CHAPTER 16 VERSE 21
त्रिविधं नरकस्येदं द्वारं नाशनमात्मनः ।
कामः क्रोधस्तथा लोभस्तस्मादेतत्त्रयं त्यजेत् ॥ २१ ॥
dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ
kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas
tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet
tri-vidham—of three kinds; narakasya—of hell; idam—this; dvāram—gate; nāśanam—destructive; ātmanaḥ—of the self; kāmaḥ—lust; krodhaḥ—anger; tathā—as well as; lobhaḥ—greed; tasmāt—therefore; etat—these; trayam—three; tyajet—one must give up.
There are three gates leading to this hell–lust, anger and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.
“There are three gates leading to this hell—lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.”
So, this is an extremely important verse, particularly in the world that we are currently living. This chapter, that this verse is taken from, chapter 16, in English is titled “The Divine and the Demoniac Natures.” Immediately some people might be startled by such a title, and that might be because this English term demoniac is often thought of in the framework of Christianity, or Christianity as it is taught and practiced. In the Vedas, there was no concept of an eternal enemy of God, Satan, who is tempting the living beings to come join him in his satanic activities. So that framework didn’t exist, those ideas.
The Sanskrit words are deva, deva. So the devic qualities are being translated as divine. The word deva, it can mean God and it can mean God-like or, in this case, godly qualities. And the Sanskrit word that’s been translated as demoniac is asura. The asura was one who was opposed to God and godly living.
And how was that understood? Well, it had to do with people’s view of the world, their view of others, and their view of themselves, which was foundational to their view of others in the world:
A person that was said to be devic, or divine in mentality, they saw this world not as their property, that it was here before they showed up, it will be still here when they leave it, and so, the idea of laying claim to it is considered not just odd and strange but actually incredibly corrupt. So, you’ll see that today, I mean most people have that view, the view that they can own this world or parts of it, or they seek to acquire it and…whereas this mentality of proprietorship, of owning and exploiting, was considered a very low mentality, asuric, or demonic, as it might be translated.
And similarly with others: one who saw the equality of all beings, who felt compassion for all beings, who never exploits, abuses, but is deeply concerned for the welfare of all others, this is considered a devic view, a godly view. Whereas one who sees others as objects to exploit for personal gratification in different ways, to control, who feel that they are free to cause harm and suffering to others, this was the mentality that it’s been categorized here as demonic.
And so, the whole premise for gross materialism, current materialistic life, would be categorized in the Vedas as actually being demonic, meaning that it is displeasing to the Supreme Lord. But it is also a source of enormous harm for oneself and for all other beings when one behaves in this manner, whereas with one adopts the devic qualities, one progresses in spiritual life. So, in effect, we’re speaking of two paths, where we can speak of a path that is leading downwards and a path that is leading upwards.
And so, one should understand the use of this word demonic, if it is used in these translations, within the context of this understanding.
So, I’ll just read a note I have here:
Lust, anger, and greed are three enemies of human life. Here they are compared to three gates that degrade the living entity and take him away from our intended spiritual path. Lord Krishna is giving very clear advice that we must not only control these tendencies, we should engage in practices that purify them. The tendency of a saintly person is introspection. They are always looking at themselves, their actions, what is their heart and mind, and they are always trying to improve.
The Vedas are full of stories of people who lived sinful lives but who were purified by the association of saints and by the chanting of the spiritual sounds, the holy names of God.
So, one might ask, “So what exactly is wrong with lust, anger, and greed?”
I don’t know how many people now are aware, when I was a child raised in a Catholic background, within Christianity, there was this very firm understanding of these things that they referred to as seven deadly sins, meaning activities that were considered sinful and deadly, meaning that they can actually destroy one’s spiritual opportunity and relegate one to a world of great suffering.
Lust, anger, and greed are founded on—or the underlying driver is this ahankara, the false ego, the false concept of self. When one becomes overwhelmed by this illusion of the body and mind as being the self, one will automatically conclude that the purpose and object of life is to try and fulfill the different desires and urges of the body and mind. And lust, anger, and greed are intimately connected with this pursuit.
Lust is the intense hankering to enjoy. It is not solely attached to sexuality, but all forms of intense selfishness, or self-centredness, are covered by lust. And again, the foundation is this illusion that the body and mind is the self.
Anger, as we will read in a little bit, naturally springs from lust. The presence of anger is directly tied to the presence of lust.
And greed is this intense consumption, not just the desire, but the desire and then the consumption of more and more. And there are many talks that I’ve done, that you can find on my website, that deal with consumerism and this mentality that has grown in over the last century that was founded on a cultivation of greed and envy. The whole consumer economic system is absolutely rooted, consciously—I mean economists and leaders in society talked about the need to cultivate these two things in the broader population to cause economic growth and development.
But we understand from the Bhagavad-gita this is a catastrophic idea, because it leads one directly away from what is their spiritual interest; instead of becoming happy and freed from material entanglement, one becomes deeply influenced, implicated by materialism and bound by the results which always produce unhappiness.
The Bhagavad-gita, as we’ve mentioned before, is spoken by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. Arjuna had a grandfather, actually a great-grandfather, by the name of Bhisma, who was also present when Krishna spoke this to Arjuna on this battlefield prior to the battle. Grandfather Bhisma was actually on the opposing side to Arjuna and his brothers and was killed by Arjuna. But his body, it was said, was shot so full of arrows that when it fell from the chariot not one part of his body touched the ground. But because he was also a great mystic and a yogi, he retained life within that body, he remained there until what he considered was an appropriate time, an auspicious time to leave.
And immediately after the battle he was visited by his grandsons and also by Krishna, and they all wept to see him in this condition. And he spoke to Arjuna’s eldest brother, Yudhisthira, who had refused to take the throne at the cost of so much life. And grandfather Bhisma spoke to him for hours in the most amazing discourse. And as part of that discourse, Bhismadeva advised that for all human beings there were nine qualifications that one needed, to be actually considered human. And Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments that one cannot be called a civilized person without acquiring these mentioned preliminary qualities. So, these qualities, these nine qualities were considered preliminary to actual spiritual life.
And the very first item on Grandfather Bhisma’s list was not to become angry. And that’s just like stunning that one would… that there would be this focus. I mean we live in a world where people are becoming increasingly degraded, and anger and bickering and fighting have become so commonplace. But it is understood that these are all incredibly detrimental to spiritual growth and spiritual experience and to self-realization.
So, I’d just like to read one commentary from Sridhara Swami whom we have quoted from before, a great luminary, whose commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam were highly valued by the spiritual masters in our lineage:
“Lord Krishna concisely enunciates that lust, greed, and anger are the three gates leading straight to hell. These three are very destructive and degenerative for a human being completely obscuring discrimination and the consciousness of the atma or the immortal soul and hence to be shunned and avoided by all means, for their influence propels one directly into lower, debased life forms and reincarnations in hellish existences. So lust, greed and anger must be renounced, abandoned, and rejected if one wants to avoid residing in hell.”
So, the Vedas, they don’t speak of hell in the same way that it was spoken of within Christianity; while there were dimensions that were considered incredibly hellish where monumental amounts of suffering can occur, and one enters there because of past karmic activity, but even reincarnating downwards into lower species of life is, or can be, considered hellish. I mean if you look at the way of animal existence: as they say, “dog eat dog” world, you have just this constant competition, this ferocity, and this violence that exists within nature is quite mind-boggling.
And these three qualities—lust, anger, and greed—are considered gateways to hellish existence, which means within this lifetime and also in succeeding lifetimes.
So, as I mentioned in the last verse that we had spoken on, I had read one part. It’s of—there are these two verses which we have read before back in the—towards the beginning of this little study program. And I’ll just read them again now for your consideration:
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.
From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.”
So, when we look at these, it shows the pathway, the pathway through lust and anger to hellish experience. And it begins with a very simple thing: while contemplating the objects of the senses, that which we seek to enjoy, when one contemplates upon them, that’s where it begins. Then one develops attachment for them. When we continue contemplating with increased attachment, then that attachment develops into lust, which is intense desire or longing.
Anger will arise for generally one of two reasons: Either I get what it is that I wanted, and I had wanted it very intensely, but when I got it, my experience didn’t live up to what I hoped it would be. And so, for that reason I feel frustrated, and I become angry; or I am prevented from getting what it is that I’m lusting after, and for that, I will become angry. And then what happens is this anger actually resides within our heart. It is not something that is caused by anyone else. It actually resides within our heart. We have choices as to how we will respond, relate, react to different things, and so it is considered a choice.
In speaking—I’ve done a number of talks; and within the prison program, the meditation and mindfulness program that we run, we talk about some of these things from the point of view of mindfulness. And the summary of the advice that I give people is that in a heightened state of emotions, whether those are positive, considered positive or negative, you know, lust, anger, fear, any of these things, in a heightened state of emotions when your mind is overwhelmed by these things, do not act, do not speak, do not make a decision or a commitment to a course of action. You need to go away, step away, calm down. Do some meditation or chanting or deep breathing, whatever you need to do. Calm down. And then in a calm state, consider, “What is it I should do? How should I deal with this situation? How should I react?” When you act while being influenced by a heightened state of emotions, it will almost never work well for you. It will almost always be a bad thing.
So, I wanted to read a couple of other verses here that deal more with lust and the pride that arises in the mind of an aggressive person who is possessed of this demonic mentality, asuric mentality of being the central enjoying agent, the dominator of others.
“Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac thus illusioned are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent.”
We’ll just pause there for a moment. I mean it’s quite a pretty intense warning. And then the closing part, that people in this state of consciousness are always attracted by the impermanent. And if we reflect upon that, we will see the massive contrast between a materialist and a transcendentalist.
A materialist is always drawn to that which is impermanent, the material nature, material experiences—fame, reputation, pride, whatever—all of these different things which by nature are fleeting and impermanent. And this becomes the total obsession of a materialist; whereas a transcendentalist is absorbed in that which is permanent, that which is eternal, that is the focus of their life.
So, in the next verse which is actually two verses joined:
“They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of their life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.”
So, it’s just like, whoa! I mean this pretty much sums up where the world is currently going. We have seen in the last 50 years a massive erosion of religious or spiritual principles and practice. People have been encouraged to become simply greedy consumers, lusty consumers, pride-filled and glorying—they see this as their glory, their capacity to consume and to use. But in this condition, one cannot find peace.
And we see that with the world, how deeply the world is suffering from all kinds of mental health issues—massive rises in depression, massive rise in the use of mood-altering substances and drugs, both legal and illegal, the massive rise in the last few years in suicide. This all points to a wrong direction, that even though we are being told, if we do all these things and consume all the stuff, we’ll become happy, it’s absolutely not true, and the evidence is very clear.
So, the advice is given by Krishna, in this next verse I will read.
“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.”
So, this is just like—this is like night and day. This is opposite to all the messaging that everybody is getting, that one should tolerate the urges of the material senses. Your senses are always going to be demanding. The mind is always going to be demanding so many things. But one is encouraged, rather than catering to those desires and urges, one simply learn to tolerate them. And of course, it implies that one needs to have some higher purpose for their life, for their existence, than simply being a greedy and lusty consumer. And it is said if one is able to do that, and is able to check the force of desire and anger, then such a person is well situated and happy in this world.
So here we have—and repeatedly, in a number of places in the Bhagavad-gita, very clear prescription for happiness. If one wants to be peaceful and happy, then one must learn to—one must cultivate these practices.
So, the final verse I’d just like to read. We have heard how when one surrenders to Krishna in a mood of love and friendship, that Krishna removes the burden of such a person, a devoted follower. He removes the burden of their heart and mind, and He enlightens them with spiritual understanding, with knowledge. And this verse speaks to this, and it’s from the Bhagavata Purana:
“The sound incarnation of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Soul [i.e., the Srimad-Bhagavatam–this is another name for the Bhagavata Purana], enters into the heart of a self-realized devotee, sits on the lotus flower of his loving relationship, and thus cleanses the dust of material association, such as lust, anger and hankering. Thus, it acts like autumnal rains upon the pools of muddy water.”
So, a lot of people in the Western world may not be very familiar with this last analogy. In the tropics, you have a rainy season, and the rainy season causes large pools of water to gather over the course of the rainy season on the land. And because of frequent and, or constant, even, rain, these pools are generally very muddy. But then as soon as the rainy season ends, during the autumn when everything is more still, there are still some occasional showers. And what we see is when the rain falls in these showers upon these muddy pools, it causes the mud to settle to the bottom and the waters all become clear.
And so, it is a very beautiful example of what happens to the mind and the heart of the devoted transcendentalist when they take to this spiritual process and become a recipient of the Lord’s mercy and His blessing in the form of transcendental knowledge.
Thank you very much.