Links

3. How to Overcome Temptation

It’s so easy to trade in what we want most for what feels good now, seemingly impelled to act against our better judgement time and time again. For example, the cautionary messages on cigarette packets have intensified over time, yet the demand hasn’t diminished. First the caution read ‘Smoking may damage your health,’ and later it was more strongly edited to ‘Tobacco causes cancer.’ To further highlight the dangers they alerted people that ‘Smoking kills,’ and nowadays they’ve added shocking pictures of what goes haywire inside your body. Amplified messages, falling on deaf ears. How do we break free of temptation?
In the previous chapter, Krishna upgraded Arjuna’s intelligence with paradigm-shifting insights that transform our vision of life. Yet Arjuna is streetwise and he knows the down-to-earth challenge of what it means to try and live this in real life. We may be intellectually convinced, but having the internal strength to follow it through is a different ball game. His question: “Even when we know the right thing, why is it that we often act against our own will, as if impelled by force?”
In Chapter Three, Krishna exposes the hidden enemy of every single struggling soul in this world – lust! When we are infected by this strong urge of selfishness and ‘me-centred’ mentality we do irrational and unthinkable things to satisfy our desires, even when it causes harm to ourselves and others, and diverts us from what we seek most. As Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist everything except temptation!”
Someone once asked me: “If God wants us to do the right things, why does He give so many wrong options?!” I responded that in multiple choice exams there are always more wrong answers than right. If you approach those exams unprepared then the odds are always stacked against you. If you’ve familiarised yourself with the lessons, however, those exams are a walk in the park – the right answer just jumps out! Yes, there may be so many diversions in this world, but even small doses of spiritual knowledge go a long way in helping us identify what path to tread.
Since the enemy of lust has captured strategic points, we have to be aware, equipped and ready for combat. The scriptures give four major hints to overthrow the enemy and emerge victorious:
Conviction (intellectual space) – believe in your aspiration, and understand why discipline and self-restraint are essential. That clarity of purpose creates an inner strength.
Openness (emotional space) – regardless of success or failure, be open with a friend and seek advice, support, guidance and feedback. There is no purity without honesty.
Safety (sensual space) – avoid provoking situations, interactions and lifestyles that may compromise your principles. Stay away from temptation, and don’t fight unnecessary battles.
Taste (spiritual space) – strive to create the ‘better life,’ and solidify your resolve by tangibly experiencing the benefits of your restraint. Invest in forging a divine connection, something pure and uplifting which will yield a ‘higher taste.’

“Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?” (Bhagavad-Gita 3.36)

References

3.37 – Krishna identifies lust as the all-devouring enemy.
3.38 – Every living entity is covered by different degrees of lust.