Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 5, Verse 23

शक्नोतीहैव य: सोढुं प्राक्शरीरविमोक्षणात् |
कामक्रोधोद्भवं वेगं स युक्त: स सुखी नर: || 23||

śhaknotīhaiva yaḥ soḍhuṁ prāk śharīra-vimokṣhaṇāt
kāma-krodhodbhavaṁ vegaṁ sa yuktaḥ sa sukhī naraḥ

śhaknotiis able; iha evain the present body; yaḥwho; soḍhumto withstand; prākbefore; śharīrathe body; vimokṣhaṇātgiving up; kāmadesire; krodhaanger; udbhavamgenerated from; vegamforces; saḥthat person; yuktaḥyogi; saḥthat person; sukhīhappy; naraḥperson

shaknotihaiva yah sodhum prak sharira-vimokshanat
kama-krodhodbhavam vegam sa yuktah sa sukhi narah


BG 5.23: Those persons are yogis, who before giving up the body are able to check the forces of desire and anger; and they alone are happy.


The human body presents a golden opportunity for the soul to reach the Supreme goal of God-realization.  In this body, we possess the faculty of discrimination, while animals are driven by their nature.  Shree Krishna emphasizes that this power of discrimination should be exercised to restrain the impulses of desire and anger.

One meaning of the word kām is lust, but in this verse kām is used for all kinds of desires of the body and mind for material pleasures.  When the mind does not attain the object of its desire, it modifies its state to exhibit anger.  The urges of desire and anger are very powerful, like the strong current of a river.  Even animals are subject to these urges, but unlike humans they are not bestowed with the discrimination to restrain them.  However, the human intellect has been bestowed with the power of discrimination.  The word sodhum means “to withstand.”  This verse instructs us to withstand the urges of desire and anger.  Sometimes one restrains the urges of the mind out of embarrassment.  Let us say there is a man sitting at the airport.  A beautiful lady comes and sits by his side.  His mind desires the pleasure of putting his arm around her, but the intellect resists with the thought, “This is improper conduct.  The lady may even slap me for it.”  To avoid the shame of censure, he restrains himself.  Here Shree Krishna is not asking Arjun to restrain the mind out of embarrassment, fear, or apprehension, but through discrimination based on knowledge.  

The resolute intellect should be used to check the mind.  As soon as the thought of savoring a material pleasure comes to the mind, one should bring the knowledge to the intellect that these are sources of misery.  The Shreemad Bhagavatam states: 

nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛiloke

kaṣhṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye

tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ

śhuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tvanantam   (5.5.1)

“In the human form, one should not undertake great hardships to obtain sensual pleasures, which are available even to creatures that eat excreta (hogs).  Instead, one should practice austerities to purify one’s heart, and enjoy the unlimited bliss of God.”  This opportunity to practice discrimination is available only while the human body exists, and one who is able to check the forces of desire and anger while living, becomes a yogi.  Such a person alone tastes the divine bliss within and becomes happy.