Desire prevents Joy

Chapter III, Verse 38

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


As smoke blots a flame, dust mars a mirror, or the womb wraps the embryo of the unborn child, so the true knowledge of things is hidden or covered by the desire of the flesh.


Helpful Translation:

Material attachments cloud the intellect and hide wisdom. When wisdom is hidden, one is prevented from living in the ‘now’.



The second response by Krishna to Arjuna’s question about what compels a man to sin states that desire prevents joyous living.

The ego and the intellect have likes and dislikes. The soul only has experiences. The ego colors every object and cloaks every desire with the combination of imagination and expectation. “I look forward to, I enjoyed, I prefer,” etc. The intellect labels and assigns value to things that are relative. “That thing has a particular look, smell, taste, sound and touch. That action leads to a specific outcome.” Relax your ego and intellect in order to enjoy experiences for what they are, not for what you wish for them to be.

The wise soul embraces the sense experience of the moment without attachment. This creates a higher form of enjoyment.

Like the mother who denies the faults of her own child, the ego denies that its desires are harmful. A tobacco smoker who insists that smoke is not harmful to him personally, is an example of a person under the delusion of believing that the universal rules do not apply to him. Yet one day impact of inhaling tar, nicotine will create and support ill-health.

If the ego and intellect were not in a constant state of delusion, then every person would embrace basic principles of healthy living. For example, daily meditation, proper foods in the right quantities, daily exercise, and treating all fellow humans with kindness and understanding are essential to a happy life, yet few people achieve these basics of right living, because they choose to not act in their own best interests. The human experience is essentially a roller coaster named “Ignorance”.

Denial that all experiences are neutral causes even the sincere person to “sin”. Mistakes are born from the obstruction of seeing a thing or experience for what it is. Krishna tells Arjuna that one’s own ego and intellect cause both joy and suffering. Desire obscures wisdom.

Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

idam – “known moment”, “present”

The variation of idam used in this verse encompasses the concept of what is known in the present. “That” which exists now.

The Sanskrit word “idam” is translated differently by various interpretations of this verse of the Bhagavad Gita. Some state that it refers to the “Self” (or soul) as in “desire obscures soul qualities.” Others state idam means “that” as in “reality is obscured by desire.” Yet others have stated that idam means “knowledge or intellect” in this verse, as in “wisdom is obscured by desire.”

I disagree with all of these interpretations for two reasons. First, Arjuna has asked what compels a man to make mistakes against his will and second, I’m am using these commentaries as preparation for teaching Ancient Sanskrit using the Bhagavad Gita as a primer.

I interpret “idam” to mean “the present” or “now”. In other words, desire prevents a person from being fully conscious of the current moment and this lack of focus causes him to make mistakes.

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Ancient History

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