Renouncing desire, anger, greed and delusion one sees the Self as ‘He am I’. Fools without Self-knowledge are tortured in hell.
The last verse said that ignorance is the cause of all differences. Ignorance leads to desire. Here, this verse asks us to relinquish desire and its modifications.
Desire comes out of a need to fill the emptiness we feel within ourselves. All of us feel a sense of incompleteness giving rise to thoughts that rush out to the world. The desires rush out to gain objects and beings in the belief that they will fill the void. If we look back at our lives, we find we have fulfilled many desires and acquired many things of the world. Yet the emptiness remains. It does not even reduce! This is a clue that there is something fundamentally wrong with our pursuit. Vedanta says the truth is that we are always fulfilled. Paripurna, ever full. Never are we deprived. Yet, for some inexplicable reason we do not know our fullness. This ignorance of our fullness leads to an imaginary void that is the cause of all desires.
When desire is interrupted it causes anger. Desire is a stream of thoughts flowing from us to an object or being. If an extraneous element stands in the way of this thought-flow the thoughts get deflected towards the obstruction as anger. So anger cannot arise without an underlying desire. It is only when we deal with the desire that anger will automatically vanish. Not understanding this people all over the world try to overcome anger without tackling desire.
On the other hand, if desire is fulfilled it creates greed. When it is fed still more it leads to delusion. A person obsessed with the desire for money acquires it. He gets greedy. If even the greed is fulfilled he gets deluded. He thinks his wealth makes him invincible. He allows the wealth to get to him.
All these cause a great deal of mental turbulence and suffering. This is why the master says fools without knowledge of Self are tortured as captives in hell. We are held captive by our own desires and we lose the capacity to rise above them.
What we need is not objects of desire but knowledge of our fullness. Once we understand we are paripurna , we will no longer generate thoughts that rush out into the world to acquire things of the world.
The first line of defense is to scan desires through the intellect. Once the intellect guides, streamlines and directs the desire, the desire loses its virulence and becomes benign. The next stage is to substitute lower desires with a higher one. Having fixed a higher ideal, we need to perform actions not because we like them but to fulfill our duty. Similarly, we will not avoid things just because we dislike them. Thus we rise above our likes and dislikes to lead a life guided by our intellects. Vedic culture emphasizes a life based on duties, not desires. We must always perform niyatam karma, our obligatory duties and steer clear of kamya karma, desire-driven actions which are detrimental to us while abstaining from nishiddha karma, prohibited actions, actions not permitted by our conscience.
It is when desires mount to a level where they cannot be fulfilled by ethical means that we cross over to nishiddha karma. This spells disaster for our material as well as spiritual well-being. Thus the message is to consistently utilize and develop one’s intellect.