Ideals and Values/The Six Internal Enemies

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

The Six Internal Enemies of Human Beings

By Vishal Agarwal


Most of us tend to blame others for our own failures and unhappiness. But Sanātana Dharma teaches us that it is very easy but wrong to blame others for all of our problems. Most of the time our problems are our own due to our faults.

This is because we have not done enough to fight our true enemies, which are not other people but which are right inside us. But what are these six internal enemies? The scriptures tell us that Bhagavān is perfect and He is therefore free of these six enemies, which are listed below:

“He [Bhagavān Viṣṇu] does not have the group of six enemies namely Kāma,[1] Krodha,[2] Lobha,[3] Moha,[4] Mada,[5] Mātsarya.[6][7]

No matter how powerful, rich, successful or outwardly happy we are, we cannot be considered mature if we have not conquered these six internal enemies. In fact, Sanātana Dharma says that we will never be truly happy and peaceful within our hearts unless we defeat these six enemies – the ‘Shadripus.’

It is also meaningless to practice ‘good behaviors’ if we have not conquered the Shadripus. For example, speaking a truth that is motivated by greed is inferior to a speaking it without any desire for wealth. Who is superior – a man who calls the police to tell them the whereabouts of wanted criminal to get a reward or a man who does so even though there is no bounty offered for the criminal’s arrest? The concept of Shadripus in Sanātana Dharma makes us responsible for our own successes and failures. In the Gitā, Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa says –

"One should uplift oneself by oneself; one should not degrade oneself. Indeed, the mind alone is the friend of oneself and mind alone is one's enemy".[8]

No enemy can cause any more harm than one's own mind. One can protect oneself against physical or emotional injury by others, but protection against one's harmful thoughts, attitudes and feelings is not an easy task. However if one is committed to one's own growth and maturity, there is no better friend than oneself. One becomes one's own benefactor doing what needs to be done to tackle the six fold enemies within the mind which is of prime importance in facilitating one's inner growth. Therefore Upaniṣads also say:

“The mind alone is the cause of bondage and liberation (mokṣa) in humans. When attached to sense objects, the mind brings bondage. When detached from objects, it brings freedom.”[9]

These six enemies may be manifest in one's behavior or may remain non-manifest for a long time till an occasion or situation arises and the inherent nature becomes manifest. Sometimes when they do manifest one may still remain unconscious of them. For example, one may ignore another person out of anger, but may not be aware of the angry feelings that caused one to ignore that person. These weaknesses of the mind cause discomfort and sorrow to oneself and others. They also hamper one's emotional growth and maturity. To overcome these weaknesses, one has to recognize their presence in the mind. One has to examine what gives rise to these qualities and sustains them and whether or not they are legitimate. When one begins to appreciate the illegitimacy of these 6 enemies, one will not ever be bound by them.

Relationship between the Six Enemies

Note that these six enemies are not entirely independent of each other. But they are all united against us and want to destroy us completely! For example, it is not possible for a person to be jealous and at the same time be free of anger completely, because jealousy inevitably gives rise to feelings of anger towards our external ‘enemy’. Another example is that excessive greed for money is itself caused by excessive desire, and it can lead to a feeling of pride or ego when that person does become rich. So here, we have 3 of the six enemies[10] that are united against us.

Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa explains one of the possible relationships between some of these six enemies in the following verses. He shows how these shadripus[11] overpower the critical and discriminating ability of our intellect (Buddhi) due to which we forget the purpose of our life, and then they destroy us completely.

“Dwelling or thinking on the objects of the senses a man develops attachment for them. From attachment, desire is born. Desire gives rise to anger. From anger arises delusion. From delusion arises a failure of memory[12] From failure of memory results a destruction of the intellect; and through the destruction of intellect, total destruction ensues.”[13]

When an individual experiences an object it may or it may not leave an impression in one's mind. If one thinks about the object again it does become an impression. If one continues to dwell upon or associate with the object, desire is born to re-experience it[14] or even to possess it. Then the person acts to fulfill that desire. The more intense the desire, the greater becomes the need to fulfill it. Whatever comes in the way of fulfilling the desire evokes anger.

This 8 step ladder of downfall can be illustrated with the help of the following example:

Step # Name of the step E.g. A kid and chocolate
1 Thought “I am thinking about chocolate”
2 Attachment “I like chocolate”
3 Desire “I want chocolate”
4 Anger “I am angry that my mother is not giving me a chocolate.”
5 Delusion (losing touch with reality) “If my mother really loved me, she would have given me the chocolate.”
6 Loss of Memory (forgetting who we are) The boy starts abusing her mother because she would not give him chocolate, forgetting that he is supposed to respectful towards her.
7 Destruction of discrimination “Mom, if you do not give me chocolate, I will hit you.”
8 He perishes The kid attacks his mom, is arrested and lands up in a juvenile correction prison.

Expressions of the Six Enemies

The six enemies can be in our mind, our speech or in our actions. For example, take Anger. We can be angry in our mind when we see a misbehaving friend. We can go a step further and yell at him. We can start hitting him physically or give him a mean look. It takes greed. We can covet someone’s new video game in our mind. We can nag that person saying, “You need to share it with me or I won’t like you anymore.” We can show our greed physically by snatching or stealing the video game from him.

In general, it is better to restrict our six enemies to our mind and speech (and not act under their influence), and even better to restrict them to our mind and not speak or act under their influence. The best is to free our mind, speech and body completely of their influence, and conquer these six enemies. The famous story of the conflict between Rishis Vasiṣṭha and Viśvamitra because it involves all these six enemies.

Vasistha summons Sabala, the cow of abundance, to provide for a feast

Story: How King Vishvaratha Conquered the Six Enemies and became Brahmarṣi Viśvamitra King Vishvaratha[15] was once on a hunting expedition with his entourage. They felt very tired and hungry after a long day of hunting activity and were looking for a place to rest and cook food. They happened to come across a small hermitage of Brahmarṣi Vasiṣṭha. The Sage greeted them with open arms and enquired about their needs. After learning of their needs, he asked the celestial cow Kāmadhenu[16] to do what was necessary to make the guests comfortable. Kāmadhenu, a wish cow, produced all the food that the army could eat. Vishvaratha was amazed at the powers of the cow.

Smitten with lobha (greed) to have Kāmadhenu, Vishvaratha argued with Vasiṣṭha that his cow would be more useful to him in feeding his large number of people, whereas Vasiṣṭha would fill the needs of his small hermitage with perhaps a few ordinary cows. He offered as many cows as Vasiṣṭha wanted, in return for Kāmadhenu. But Vasiṣṭha told Vishvaratha that the divine cow could only remain with one who had realized the Truth and besides, such a cow could not be commanded as an object of possession. But bitten by the bug of greed and having been rebuffed by Vasiṣṭha, Viśvamitra became very angry (krodha) and started a fight. His rational thinking was completely overwhelmed by anger.

During the fight, Kāmadhenu produced many soldiers and weapons and Vishvaratha’s army was defeated. The arrogance (mada) of king Vishvaratha led him to challenge Vasiṣṭha directly. But all the weapons that Vishvaratha could hurl at Vasishtha were swallowed by the staff (brahmadanda) of Vasiṣṭha. In the end, Vishvaratha himself was felled by the brahmadanda. Seeing the plight of the mighty king, Ṛṣi Vasiṣṭha, who was a man of great compassion and kindness, forgave the king.

Vishvaratha felt humiliated and insulted. He resolved to learn the Truth by doing Tapas. He decided to renounce his family and kingdom and meditate in order to realize the truth. He also entertained the idea that by doing tapas, he would acquire enough powers to retaliate against Vasiṣṭha. How ironic that the thought of retaliation was buried deep in him even while he took the decision to meditate on the Truth!

Raja Ravi Varma - Birth of Shakuntala

Vishvaratha did not know the fundamentals of meditation. He could have gone to Vasiṣṭha or another Guru for proper initiation. But his ego was so big that he would not do so. By sheer will power, he focused his mind on Bhagavān Śiva. The intensity of his prayers produced tremendous heat from his head and the billowing smoke traveled towards the sky. Indra, the head of the Devatās in heaven, was very worried that Vishvaratha would acquire great Yogic powers and would be a menace to all. In order to disturb Vishvaratha’s concentration, he sent a divine nymph named Menaka to the place where Vishvaratha was meditating. Menaka was a beautiful and an exquisite dancer. Her song and dance disturbed Vishvaratha’s concentration. Opening his eyes, he saw this beautiful woman and immediately, his Kāma (lust or desire) made him fall in love with her. Forgetting his resolve to realize the Truth, he married Menaka. Soon thereafter, they were the parents of a baby girl Shakuntala. One day, Vishvaratha recalled his original goal and decided to leave Menaka and the child and return to the depths of the forest to resume his austerities. Menaka too left for her home in the skies, and left the daughter Shakuntala in the hermitage of Ṛṣi Kanva, who brought her up as his own daughter.

Vishvaratha now resumed his austerities with even greater concentration and prayed with greater devotion. The ensuing heat from his austerities made Indra very nervous. This time, he sent another celestial nymph named Rambha to distract Vishvaratha. When Vishvaratha got distracted from his deep concentration, he opened his eyes and saw Rambha. This time, instead of Kāma, Krodha[17] took hold of him. Infuriated by her distractions, he cursed Rambha and cursed her into a stone. All the powers that he had acquired as a result of his austerities were dissipated in a moment of anger. Not wanting to give up his determination to humiliate Vasiṣṭha, Vishvaratha resumed his austerities.

During that time, there was a king named Trishanku who wanted to reach heaven in his human body. The performance of the Vedic Yajna was a way he could have fulfilled his request. He went to his Guru Vasiṣṭha and requested him to officiate as the priest in the Yajna. But Vasiṣṭha refused Trishanku’s request. He said that scriptures prohibit going to heaven in one’s present earthly body. Disappointed at the turn of events, Trishanku approached Vishvaratha with his request. Now Vishvaratha thought that this is the right opportunity to humiliate Vasiṣṭha. He did not consider the fact that no one can ascend to heaven in his earthly body and was overpowered by the delusion[18] that he could somehow do this for Trishanku. Therefore, he agreed to perform the Yajna for Trishanku.

By the power of the Yajna performed by Vishvaratha, Trishanku started rising from the earth and ascended towards heaven. Seeing this improbable sight, the Devatās wanted to push Trishanku from reaching heaven and they pushed him back towards the earth. When Vishvaratha saw this, he stopped Trishanku in mid-air and created a new heaven for him. This is called Trishanku heaven and it shines as a star in the sky even today. Vishvaratha realized that no one can ascend to heaven in one’s earthly body and by realizing that spiritual things are different from earthly things, he overcame his delusion. But as he had promised to Trishanku that he will take him to heaven, he created this parallel heaven.

Once again, Vishvaratha had used up all his powers having been overpowered with Moha. He resolved to try regaining them once again through austerities. Pleased with his devotion, Bhagavān Brahmā appeared to him and blessed him with the title ‘Maharṣi.’ But Vishvaratha was infuriated with this and said out of jealousy, “Just a Maharṣi? I deserved the higher title of Brahmarṣi.” But Brahmā said, “You can get that title and status only if you are blessed by Brahmarṣi Vasiṣṭha.

Now Vishvaratha really got frustrated but his mada did not allow him to go to Vasiṣṭha and ask for his blessings. He was overcome with anger and mātsarya[19] towards Vasiṣṭha, and he decided to kill Vasiṣṭha to eliminate all competition! Armed with a big rock, he waited at night outside the door of Vasiṣṭha's hut, thinking that he will hurl the stone at Brahmarshi Vasiṣṭha the moment he comes out. He waited and waited. In the early hours of the morning, he heard Vasiṣṭha saying to his wife, “Vishvaratha is a great man and is fully qualified to be a Brahmarṣi. In fact, he is greater than me. I do not know why he has not come to see me yet.” When Vishvaratha heard these words of praise from none other than the person he hated out of jealousy, he felt very repentant. His feelings of jealousy, anger, frustration and ego disappeared for good. He went inside the hut and fell at Brahmarṣi Vasiṣṭha’s feet and said, “I had tried to kill you several times. Just to insult you, I tried several austerities. But despite that, you did not harbor any ill-will towards me. Look at me – I had come to kill you. But instead, I learn how much you respect me. What a despicable person I am. I hope my tears of repentance will make you forgive me.”

Ideals and Values/The Six Internal Enemies files/image006.jpg

Vasiṣṭha said, “Every person has six enemies – lust/desire, anger, greed, arrogance or ego, delusion and jealousy. You have overcome each one of them. You were led astray many times in your pursuit of Truth, but you never gave up. Finally, you conquered jealousy as well. I bless you and indeed, you are also a Brahmarshi from now on.” As Vasiṣṭha said these words, Devi Gāyatri appeared in front of Vishvaratha and gave him the Gāyatri Mantra, chanting which everyone in this world can come closer to Bhagavān. From that day, Vishvaratha became Viśvamitra.[20] He became an eternal emperor in the true sense of the word, because his name became associated with the holiest mantra of Hindus.

In conclusion, let us try to recognize the six defects of the mind. Let us inquire, analyze and see the foolishness of these defects. Once we see them for what they are, they simply drop out of our mind. The way to conquer them is through knowledge gained by right understanding and not by suppressing them. Let us therefore try our best in our daily life not to get dominated by these defects. A mind that is relatively free of these modifications is a mind that is quiet, capable of rational thinking and ready to realize its full potential.

Notes & References

  1. Kāma means desire and lust.
  2. Krodha means anger.
  3. Lobha means greed.
  4. Moha means delusion.
  5. Mada means Ego and pride.
  6. Mātsarya means Jealousy, excessive competition.
  7. Mudgala Upaniṣad
  8. Gitā 6.5
  9. Maitrayaniya Upaniṣad 4.6
  10. These enemies are desire, greed and pride.
  11. Shadripus means desire, anger, and delusion.
  12. It means forgetting who I am and what the purpose of my life is.
  13. Bhagavad Gitā 2.62-63
  14. It refers to candy, pop, drugs.
  15. He is the name means “whose chariot has tread victoriously over the entire earth”, i.e., a powerful Emperor.
  16. She is the cow of plenty.
  17. Krodha means anger.
  18. Delusion means moha.
  19. Mātsarya means jealousy.
  20. Viśvamitra means the friend of the entire world.