How to Overcome Ego and Desire

Based on an article by Swami Parthasarathy

Karma yoga shows us the right way to live. The third chapter of Bhagavad Gita is all about karma yoga. Most of our problems are created by ego and desire. These traits need to be overcome for the world to become better. The answer is selfless service. Karma yoga is recommended for people with extroverted personalities as it is the path of action. Contemplative introverts will find jnana yoga, or the path of knowledge, more suitable.

What is Karma Yoga?

In the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna about karma yoga. Arjuna is on the verge of collapse in the battlefield. His enemies are his friends, relatives and elders. So, he shies away from his duty as a warrior and does not wish to fight. But, Krishna encourages him by telling that he should focus on selfless actions and dedicate them to a noble ideal. One should perform one’s duties without getting affected by egocentric desires. One should take care not to be mislead by sense-created illusions.

Krishna’s Cleverness

Arjuna is initially skeptical about Krishna’s intellectual approach. So, Krishna tries to appeal to Arjuna’s emotions by using various sentiments such as threat, fear, emotional appeal, vanity, persuasion and devotion. This makes Arjuna more responsive. Then, Krishna advises him about right action. Most people act selfishly to fulfill desires and they also worry about the fruits of their actions. They are adamant about achieving personal goals to which they become attached.


Humans should strive to make use of their lives by trying to attain self-realization in their lifetime.
To do this, one must first select a suitable profession. Then, we should work selflessly in that profession without being bothered by ego and personal desires. We should focus only on the present without worrying about the past or fearing the future.

Practice Self-restraint

Arjuna is curious as to why people do wrong things. Krishna says the negative emotions of anger and desire lead one to commit sin. Our desires cannot be sated. Gandhiji said: “Enough for need, not for greed”. If desires are not controlled, they can destroy us. Desires cause sorrow, suffering and mental agitation. They lead to delusion and foolishness. To overcome desire and ego, one must practice self-restraint and pursue the attainment of self-knowledge.

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