Kāma means desire, though widely misinterpreted as only lust, it refers to any desire, if so, is having a desire wrong? Or as per Shastra (Śāstra), is having Kāma ill-advised and against Ḍharma? This is a very crucial topic explained in Sanātana Ḍharma (Hinduism) literature that one needs to understand thoroughly because manava (human beings) are a bundle of desires that drive them towards performing karmā (actions with associated results). Kāma though an inherent concept originating from Sanātana Ḍharma literature (also into Hinduism), the fundamentals were also assimilated into Buddhism. So, let’s explore the source of Kāma from the Vedas.

कामस् तद् अग्रे सम् अवर्तत रेतः प्रथमं यद् आसीत्। स काम कामेन बृहता सयोनी पोषं यजमानाय धेहि ॥१॥
kāmas tád ágre sám avartata mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád ā́sīt |sá kāma kā́mena br̥hatā́ sáyonī rāyás póṣaṃ yájamānāya dhehi ||1||
He (अवर्तत) the foremost one (अग्रे) cameforth (तद्) as the seed/spawn (रेत) of primordial (प्रथमं) Desire (कामस्). Along (स) with the primordial desire (the original womb of desire (सयोनी कामेन) came our desires (काम) feed/nourished (पोषं) the owners/performer of Yajna (यजमानाय) and the very embodiment (धेहि)

Atharva Veda 19.52.1
Kāmadeva (Manmadha, Son of Śrī Maha Viṣṇu) & Rati (2009)

Say, in order to donate or perform charity, one needs to have two things, first the desire towards charity, which could be because of empathy or other reasons, and second, to have the ability to perform charity. The lack of either will not result in performing such action. For a person to read this very concept, the fundamental factor is desire. It’s very unfortunate that Manmadha (Deva of Desire) is widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. Without His role in the cycle of existence, the entire human race (manava jaathi) wouldn’t have flourished in the absence of one vital desire, which is to foster the next generation, because we the manava (humans) are not immortal. A devotee with shraddha towards Ishwara (Iśvara) walks the path of Ḍharma and in return receives Iśvara anugrah(am) would require the primal desire to learn and understand Śāstra, or an elementary desire towards Iśvara. So, one must ask the question, how can one get such a desire to receive Iśvara’s anugraham (grace).

What is the source of Desire?

The answer can be found in  Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3 of Karmā Yoga, sloka 36 to 42 as follows:

अर्जुन उवाच   अथ केन प्रयुक्तोऽयं पापं चरति पूरुषः। अनिच्छन्नपि वार्ष्णेय बलादिव नियोजितः।।
श्री भगवानुवाच   काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः। महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम्।।
धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथाऽऽदर्शो मलेन च।  यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम्।।
आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा।  कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च।।
इन्द्रियाणि मनो बुद्धिरस्याधिष्ठानमुच्यते। एतैर्विमोहयत्येष ज्ञानमावृत्य देहिनम्।।
तस्मात्त्वमिन्द्रियाण्यादौ नियम्य भरतर्षभ।  पाप्मानं प्रजहि ह्येनं ज्ञानविज्ञाननाशनम्।।
इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः।  मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

Means, Arjuna asks Śrī Kṛṣṇa the source and the driving force for Puruṣa (पूरुषः human) toward performing an action based on desire, leading to pápa (पापं). Because actions (karmā) should be performed as a Yajñá (sacrificial fire). Gitacharya says that the greatest enemy of Puruṣa (human) is the Guṇa, known as the Rajo:Guṇa (रजोगुण) or Rajas, which is a nature of a life lived with utmost desires (the other 3 gunas are tamas, satva, suddha:satva) leading to anger (kroda क्रोध). He is referring to life in constant burning agitation, rage, and vexing. This Guṇa wraps buddhi (chitta or pure intelligence and wisdom out of realization, not intellect out of information gathering)  like a womb covers a fetus, or a cloud of smoke making it difficult to see the fire or a mirror covered with dust. The indriyas (sense organs) are the input and also the means to expression for these desires. These indrias (sense organs) take precedence over the body (which functions in the background), and the physical mind which processes the external information takes precedence over the sense organs, finally, the intellect (out of information gathered by the senses) further takes precedence and controls sense organs as a means of expression. Among all these, the jiva (indwelling life force) forgets the chitta (pure intelligence out of realization) and the true identity which is the Atman.

Is desire wrong?

RISDM 63-049 v02
Śiva Parvati immersed in Kaeli:vilasam. Ganesha and Kartikeya at the bottom. 11th Century Sandstone Sculpture, RISD Museum. (n.d)

It’s not that a specific desire is right or wrong because Sanātana Ḍharma literature doesn’t have the concept of right or wrong and good or bad. Sanātana Ḍharma only associates an individual’s karmā (actions) either to be in line with Ḍharma or not, making it a:Ḍharma. Without the knowledge and understanding of Śāstra and without the belief in parents and Guru, one loses a conscience check of one’s thoughts and actions. In Ramayana, it was not the case that Ravana was not aware of Śāstra and his Ḍharma. He himself was a great scholar, however, his confidence in his boons, which he received through forceful stubbornness of abstinence in performing tapasya (penance) caused him to lose the moral check-in his conscience, and so was dwelling in Rajoguna. This, made him feel justified in all his atrocities, especially toward women. It’s after facing Rama in battle, that he realizes that the results of his karmā (karmā phala) have arrived from which he couldn’t escape. Both Ravana and Rama had Kāma, but with one significant distinction, Rama’s Kāma was in line with Ḍharma whereas Ravana’s was not. Rama’s desire towards women was only towards Devi Sita, whereas Ravana’s desire was not just towards Mandodari, and not just towards those who desired him, but his desire forced many who begged him not to. With his boon and strength, he forced and subjugated the will of others.

Ḍharma Chakra Buddhist monument (Sanchi Hill, Madhya Pradesh, India). (2013)

The desire that is not compliant with Ḍharma might be very tempting during that very instant, and one might also feel its effects to be insignificant and minuscule. One might feel the path of Ḍharma might not be worth the effort, but one cannot stop the results of one’s karmā (karmā phala). Sometimes with impulse, driven by desire, one performs a:Ḍharma, especially by one who lacks the will and who failed to cultivate the strength to resist and so, falls out of the Ḍharma chakra (wheel of Ḍharma). This leads to repenting one’s own actions and to regrets that could culminate in this life and be carried over to many coming lives. Many without the knowledge and the awareness might not even realize the reason and the source of such karmā phala, making them dwell in confusion, losing hope and purpose.

It’s a very common misconception that one’s own artha (one’s potential in terms of one’s wealth, riches, intellect, beauty, and more) is one’s own. Many fail to realize that we are limited to the phenomenon and the choices that are presented to us. Even with choices, we can only choose those we can comprehend. Many fail to recognize the vast variables in this creation that brought forth that choice to our choosing, and this availability is not our creation. One might only have the scope and vision to recognize that one has chosen a choice but never tries to comprehend all the countless possibilities and variables that brought forth that choice to present itself to our choosing. Hence, as Śrī Ramana Maharshi said, we are not the karta (neither the creator nor the implementer), we are but mere shakshi (witness) to māyā the kreya (actions that perform). Does this mean human effort and zeal has no meaning, if so wouldn’t that be demotivating, does it mean we can not uplift ourselves? No, that is not the intent, it means that we should realize the fact that we are not the creator nor the one who comprehended the choices that came forth to our choosing. With this fact, we should try to move forward with our strength, and our buddhi towards Iśvara, who is the creator and the propagator, and the one to channel us towards Him recognizing our effort.

Say, a person earns riches in line with Ḍharma but then chooses to spend on addictions and other acts that are a:Ḍharma, such actions will also lead to that person’s demise since Ḍharma should be followed both in earning and in spending. One who spends too little on oneself, suppressing one’s own desires either out of greed or with a false notion that one shouldn’t enjoy, Śāstra claims such an attitude as cheating one’s own jiva. Whereas, one who spends too much and exhausts the natural resources for mindless pleasures or laziness, just because they are at their disposal, Śāstra claims such an attitude as cheating and depriving the opportunities and resources for the next generation. We reap the benefits as fruit from the trees sowed by our predecessors, just consuming and not preserving such resources is to leech upon the wealth and to rob from future generations.

There are those who revolt against Ḍharma, their own parents, and their Gurus, and those who criticize Ḍharma and make fun of it, either to seek attention, popularity, or for their own profits. Such people and their lifestyles might look interesting because of the momentary excitement it creates. Many such individuals might be good orators who with their skills, charm and convince us of their philosophy, especially when we are not well versed with the tatvam of Śāstra, or lack the morality and confidence in our predecessors. Following such individuals will lead to a path that would crumble over time. On the other hand, a person might face challenges initially, especially when new to comprehending Ḍharma and its concepts but entwining one’s actions with Ḍharma will not only uplift them but also bring prosperity and morality for generations to come. Śāstra as sruti is not passed on to us for popularity or fame. It’s passed on to us as inheritance and self-upliftment and so is not sold to us for profit, though many use the knowledge of Śāstra to cheat and subdued others for their personal gain. Śāstra is the knowledge that teaches us reality, its constraints, and a path to navigate ourselves through it, making us evolve in our conscience and wisdom. Falling prey to a false philosophy that is nothing but illusions, will one day be rejected by reality itself making us realize our foolishness.

Śrī Changanti shares a reference for Mr. Subbarao who was considered as Saraswati Putra for his devotion and knowledge. He was criticized for his devotion as being old-fashioned, and for spending too much time in the Devi Saraswati temple. However, such a personality fostered generations of engineers, doctors, and well-educated and well-mannered students with his teaching. Such people not only prosper but also help their families, friends, and others.

Kāma is a word with a very broad spectrum in its definition and is very widely misinterpreted as lust. However, it applies to all human desires. A person desperate to see and touch the feet of their Guru is also Kāma, such Kāma is called Uttama:Kāma (Uttama means virtue and healthy) which uplifts a human to higher plains of consciousness. A Kāma (desire) to serve Śrī Rama and Sita Devi is an Uttama:Kāma since it emulates devotion and uplifted Hanuman to be the future Brahmā. However, Kāma towards Sita Devi leads to the downfall of Ravana, making him lose all his ten heads, his army, and most of his family. Hanuman in Ramayana said, that Ravana accumulated the fruit of adharma (a:Ḍharma) which got exaggerated when he spoke ill to Sita Devi and treated women badly to satisfy his own desires. It’s the very nature of Kalipurusha (the predominant entity and nature of Kali:yuga) is to throw humans out of the wheel of Ḍharma, induce them and encourage lifestyles built upon the acquisition of materials, greed, lust, selfishness, and pleasure causing truth to be covered under too much misinformation and misinterpretations, making it very difficult to both follow and seek the truth.

This can be seen in a sloka from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, a part of Śrī Mahabaratam, Chapter 2 (karmā yoga), sloka 9, wherein Gitacharya (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) says to Arjuna on how to perform karmā:

यज्ञार्थात्कर्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्मबन्धनः।
तदर्थं कर्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसंगः समाचर।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

This means Karmā binds its karta (person performing karmā) as long as it’s performed with the desired outcome. In the earlier stages of sādhanā (practice) a good desire (Uttama:Kāma) as mentioned above is a better start, but to break free from the cycle of Karmā or Samsara, one has to evolve to perform karmā as a Yajñá (sacrificial fire) free from attachments and desires of its results, because action performed out of desire are in lesser nature than that of buddhi and Yoga. Gitacharya further explains that actions should be performed as Yoga, with the mind unblemished by pleasure or desire. One has to submit and seek refuge in one’s yoga of buddhi (knowledge and wisdom leading to the realization of Atman). Slokas for these can be found in Srimad Bagavad Gita, Chapter 2 of Sankhya Yoga, sloka 48 & 49 as follows:

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते।।
दूरेण ह्यवरं कर्म बुद्धियोगाद्धनञ्जय।
बुद्धौ शरणमन्विच्छ कृपणाः फलहेतवः।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

No matter how much knowledge or riches one may acquire, it’s very easy to fall prey and become a slave to Kāma (desire). However, it’s not that desire is at fault, but it’s the lack of intertwining that desire into the wheel of Ḍharma that makes it dangerous. For example, a desire to earn riches and wealth is not at fault, but a desire to earn with whatever means necessary, resorting to a:Ḍharma is the one that leads to a man’s downfall. No matter which Sanātana Ḍharma literature one tries to research, like Srimad Bhagavatam, Śrī Maha Bharatam, Śrī Ramayana or Śhiva Maha Puranam, and more, all revolve around one word and one-word-only, which is Ḍharma. Hence, Sanātana Ḍharma is not a religion, it’s not a cult, it’s not a theory, it’s not even a philosophy, but more an encyclopedia narrating the construct of this reality, its constraints, and the lifestyle of humans on earth in each time (era). It shares paths for humanity, options, and alternatives to reaching higher plains of consciousness. It helps in realizing that a human being with its physical body is only a temporary state of existence, which is here to use this physical form allowed by this reality, to learn, implement and grow in consciousness leading to Brahmanandam (Brahmā:nandam). This is the reason why Sanātana Ḍharma never forces its principles or its message upon other, hence there is no conversion into Sanātana Ḍharma and neither does it preach, propagate, or publicizes its message. Hence, one should not try to popularize it or preach it. A person eager to learn, or an urge to understand devotion, or a desire to seek Iśvara (truth), should and will automatically make efforts to explore Śāstra and more importantly implement it to evolve oneself into that lifestyle.

Then the obvious question is, how can one replenish the sanctity of Sanātana Ḍharma in this era of Kaliyuga (Kali:yuga)? It’s neither one person’s duty nor responsibility to do that. Śāstra says, that the entire wealth of information presented in the Vedic literature is for us to evolve in consciousness and not be a spokesperson for Sanātana Ḍharma. It’s our Ḍharma (not duty) to perform the karmā associated with our ashram(am). It’s a person’s Ḍharma that one must perform Nitya Karmā (Karmā that’s to be performed daily). It’s our Ḍharma (not a duty, nor obligation) to share this with our children and siblings. In this process comes a time when we ourselves rise up in conscience, without self-measure, and it is at this stage that Iśvara sends to us, those who seek knowledge and gyana (jnana). One should get ripen of Śāstra and devotion, before trying to feed others. One should grow like a big tree, wide with branches, filled with leaves, but still, in one place, composed of confidence from devotion, and it’s those who seek shelter who will automatically seek the shade of such a tree. A tree never attempts to publicize its shade. It’s like a drop of sugar syrup that falls on the ground and ants automatically seek and crowd around it, so will a Gygnyasu (a person eager to understand and learn about Iśvara/truth) will seek that person who has ripened in devotion. Puráńas depict various attempts by asuras and rakshasas to overthrow Ḍharma, it’s Śrī Viṣṇu who will come if necessary to preserve the Ḍharma and protect His devotees. Iśvara will manifest into anomalies like Vedā Vyāsa and Śrī Śankaracharya to revitalize Śāstra and Ḍharma. Our Ḍharma is to perform our respective Karmā and seek devotion. It’s Śrī Viṣṇu in His yoga nidra considers those who urge comprehending Iśvara and helps them reach a Guru. In a few other topics we discussed that Pravachanam is not a profession nor a publication, it’s when people eager to understand Śāstra or Guru Siddhānta, urge a devoted scholar to share and explain the events in Śāstra, Purana, and the life stories of Gurus. We ourselves should become the Kanaka (gold), shine like the gold by becoming the very dhara so that others can cherish our luminescence. A sloka from Srimad Bhagavat Gita, part of Śrī Maha:bharatham, composed by Maharśi/Rishi Vedā Vyāsa, said in chapter 3, sloka 26:

“न बुद्धिभेदं जनयेदज्ञानां कर्मसङ्गिनाम्।
जोषयेत्सर्वकर्माणि विद्वान् युक्तः समाचरन्”

“Na – buddhi bhedam janayed ajnanam karmā sanginam
Josayat sarva karmani vidvan yuktah samacaran.”

(Gita Supersite. n.d., All Glory to Śrī Śrī Guru and Gauranga. 2005)

Meaning one should never agitate others just because we have accumulated some knowledge. One with their knowledge should try and implement its teaching in our lives and walk the path of devotion and not try to correct or enforce our will on others, but rather encourage others to perform their Ḍharma.

Once, a great scholar read all the literature and felt content that he knew everything. He then reached out and urged Devi Saraswati if there is anything more, for which She opens the doors of Her library, endless in literature gratifying Iśvara. What this means is that, no matter how much we read or listen, one cannot consume the Ocean of Knowledge and the accounts and events that have happened, or are yet to happen in the creation and dissolution process of Iśvara.

Then the obvious question is, how and when can we learn enough to reach Iśvara (Ishvar)? It’s important that we understand that researching and exploring Śāstra is not a competition to finish, nor is it a syllabus or a course at its end will have a confirmed result. Our journey towards Iśvara and devotion is like a huge salt ball that dived into the ocean to seek its depth and vastness, but in its course of exploring the ocean’s depth, it dissolved and became the Ocean itself. Similarly, exploring Iśvara, and implementing Śāstra in our lives will one day lead to Iśvara assimilating us with Himself, because it’s He who must fill our setbacks and uplift us. It’s Iśvara (Śrī Viṣṇu) who helped Indra while performing Kshera:sagara Madan(am) to get the ambrosia and at the same time it was Iśvara (Śiva) who consumed the Halahala (anti-life elements) when it threatened them.  (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.16)

This explains the reason why there is no equivalent word for Ḍharma in other philosophies because it is a concept that’s explained in Sanātana Ḍharma Siddhānta only, around which all human actions are entwined with. Hence the sloka from Taittiriya Upanishad:

“सत्यं वद धर्मं चर”
“Sathyam Vade, Dharmam chara”

(Sanskrit Documents. T.U. 2014)

REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citation)

Śrī Chaganti Koteshwar Rao (Orator). (n.d.). Kanaka Dhara Stotram [Audio Part 1-19, Recorded by Srichaganti.net]. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. Retrieved from http://www.english.srichaganti.net/KanakaDharaStrotram.aspx

Sanskrit Documents. (May 4, 2014). Sunder H. (Translater). Taittiriya Upanishad. Retrieved from http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_upanishhat/shikshaavalii.html?lang=sa

Kamadeva (Manmadha, Son of Śrī Maha Viṣṇu) & Rati. (July 26, 2009). Outlook India File:Kama Rati.jpg. Retrieved  from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kama_Rati.jpg

Shiva Parvati immersed in Kaeli:vilasam. Ganesha and Kartikeya at bottom (RISD MUSEUM, Providence RI). (n.d.), 11th Century Sandstone Sculpture RISD MUSEUM.
File:269_shiva_and_parvati_uma_mahesvara.jpg. Retrieved from: https://risdmuseum.org/art_design/objects/269_shiva_and_parvati_uma_mahesvara

Dharma Chakra Buddhist monument (Sanchi Hill,Madhya Pradesh, India). (Feb 21, 2013). Wikimedia Commons File:Dharmachakra on Pillar – South Face – West Pillar – South Gateway – Stupa 1 – Sanchi Hill 2013-02-21 4355.JPG. Retrieved  from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Dharmachakra_on_Pillar_-_South_Face_-_West_Pillar_-_South_Gateway_-_Stupa_1_-_Sanchi_Hill_2013-02-21_4355.JPg

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