The Gita enshrines a noble ideal of culture, an ideal which inspired the great universities of India long ago. “Seek then wisdom, O Arjuna!” says Sri Krishna to his devoted disciple. India’s universities had this ideal before them.
Arjuna asks, “What is wisdom?” Sri Krishna says, “Arjuna! Wisdom is conquest.” The ideal of the university life in ancient India was: live heroically! True wisdom is conquest. True wisdom is for them who would be heroes in the field of life.
Arjuna asks the question, “Master! I wish to understand how wisdom is conquest.” Sri Krishna says, “My child! This conquest is the conquering of desires, conquering of trishna.” There is a conflict between “desire” and “protest”. I am attracted by a particular object. I desire to possess it, and a protest rises within me: “Do not gratify your desire!”
When there is a conflict between “desire” and “protest”, I go through a number of experiences. Do I satisfy my desire? I suffer. I experience pain. I suffer, again and again, until it dawns upon me, the idea that I must keep clear of pleasure, for after pleasure cometh pain. I begin to understand that in pleasure is the seed of pain. So, there is the evolution of my consciousness. So, there is the building up of my moral muscles and so wisdom comes to me, at last, that I must conquer desires.
Arjuna asks, “Master! Tell me how desires may be conquered.” Sri Krishna says: “My child! In order to conquer desires, you must take care of the instruments of the Atman.” The Atman has entered the field of evolution here and the Atman functions through instruments. “What are they?” asks Arjuna.
“Live heroically! Learn self-control! Restrain your desires! Be pure and be creative!”