Desire is the Foe of Wisdom

Chapter III, Verse 39

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


Unsatiable like a flame is the hot desire of the flesh; wisdom is buried or covered in it. This desire is certainly the foe the wise need to govern.

Helpful Translation:

Desire burns wisdom and intuition to ashes.


Krishna continues to elaborate on the point he made in the last verse, which is that desire obscures wisdom and without wisdom one cannot live in the present. He also offers more specifics on the nature of desire.

Once a desire is lit, it will demand more fuel. Given more fuel the desire will burn all that it receives until it destroys the human who fuels it.

For the common human, the message here is to contemplate the nature of one’s desire. Develop an awareness of how desire both motivates action and prevents the fulfillment of goals.

For the spiritual aspirant, Krishna states that even those who express wisdom (jnaninas) are impeded by desire. Desire is attachment. Attachment is blinding.

You may disagree with my next observations. My goal is to make a point, not to offend.

Christian ministers in the USA generally have their wisdom obscured by material desires. Bigger churches, bigger ministries draw bigger donations and a more lavish lifestyle. The emphasis on service and evangelism easily leads to the desire for more money to “do more”. Material wealth obscures both personal wisdom and ultimately the ability to serve the needs of the congregation.

Meditation teachers (Yogis) from India generally have their wisdom obscured by sexual desires. The emphasis on love and compassion easily translates into physical love and affection. Rare is the “guru” who understands and expresses the purity of Tantric practices.

The fall from grace whether it be inspired by material wealth or by promiscuity is still a degradation of wisdom. Krishna warns that even the wise individual is subject to the ignorance caused by personal desires.

The first step is to acknowledge that a desire cultivated will become all-consuming and destructive if left unchecked.


Easter Eggs:

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

jnanino/as – wise one/s

In this verse “wise one” applies to whatever state of understanding one has achieved. For the followers of a leader, this is a warning that desires limit the expression of wisdom. For the introspective wise man, this is a warning to battle desires rather than be overcome by them.

KaunteyaSon of Kunti

Kunti is Arjuna’s mother. (His “father” is Indra, the lord of heaven, Svargaloka,

who has a thunderbolt, Vajra, in his hand.) Kaunteya indicates the state of consciousness that is worldly, or no longer naïve. Contrast with Partha. The feminine origin of this moniker indicates it is related to the ida nadi.

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Ancient History

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