Let temptation trigger an alarm bell, not a welcome tune

The Bhagavad-gita (03.41) urges us to recognize carnal temptation as a symbol of sin (papamanam) and to curb it as soon as it rears its ugly head in our consciousness.


This ability to see the true colors of temptation is a prime barometer of our intellectual health. When we are intellectually sick, the arrival of a carnal temptation sets off a welcome tune in our consciousness; our unhealthy intelligence has no strength or spunk to unmask the treacherous façade of temptation. Consequently, we get helplessly, even eagerly, carried away by the doomed hope that indulging in the temptation will make us happy.


But when we are intellectually healthy, the same stimulus triggers an alarm bell in our consciousness. Our robust intelligence recognizes that the temptation is a forerunner of emotional distraction which can over time snowball into spiritual destruction. Consequently, we gird ourselves determinedly for an inner battle. If we seek shelter and strength in the remembrance of Krishna, then we can slowly but surely win the battle.


Sometimes, it may appear that the arrival of temptation leads to no response: neither a welcome tune, nor an alarm bell. That is, we feel neither materially agitated, nor spiritually activated. Does this absence of response indicate that we have transcended temptation?

Unlikely. The absence of material agitation just indicates that due to our past devotional practices, we have become a little more immune to temptations than earlier. However, temptations remain a threat always, and prolonged exposure to them will inevitably agitate us. And the absence of spiritual activation indicates that our intelligence has fallen asleep due to a complacency that can be suicidal. Therefore, the absence of alarm should itself trigger alarm, or at least concern. It should galvanize us to arouse our intelligence, ward off the temptation and protect our spiritual integrity.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 03 Text 41

“Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.”

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