Darker side of Desires | Bhaja Govindam 15th stanza

(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)

Angam galitam palitam mundam, dashanaviheenam jaatam tundam
Vruddho yaati gruheetva dandam, tadapi na munchatya aashapindam || 15 ||

Meaning: Body has weakened, the hair has turned grey. The teeth have been lost, and the old man needs a stick to walk. Even then he is not able to drop the lump of desires.

This verse was given by Totakacharya.

There’s a story of a man who was chased by a tiger. As he was running for his life, he tripped on something and was falling into a dry well. While falling, luckily he gets to hold on a creeper that was hanging on top of the well. While he does this act, few stones fall upon a cobra that was sleeping inside the well. Suddenly some rats start chewing the creeper. The whole process shook a honeycomb that was on top of the tree and the honey bees started stinking the person all over. Outside the well is the tiger, inside the well is a cobra waiting for the man, the creeper is going to crack, the honey bees are all over him, and in this process he sticks out his tongue to catch a drop of honey that was falling down from the honey comb.

Even though we may laugh at this story, the condition of man is the same. No matter how old & weak his body becomes the desire to enjoy does not go away. So many people we can see whose body does not support a particular type of food, but the tongue craves for it. There are no teeth in the mouth, but still there’s a temptation to eat crunchy food. Health gone, money gone, still some people are unable to give up the habit of drinking. Body is growing old but the desire to keep it young is there. What a pity! Why should we be become such a victim to our desires? When are we going to drop them?

An old person told a Swami how much he wishes to retire to some ashram where he can spend time in solitude and peace thinking about God. The Swami asked him why he doesn’t do that now. He replied, “I’m just waiting for my grandchild to get married.” Who is stopping us from being free? Till when are we going on to cling to our desires? If we think that we shall drop them after getting old, that’s definitely not going to happen because the more and more we entertain these desires, they start getting stronger and have a better control over us.

Whatever might be our age today, we need to start thinking over this and dropping our desires at this point. On this, one may ask, “Desire to drop desires, itself is a desire”. When we say ‘Drop desires’ it means the desires that come from attachment towards something. E.g. Desire to serve aged parents is a good desire. The parents have taken care of us till a particular age and its time that we give it back to them. Such a desire need not be dropped.

The desires that cause attachment where we tend to lose our freedom; those desires need to be dropped. If we are happy and contented with whatever food we get to eat, then we have dropped the desire for food. That does not stop us from having chocolates or ice-creams or pickles. But one should not be so attached to them that his happiness quotient is affected by their non-availability.

We may start thinking how happy we are when our desires are satisfied. However, the darker side of desires comes up mainly when we are unable to achieve them physically, mentally or monetarily. A seeker needs to have constant alertness over his thoughts. One should examine the thoughts that make him happy and the ones that make him sad. When he is happy, he should think, “Why am I happy (or sad)? Is it because a selfish desire was satisfied (or not satisfied)? Am I acting like a slave to that desire?” This way, he can keep, rather should keep, a check on himself and make corrections as and when required.

Constant Alertness is the price one has to pay to achieve long lasting peace and happiness.

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