aavaritam jnyaanametena jnyaanino nityavairinaa |
kaamaroopena kaunteya dushpoorenaanalena cha || 39 ||

This wisdom of even intelligent people is covered by that eternal enemy, in the form of desire, which is like an insatiable fire.

aavaritam : covered
jnyaanam : wisdom
etena : this
jnyaaninah : intelligent people
nityavairinaa : eternal enemy
kaamaroopena : in the form of desire
kaunteya : O Kaunteya
dushpoorena : instatiable
analena : fire
cha : and

In this shloka, Shri Krishna gives the meaning of the terms “this” and “that” that were used in the previous shloka. He says that desire is the “that” by which “this” wisdom is covered. If wisdom is covered, then prakriti takes control of us, and we fall into the depths of unintelligent behaviour.

Shri Krishna uses two metaphors to describe desire. First, he calls desire an eternal enemy. We may think that we have subdued desire, but its seed lies waiting in the form of likes and dislikes. When we least expect it, it will arise and turn into a strong desire within milliseconds. Hence, by calling it an eternal enemy, Shri Krishna urges us to be eternally alert and vigilant in regards to our desires.

The other metaphor used for desire is that of a fire. Fire never says no to any fuel that is added to it. It is capable of surviving indefinitely as long as fuel is provided. But conversely, it ends the minute it runs out of fuel. Therefore, Shri Krishna urges us to take our focus away from thoughts of like and dislike as soon as we are aware of them. It is the power behind thought that fuels likes and dislikes to stronger.

So therefore, having convinced Arjuna that desire and anger lie him and not within someone else, he proceeds to reveal their location to Arjuna in the next shloka. He purposely uses the language of war so that Arjuna will respond with rapt attention.