The Enemy Within

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

It’s that time of the year again; time to visit your friends. They live far enough away that you have to take a plane to reach them. It’s a short flight, so you’re not that worried. Delays are common in air travel these days, but all in all there shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, but there are many things you will notice this time around, making you wonder what the purpose to our existence is. Why are we here, and why do we think that certain things will make us happy when they really won’t?

To board a commercial aircraft, you have to go through airport security screening. If you’re carrying a laptop computer, take it out of its bag. It must be by itself on the screening conveyor belt. Also, if you’re wearing shoes, take them off. And why wouldn’t you be wearing shoes? So of course you’ll have shoes to take off. Make sure nothing is in your pockets. Take out that wallet, cell phone, and keys. Anything that will set off the metal detector must be off of your person.

Mind you, you have to do all of this with other people around. Others have planes to catch as well, and they don’t want to miss them. They have to go through the same routine, so you have this pressure of time added on. After you’re done following these rules, you have to step into the scanning area and stand with your arms above your head. Then you wait nervously to see if the screening people want to talk to you further. You’re relieved when they waive you through, allowing you to grab all of your stuff from the screening belt.

This is only one part of the process. Now you have to board the plane. This flight doesn’t have assigned seats, but does have assigned boarding groups. You get up to the designated area and make sure that you are in the right line. Then you board. You have to place your larger carry-on item in one of the overhead bins. Then the smaller carry-on, like your laptop, can fit underneath the seat in front of you. You’re in one of the earlier boarding groups, so you’re able to find bin space without a problem. You get to your seat just fine, and watch everyone else board.

This is where things get interesting. You’re safe with your luggage, but now people are scrambling to find bin space for their bags. Sadly, the people in the last boarding group don’t have any space left for them. They have to check their bags with the flight crew, which means that they will have to wait longer to retrieve their bags when the flight lands. They have done nothing wrong. They are equally entitled to carry on their luggage, but due to the shortage of space, which is caused by the crowded flight, which is caused by the cheaper, more competitive fare, they are shut out from something they expected.

The sober person understands that none of these rules and regulations are ideal. You’re just one person who wants to take a flight to see their friends. Someone else wants to travel for business, and another for vacation. Why can’t all of them board the same flight together without any problems? Why should they have to go through such a hassle to get on the plane and then compete with one another for storage space?

“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that lust is the all-devouring enemy of this world. When it is not controlled, it leads to anger, greed, resentment and all sorts of other unpleasant feelings. It is this lust which is the root cause of the living entity’s descent to the material world, the land we presently inhabit. In the material world, resources are limited, which means that one person’s desire to enjoy will collide with another’s. The conflicts occur all the time, and though they shouldn’t, they continue on due to lust.

In the flight example, there is no reason for the competition, but it naturally occurs due to the propensity for cheating and the lording over resources. For instance, one person may bring more than two carry-on items. They may decide to fill up the entire overhead bin space with their luggage. This is discourteous to the other passengers, but they are simply trying to enjoy. In their mind, no one should object.

Then there are the miscreant characters who will use the flight as a means for terrorizing and stealing. Thus they will take dangerous items onto the plane. If not for these characters, there would be no need for security screening prior to the flight. Heightened security standards arose after problems were encountered. With each new problem, new prohibitive regulations are imposed.

The entire material creation is full of such issues, with many prohibitions imposed by the higher authorities. There is the mistaken notion that if somehow everyone were provided a modest amount of sense gratification, everyone would be happy. Yet we see this is not true, as lust creates dissatisfaction even in those who are considered materially well-off.

Yoga is the only real solution, and though there are many kinds, the culmination of all yoga practice is bhakti, which is divine love. Love God first, develop the divine consciousness, and then see how your life is positively affected. In pure bhakti-yoga, the personal God is approached not for money, material success, or the alleviation of distress. The connection itself is the source of pleasure, and with that connection the material creation becomes easier to deal with.

“The Blessed Lord said: Fearlessness, purification of one’s existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor—these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.” (Bg. 16.1-3)

ArjunaThe yogi in devotion develops the divine qualities, which automatically makes him an upstanding citizen of the state. The tendency for lust is born of illusion, seeing the material energy for one’s personal enjoyment instead of God’s. In bhakti-yoga, the illusion is destroyed, as all energy is understood to be sourced in God. His property is then utilized for His pleasure, with the working potential of the living entity offered in sacrifice through activities like chanting, hearing, remembering and worshiping.

Bhakti-yoga brings the purification of all activity. Rather than compete with our fellow man over resources, the devotees compete over who can serve God the best. There are no winners and losers in this regard, as sincerity is the determining factor in the receiver’s pleasure. One of His opulences is complete wealth, so there is nothing of value anyone can offer to Him. As Krishna, He is all-attractive, so He receives pleasure through the company of His devotees who are attracted to Him. Nevertheless, the competitive fire in devotion has a purifying effect, as the desire for service only increases, keeping one securely away from the fever of material existence, which is fueled by lust.

In Closing:

An airplane should be easy to board,

No need for fight over where luggage stored.


But we see that there is heightened security,

For in man’s behavior no uniformity.


Competition rooted in lust,

Then others we don’t trust.


Know that Krishna is this world’s source,

Yoga in devotion the wiser course.

Categories: mode of passion

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