knowledge and ignorance; the only difference is that the ignorant do their deeds only to fulfil their wants whereas the deeds of a knowledgeable person are springing forth selflessly and joyfully from his soul. And if I were to say this in Krishna’s language, all the good and bad deeds done to fulfil one’s wants are the sole ignorance of a human being, then whether those deeds are religious, social or worldly; a human being is doing all these deeds out of sheer ignorance only.
Therefore, to sum it up, Arjuna please understand that this deed which has befallen you in the form of this war, is a result of your want to acquire the kingdom, meaning it is the result of your ignorance. Hence, right now, you don’t ask at all about how you can gain knowledge. Firstly you endure this war which has stemmed from your ignorance. And once this war is over and done with, and if still the wish to gain knowledge is intact within you, then give up the various wants in your mind from which varied deeds are stemming. That’s it! Once these want-driven deeds have moved out then the knowledge present in your soul will surface before you. Then what has to be done by you will go on happening. Meaning, after that you will never be delusioned about “what should I do?” However, even to gain that knowledge, right now you need to fight in this war which has come forth because of your own ignorance… don’t try to escape from it by resorting to your want of gaining knowledge.
– Deep Trivedi
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