dhoomenaavriyate vahinyarthaadarsho malena cha |
yatholbenaavrito garbhastathaa tenedamaavritam || 38 ||

Just as smoke covers fire, dirt covers a mirror, and a womb covers a foetus, so does this (desire) cover that (wisdom).

dhoomena : by smoke
aavriyate : covers
vahinaha : fire
yathaa : like
aadarshah : mirror
malena : dirt
cha : and
yathaa : like
ulbena : womb
aavritaha : covers
garbhaha : foetus
tathaa : so does
tena : that
idam : this
aavritam : cover

Earlier Shri Krishna explained that when likes and dislikes morph into desire and hatred, they increase the rajas in our system, creating a vicious cycle. So what is the end result? Here, he says that when desire and hatred arise, they shut off or conceal our wisdom.

Our wisdom, or ability to discriminate, resides in our intellect. Due to a lifetime’s worth of conditioning, this wisdom does not become our second nature. Wisdom is like a shining light, which can easily be covered if we are not careful. So desire, or anger, arise from the deeper, subconscious aspects of our mind and cover this light of wisdom. We then lose any ability to decide right from wrong, and behave foolishly. Shri Krishna says here that our wisdom can be covered in three ways.

The thickest, most dense covering occurs due to taamasic desires. These are desires that have lived inside our system for ages, and once they get activated, they totally cover the wisdom just like a womb covers a foetus. And just like there is no other way to see the foetus other than to wait for its birth, the only way to get rid of taamasic desires is to wait. They are so strong, and so in tune with our likes and dislikes, that nothing can be done once they are activated. Examples of taamasic desires are excessive drinking, drug usage, or even the overpowering desire to be “right” which can lead you into violent fights and arguments.

Less potent than taamasic desires are raajasic desires. As Shri Krishna says in this shloka, their veiling of wisdom is less thicker than taamasic desires. They are like dust on a mirror, where one stroke of the hand cleans the mirror. Raajasic desires are usually motivated by greed. Examples include buying the latest gadget, boasting of one’s accomplishments to one’s friends and so on.

Finally, saatvic desires are those that cover our wisdom very lightly. The desire to attend a satsang, or to attain moksha, is a saatvic desire. Our wisdom shines the brightest, or in other words, operates at the greatest capacity through saatvic desires.

As we progress in our journey, let us try to be alert and at least try to track the desires that we harbour. How many desires are we living with? What is the proportion between saatvic, raajasic and taamasic? Are we slowly changing the proportion in favour of saatvic desires?

In this shloka, the mysterious phrase “this covers that” was used. Although we got a sense of what that means here, Shri Krishna goes into more detail in the next shloka.