Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 3 verse 33-43

sadṛśaṃceṣṭate svasyāḥprakṛter-jñānavān api |
prakṛtiṃyānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥkiṃkariṣyati || 33 ||

33. Even an enlightened person acts in conformity to his own nature; beings follow their nature; what will restraint do?

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

That person situated in jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic wisdom is very knowledgeable with the Vedic declarations regarding the distinct difference between the ātma or soul and prakṛti or material nature.

Such a person is also completely aware of the fact that the ātma should be the sole object of their contemplation and meditation.

But despite this knowledge it is seen that due to the deep influence of saṁskāras or impressions from past life activities, they are carried along by their subsequent nature

which forces them to be act in the current of their natural tendencies and they find themselves preoccupied with various material pursuits enjoying assorted material sense objects.

The reason is that living entities become indoctrinated and content with whatever relationship they establish in their environment. In other words - whatever habits they form from their association with prakṛti they continue to maintain and persistently follow.

With the overpowering influence of these deep rooted habits how can the words of the Vedic scriptures impose restraint on such a person? One is helplessly carried away by the forceful current of past life actions and impressions.

The objects of the senses are perceived through the sense organs. For example hearing is perceived by the ears through sound, seeing is perceived by the eyes through sight, smelling is perceived by the nose through smells and so on.

For each of the senses one has affection and the desire to enjoy through them.

But the same senses operate depending upon attraction or aversion to sense objects:

For sense objects that are pleasing one has attraction for pleasure and for sense objects that are displeasing one has aversion to displeasure. All these habits are conditioned from ancient predilections of past life reminisces.

Such dualities of attraction and aversion obstructs one who would want to succeed in jñāna yoga by subjugating their sense.

These dualities which can be understood as different degrees of love and hate, hold a person in an iron grip and forcefully drive them to commit actions that are in conformance with the attributes of one of the three gunas of goodness, passion or nescience which one's nature adheres to from past life impressions.

Thus one is being constantly diverted from the real purpose of human existence, that of ātma tattva or realisation of the soul and their precious human life is wasted pursuing sense objects.

indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāga-dveṣau vyavasthitau |
tayor-na vaśam āgacchet tau hyasya paripanthinau || 34 ||

34. Attachment and aversion for sense objects abide in the sense-organs; let none come under their sway; for they are one’s foes.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna confirms that a person who embarks upon the path of jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic wisdom should never fall again under the influence of dualities as they work against one and undermines all one' efforts.

The dualities of love and hate, attraction and aversion are a person’s most invincible enemies and they completely frustrate all one's attempts for success and higher understanding.

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥpara-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt |
sva-dharme nidhanaṃ śreyaḥpara-dharmo bhayāvaḥ|| 35 ||

35. Better is one's own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well-done. Better is death in one's own duty; the duty of another is fraught with fear.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

For obvious reasons the performance of one's own dharma or righteous duties according to karma yoga or actions performed according to prescribed Vedic injunctions is the best course to follow even if they do not possess great virtues.

One's own duties are easy and natural to discharge in karma yoga and unattended with risk.

Whereas that person performing jñāna yoga or the path of cultivating Vedic knowledge which is most excellent; but who is beguiled by prakṛti or material nature finds it extremely difficult to achieve success.

Although the path of jñāna yoga is shorter than the path of karma yoga there are many dangers accosting the path of jñāna yoga. The path of karma yoga is performed by one most easily as it naturally befits the person performing it.

Even if death comes before one has the opportunity to fulfil life's purpose and attain mokṣa or liberation form the cycle of birth and death, still one's progress is not impeded by any obstacle even death

as one's merits are applied to the next life and they are born in a situation where they can easily pick up the thread from where they left off in the last life and continue on.

Whereas one who although beguiled by prakṛti attempts to practice jñāna yoga anyway is surrounded by danger and obstacles on their path which deter one from easily adopting and putting into practice the cultivation of Vedic wisdom.

arjuna uvāca
atha kena prayukto’yaṃpāpaṃcarati pūruṣaḥ|
anicchann-api vārṣṇeya balādiva niyojitaḥ|| 36 ||

Arjuna said:

36. But, impelled by what, O Krishna, does one err even against one's own will, constrained as it were, by force?

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Arjuna wants to know from Lord Krishna exactly what it is that forcibly impels a person embarking on the path of jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic wisdom to go against their better judgement and engage in sinful activities.

śrībhagavan uvāca
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇa samudbhavaḥ|
mahāśano mahā-pāpmāviddhyenam-iha vairiṇam || 37 ||

The Blessed Lord said;

37. It is desire, it is anger, born of the Guna of Rajas; all-devouring, an impeller to sin. Know this to be the foe here.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The most powerful obstruction in their pursuit of jñāna yoga or the path of cultivating Vedic knowledge is kāma or lust. The intense addiction to enjoy sense objects.

This addiction is fuelled by past habits such as remembering senses enjoyed or by senses frustrated in the attempt to satisfy one's desires.

Because the person is helplessly attached to the attraction and aversion of the three gunas or goodness, passion and nescience, which are constantly fluctuating the mind and senses, influencing all beings.

This kāma is a most powerful enemy and exerting its power compels a person to enter into its province of sense delights in pursuit of pleasure.

Then if by chance while in the pursuit of sense delights one's desires are thwarted or frustrated then this same lust transforms itself into intense krodha or anger.

Enacting sinful actions in the attempt to satisfy one's frustrated senses even if futilely and prepared to perpetrate even violent acts against anyone that thwarts in any way the gratification of their senses.

It should be known that kāma and krodha arise from rajas guṇa or the mode of passion and it is a very hostile adversary to those who are engaged in jñāna yoga.

dhūmenāvriyate vahnir-yathādarśo malena ca |
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas-tathātenedam-āvṛtam || 38 ||

38. As a fire is enveloped by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, and as an embryo by the amnion, so is this (world) enveloped by that (desire).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is giving the three examples to indicate the varying degrees of kāma or lust and that everyone is immersed in kāma in some way that this is the situation in the world.

How kāma envelopes the mind and the intellect is coming next.

āvṛtaṃjñānam etena jñānino nitya vairiṇā|
kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca || 39 ||

39. Wisdom is obscured by this constant enemy of the wise, O Arjuna, in the form of desire, which is as insatiable as fire.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The intellect of one who even has understanding of ātma tattva or soul realisation becomes clouded by the eternal enemy known as kāma or lust and which generates fascination and excitement for enjoying the objects of the senses.

The word duṣpūreṇa means insatiable, it can never be satisfied. It constantly hungers for sense gratification even if it is inaccessible to get and impossible to have, still kāma yearns for it.

It is anala or inexhaustible as nothing ever completely satisfies kāma permanently.

When the object of its desires has been acquired and the senses fully gratified then at once kāma wants more and looks for something new. It is never satisfied.

In what way kāma utilises itself to envelope the ātma or soul Lord Krishna reveals next.

indriyāṇi mano buddhir-asyādhiṣṭhānam-ucyate |
etair-vimohayaty-eṣa jñānam-āvṛtya dehinam || 40 ||

40. The senses, the mind and the intellect are said to be its accessories. By these it [desire] deludes the embodied Self by concealing its wisdom.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The senses, the mind and the intellect which controls the discriminatory faculty, is where kāma or lust covertly resides and exercises its dominion over the ātma or soul.

Through kāma the senses, the mind and the intellect become addicted to craving for sense objects.

Kāma seizes hold of the embodied beings and beguiles them by clouding the intellect and then kāma covers and envelopes the ātma or soul of that being in many ways

and who subsequently becomes kāma's slave doing anything to gratify its senses and is plunged into the prison garden of sense objects.

This is what Lord Krishna is stating here.

tasmāt-tvam-indriyāṇyādau niyamya bharatarṣabha |
pāpmānaṃprajahi hyenaṃjñāna vijñāna nāśanam || 41 ||

41. Therefore, O Arjuna, controlling the senses first, slay this deluding thing [desire] that destroys both knowledge and discrimination.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

One who is interested in qualifying for jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic knowledge must restrain the natural outgoing tendency of the five senses from pursuing sense objects.

But the mighty enemy kāma or lust covertly causes dissent in the enquiring of ātma tattva or realisation of the soul and contrarily causes enthusiasm for procuring the delights of the senses.

One understanding that the senses operate in their own natural sphere within the physical body, directs them to perform the appropriate occupational duties according to ones rank and station in life in karma yoga or the performance of prescribed Vedic activities and thus the senses are constrained.

Lord Krishna thus gives the key to vanquishing this great enemy known as kāma which is so terrible and which destroys both jñāna or spiritual knowledge and vijñāna or spiritual wisdom.

indriyāṇi parāṅyāhur-indrebhyaḥparaṃmanaḥ|
manas-astu parābuddhir-yo buddheḥparatas-tu saḥ|| 42 ||

42. It is said that the senses are supreme: the mind is superior to the senses; the intellect is higher than the mind; but what is greater than intellect is that (the desire-nature).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The five senses are the main impediments to spiritual development and are arranged in a hostile formation against it.

As long as the senses are primarily occupied in the pursuit of pleasure and delight in sense objects the realisation of the ātma or soul will never manifest.

Yet the mind although fickle is capable of controlling the senses but if the mind is also inclined to enjoy the senses and is filled with thoughts of the same then realisation of the ātma will also never manifest.

But the intellect is superior even to the mind as it possesses the discriminative faculty:

This means that the mind may be tranquil but if the intellect is inclined towards the channels of sense activities then there will be a perversion in one’s intelligence and no possibility again for realisation of the ātma.

To show the order of gradation is Lord Krishna’s intention.

A question may be posed what if all three being the senses, the mind and the intellect were tranquil and passive?

The unvarying answer is that kāma or lust which arises from desires, covertly resides deep within the heart and is always craving for sense gratification.

This kāma is so powerful that it will assert its mastery over them all and domineering them will have them fully pursuing the objects of the senses for sense gratification in the phenomenal world obscuring the light of knowledge and the realisation of the ātma.

That which is the most powerful with its domain in the spiritual phenomena is the ātma and is designated by the pronoun saḥ.

evaṃbuddheḥparaṃbuddhvāsaṃstabhyātmānam ātmanā|
jahi śatruṃmahā-bāho kāma-rūpaṃdurāsadam || 43 ||

43. Thus, knowing that which is greater than the intellect and fixing the mind with the help of the intellect in Karma Yoga, O Arjuna, slay this enemy in the form of desire, which is difficult to overcome.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

So it should understood that kāma or lust is able to dominate even the intellect and thus is antagonistic to jñāna yoga or the cultivation of Vedic spiritual knowledge.

So one must with firm resolve restrain the senses right from the very beginning and keeping the mind resolutely established in the ātma or soul, destroy this powerful enemy known as kāma eradicating it at the very root.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavadgītāsupaniṣatsu
brahmavidyāyāṃ yogaśāstre
śrīkṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde karmayoga nama

Thus in the Upanishad of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Śrī Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the third discourse entitled
"The Yoga of Action"