indriyasyendriyasyaarthe raagadveshau vyavasthitau |
tayorna vashamaagacchettau hyaasya paripanthinau || 34 ||

Likes and dislikes for sense objects reside in the senses. One should not come under their sway, for they are highway robbers.

indriyasya : in the sense organs
indriyasya : in each and every
arthe : for the sense objects
raaga-dveshau : like and dislike
vyavasthitau : lie, reside, situated
tayoh : both
na : should not
vasham : under their control
aagacchet : one should not come
tau : both of them
hi : for
asya : in this
paripanthinau : highway robbers

Having explained that our inherent tendencies are the biggest obstacle in karmayoga, Shri Krishna points out their precise location. He says that the tendencies manifest as likes and dislikes for material objects. These tendencies reside in our senses: the eyes, ears, skin, tongue and nose.

First let’s look at likes and dislikes. The only way we can truly understand the shape of our inherent tendencies is through a deep examination of our likes and dislikes. Every human being harbours likes and dislikes. It is so strange that two children having grown up in the exact same home and family environment reveal such different likes and dislikes, even as toddlers.

So where are the likes and dislikes stored? They reside in our sense organs. The tongue is attracted to the taste of fries, and is repelled by the taste of spinach. The eye likes a certain kind of form and is repelled by another and so on. In his commentary on the Gita, Sant Jnyaneshwar compares the sense organs to dangerous animals and asks : does one befriend a snake, or maintain the company of tigers?

So therefore, what is the solution? We should not come under the sway of likes and dislikes by being aware of them especially when they strike, by using our intellect to guide us, and by continually reminding ourself of the higher ideal we have set for ourselves in karmayoga. We should not let them create a roadblock in our path. Like an elephant that moves on its path even though dogs bark at it, we should keep likes and dislikes at bay and never lose sight of our path and goal.

The first chapter of the Gita provides the best example for this shloka. Arjuna loved warfare, but he did not like the Mahabhaarata war simply because his relatives were on the other side. Shri Krishna, representing the intellect, guided him towards the right path. Another example is when a doctor prescribes us bitter medicine – we may not like but we take it nevertheless.

Shri Krishna compares likes and dislikes to highway robbers who target travellers that are unprepared and not alert. The robbers will come out of nowhere, and distract travellers from their path. Similarly, the likes make us run towards them and dislikes make us run away, but ultimately both take us away from our path. By being constantly alert that likes and dislikes can arise, we can reduce their influence.