To strongly wish for or want something is Desire. According to the Rig Veda, the Universe began, not with light, but with desire, ‘the primal seed’. Desires constantly arise in us, only to be replaced by other desires. Without this continuous stream of desires, there would no longer be any reason to do anything: life would grind to a halt, as it does for people who lose the ability to desire. An acute crisis of desire corresponds to boredom, and a chronic crisis to depression.
We were born from desire. But cannot remember a time when we were without it. So consumed are we to ‘desiring’, that we lose consciousness of our desires. And only realize when they clash with other desires.
If desire is life, why should we desire to control desire? —For the simple reason that we desire to control life, or, at least, our life. Paradoxically, our ancient religions almost always warned us that ‘Desires’ are the cause of conflicts.
In Hinduism, Desire is referred to as the ‘destroyer of knowledge and self-realization’. The Second Noble Truth of Buddhism states that the cause of all suffering is ‘lust’, ‘coveting’ or ‘craving’. Even Christianity, presents that four of the seven deadly sins (envy, gluttony, greed, and lust) directly involve desire. Rituals such as prayer, fasting, and confession all aim at curbing desire.
Suffering can be traced back to desire. Fear and anxiety can be understood in terms of desires about the future. Whereas, anger and sadness relate to desires about the past.
Desire is not only hurtful, but its outcome even more so. The accumulation of material wealth – houses, cars, and other riches rob us of our time and peace. You think that acquiring things will make you feel secure, but the reality is that the more you have the more fear for losing it. This continually drags you further and further away from the peace your soul is yearning for. An excess of desire is called greed. Because greed is insatiable, it prevents us from enjoying what we already have. The greater problem of greed is that it is all-consuming, reducing life to nothing but an endless quest for more. To want something and not get it leaves you feeling frustrated. Learning to be free from desire is learning how to be peaceful. Desire causes peace to disappear.
No sooner is one desire fulfilled, people formulate new desires. The problem is that our desires evolved ‘merely’ to promote our survival and reproduction. They did not evolve to make us happy or satisfied, to ennoble us, or to give our life any meaning beyond them. Today, survival is no longer the most pressing issue. Yet here we still are, chained to our desires like a slave to his master.
“Our desires always disappoint us; for though we meet with something that gives us satisfaction, yet it never thoroughly answers our expectation.” – Elbert Hubbard