धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च |
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् || 38||
dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśho malena cha
yatholbenāvṛito garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛitam
dhūmena—by smoke; āvriyate—is covered; vahniḥ—fire; yathā—just as; ādarśhaḥ—mirror; malena—by dust; cha—also; yathā—just as; ulbena—by the womb; āvṛitaḥ—is covered; garbhaḥ—embryo; tathā—similarly; tena—by that (desire); idam—this; āvṛitam—is covered
As fire is enveloped by smoke, as a mirror by dust, as an embryo by the amnion, so this knowledge of the Self is enveloped by Kama and Krodha.
In the heart of every being, the light of Atma is always shining. But it is not seen because it is covered up by kama and krodha. To explain this, the Lord uses three illustrations – (1) as fire being covered by smoke, (2) a mirror being covered by dust, and (3) the embryo being enveloped by the amnion. When smoke is cleared away by fanning, the fire underneath shines bright. When the dust is rubbed off, the mirror shines in all its purity. Also when the amnion is removed the newborn comes out free from the womb. In the same way, when the enveloping force of kama is dispelled by the practice of devotion, dispassion, selfless action, and knowledge, the light of Atma shines forth in all its effulgence. When Atma manifests, man attains liberation and gets freedom from all-enveloping forces.
Moreover, fire is not extinguished by smoke, nor does the mirror lose its original purity by dust. The enveloping amnion does no harm to the embryo. So also, though kama envelops Atma, Atma is not at all affected by it. Thus even in the state of ignorance, Atma is there in all its original purity. It is never touched or transformed or acted upon by anything. It remains in its own pristine purity. As it is covered up, it does not manifest its light. That is all. When the covering is taken off, it shines forth as it is. There is no change in Atma. Knowledge simply means our being conscious of the purity of Atma. Atma is there, even when you do not know it. One’s ignorance or knowledge of Atma does not make any difference in its existence, for it exists by its own right, unconditioned by time, place, and causation. If a person changes his dress, does it make any difference in the body itself? No. The change is in the dress and not in the body. Looking at a landscape through a hole, one can see only a part of it. As the opening is made bigger and bigger, more and more of the landscape is revealed. All the time it is not the landscape that is changing. It is the opening that changes. So it is with Atma. When kama covers it, people do not see it, when kama is cast away they see it. Atma is there always, eternally pure and eternally perfect.
Man’s duty is to realise Atma by taking off the flimsy covering that is hiding the effulgent spirit. It is in one sense not difficult at all. A fan can blow off the smoke, a piece of cloth can rub the dust away from the mirror. So let the seeker take courage and slowly remove the enveloping Kama from his heart. The light of the Self reveals itself slowly but surely.
This (Idam) – Knowledge of the Self. In the succeeding verse, the word Jnanam is directly used. and so the pronoun ‘this’ here should convey the same meaning – knowledge of the Self.
Question: By what is the knowledge of Atma covered?
Answer: By Kama.
Answer: As fire is covered by smoke, as the mirror is covered by dust, as the embryo is covered by the amnion, so is Atma covered by Kama.