Krishna answers the question raised by Arjuna in Verse 36
Kama eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇasamudbhavaḥ
mahāśano mahāpāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
esah – this
kamah – desire
krodah – anger
rajo guna samubhavah – born of the guna, rajas
mahasanah – a glutton
mahapapma – a great sinner
iha – here in this world
enam – this
vairinam – the enemy
Sri Bhagavan said
This desire, this anger, born of the guna rajas is the glutton and a great sinner. Know that to be the enemy here in this world.
The expression, ‘this desire’, esah kamah, indicates that is something known to everyone. Krishna was telling Arjuna, “you know this desire by looking into yourself’. There is no other devil, no separate satanic force, sitting there interfering with Bhagavan’s work. You are both the devil and the angel here and this desire is something that is well known to you”.
Desire is born out of rajoguna alone, whereas wisdom is born out of sattva. When rajas is predominant, there is desire. Because rajas is a force, Kama is also forceful.
Kama is said to be our enemy, ‘vairi’ an enemy being one who does what is not good for us. Kama is inimical to us and makes us go after things that you do not really want or need and things that you can afford to live without. Kama has also another form – Anger. Krodha is another stage of Kama. Arjuna knew well about this as he was born out of Indra’s grace and as such Indra was his father.
There is a story about Arjuna which is referred in the Mahabharata epic. When the Pandavas lost the kingdom, and every possession including themselves to a plot by Shakuni, they are banished for 12 years in the forest, plus 1 year of living incognito. During that time, Arjuna started doing penance invoking Shiva’s grace. He did an arduous tapas which lasted for a few years and deep inside him was a desire to take revenge on the treatment meted out to Draupadi. While this penance was done, Indra thought that he would reward Arjuna by sending Urvashi. We all know that Urvashi was a beautiful damsel, an apsara from heaven and every men in the Indra loka was vying for her. So upon Indra’s request, Urvashi descended on earth and conveyed Indra’s wishes. Arjuna was so steadfast in what he wanted that he was not interested in Urvashi and he told her that his only desire to seek Shiva’s grace and receive the Pasupata Astra which is as devastating as the pralaya. Listening to this Urvashi got very angry as no one had ever turned down a proposal from her. She cursed him that he will lose his masculinity and will become a eunuch. Indra on listening to this curse intervened and asked Urvashi to modify the curse so that Arjuna could choose the time when the curse would start and the curse will last 1 year. During this time Arjuna also will imbibe all womanlike qualities and will be well versed in nritya, music.
This curse proved to be a blessing for Arjuna as he spent 1 year in incognito and no one could detect that he was Arjuna. So Arjuna had therefore experienced how the desire can turn into anger. When Urvashi’s desire for Arjuna was not fulfilled, it became anger. A person whose love is rejected can become even violent towards the object of his or her love. Rejected love means Kama that is still there. Kama as Krodha or anger is referred as Mahapapma, a great sinner because it is the cause of those actions that a person regrets for his entire life time. Such actions have to be paid for and Kama is alone the cause.
There is also a mantra that is chanted by all Brahmana who have done upanayanam. During the Avani Avittam, the kamokarshit japam is chanted 1008 times. The mantra is:
“Kamo karsit manyurakarsit namo namah” – Meaning ‘Desire did it, anger did it. Oh! Lord my salutations. The repetition of the mantra is to remind the student that it is lust and anger that are the root cause of all sins and the need to be ever vigilant against becoming prey to temptation and losing one’s composure. It is just not a prayer but carries a message too. It implies that ‘I did not do it’. The deeper I is not the one, but due to the rajo guna of the prakruti and us falling prey this anger came about.
As your enemy, Kama forces you to perform actions that you are improper and you do not really want to do. There is one more word given in the verse to describe ‘Kama mahasanah, one who is a great glutton. Kama never says ‘Enough’. It’s fulfilment may be enough for some time, but eventually the desire will start up again and just like a glutton who barely takes time to swallow the food being eaten before wanting more. This is the nature of want and any want is always replaced by further wants.
Like fire, Kama always want more and it will never say ‘Stop’. This is why we always have never ending wants and desires.