Guiding Light: Spirituality and the question of desire

One great myth circulating among most spiritual students is ‘ if you are spiritual you should not have desires; Desire is the root of all problems.’ The second statement is attributed to Buddha although I doubt that he would have made such a statement. If one looks into the topic of desires we will find that only human beings can have a variety of desires. A cow does not wake up in the morning and decides or desires to have anything other than grass. It does not think ‘ Do I have an omelette or cutlet for breakfast?’. But a human being has the power to desire.

Desire is a privilege for human beings, Iccha shakti is one of the empowerment of a human being, the other two being jnana shakti and kriya shakti. The power to know is jnana shakti and the power to act is kriya shakti. It is indeed possible to use our knowledge and powers to manage desires. Even though a Shakti given to human beings, instead of using it as a power, desires become a problem. It seems like that desire victimizes us. If one manages desires keeping Dharma, universal ethics in mind then desires do not cause a problem. The desire for wealth and prosperity is gained through professional work or entrepreneurship by following local laws as well as human values and ethics.

The desire contributes to the growth of society and is not a problem for everyone. In spirituality desire is not a problem but a symptom of a deeper lack in us, a lack that is not fulfilled by achievements, money, pleasure, relationships etc. This spiritual lack or hunger can be taken care of only by the spiritual pursuit of knowing oneself, discovering oneself as a fulfilled being. Once one does that, one is free enough to have desires without being victimized by it. So, we should stop looking at desires as a problem and start looking at it as a privilege, a power we have, to channelize our energies and focus on certain achievements that will enhance us.

(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him @aarshavidyaf@gmail.com)

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