Wednesday, 27 January 2010


This post has been the toughest in the series so far. Tough because of jet lag (:P) and also because desire is so multifarious and omnipresent. My experience of desire, of any and all kinds put together, tells me it is inexhaustible. It exists in endless supply, mutating, manifesting, intensifying, invigorating and exhausting. Desire is the cause of both great happiness and great sadness and both pass in their turn as desire renews itself with a different face. Desire is also motivation and aspiration; the root of the drive to do something beyond just surviving.

"To want to get rid of desire, in the quest for everlasting peace and happiness, is itself a desire; a desire that we will never be able to fulfill for desire is written into our very nature as human beings. It is what sets us apart from other animals; that we are programmed to move beyond surviving."

I must admit I was more than mildly surprised and glad to hear this in our first session, now exactly two weeks ago. I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that I wasn't going to be told that I must give up all my worldly pleasures to achieve enlightenment; that it was possible to live with the same intensity of emotion without it affecting my equilibrium (personal confession: my emotional equilibrium, or lack of thereof, was part of the reason I was in that course in the first place. The other reason I was there was because of intellectual curiosity sparked off by what a friend experienced through the same course a few months ago).

But now I am digressing all over the place. To get back to desire.

One of the paradoxes that I've always had trouble resolving in what I call the "detachment doctrine". Almost every philosophy and self-help paradigm preaches detachment and creating a distance between oneself and the situation. My problem with this doctrine is that in the kind of detachment preached, I cannot find the motivation to act. So the question that plagues is that are desire and peace at loggerheads? Can they never co-exist? And as I said in a previous post of mine, personally I'd rather give up peace than give up the idea of desire.

However, to get a different handle on desire, consider this proposition that Sadhguru put forward: It is not desire that brings you misery. It is that even in desiring, you have not moved beyond survival. Only your survival standards have gotten higher but in your minds desire is still seen only in the perspective of survival. So you desire money, fame, power, sex, comfort and so and so forth. Those desires need to be indulged in but with the awareness that they are survival desires, that they will go through phases and while one will and should rejoice and mourn them, one need not disturb oneself internally over them.

Desires that go beyond survival, whether it is in the realm of intellectual innovation or spiritual growth, are by their very nature, desires that don't cause misery. The quest here is for something internal that does not necessarily have a physical manifestation. These abstract desires are also boundless and never ending but here each step is a step higher and each level of fulfillment has a satisfaction all its own without bringing with it the frustration that there is still so much more to achieve. Here also one encounters failure but failure in this realm does not bring with it misery. Disappointment yes, but with it also the strength to move on and do more.

In the first hearing, the above two paragraphs sounded eerily like the "detachment doctrine" to me. However, what Sadhguru goes on to say is this: there is your physical self and your non-physical, abstract self. What one needs to do is to restrict the joys and pains of the physical self and not let it affect the equilibrium of the non-physical or abstract self. It is when the non-physical self gets affected that there is a loss of peace and calm. Physical or survival desires are externally motivated, today largely by the "keeping up with the Jones'" syndrome. The reason we get so strongly affected by them is because we have fallen into the trap of defining our abstract selves (or many a time not even realizing that there is something in the human being that pushes it to go beyond just physical survival) in physical terms with reference to others.

So what is important is to not try to get rid of desire but to understand the different kinds of desire and keep each one in perspective and let it affect only that much of ourselves; to not let physical desires become the ruling passion of our lives.

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