The Origins of Desire

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After my jog this morning, my eyes were glowed and tempted by the new BMW sitting in front of my apartment building. The desire to check out the different specs and prices really boiled down inside my head.

Desire is something I’m particularly interested in studying for a while. By “desire” I mean the name of a category that embraces many states ranging from passion to craving. The same sense is expressed by emotions such as “envy.” These states all have certain properties in common, so that the general term may be usefully defined as follows:

Desire is a sense of longing or hoping for a person, object, or outcome. When a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the thought of the item or person, and they want to take actions to obtain their goal.

To understand desire we must study how it comes into being. Desire stems through perception - your sense of sight, contact, sensation - then your brain receives a series of synaptic and chemical reactions to induce the sense of desire.

You see a car - there is contact, sensation, and finally the desire to own the car, to drive it. Then in trying to get that car, which is desire, there is conflict - i.e. not enough money. So in the very fulfilment of desire there is conflict. There is pain, suffering, joy, and you want to hold the pleasure and discard the pain. This is what is actually taking place within each one of us.

Desire creates contradiction - this is pleasure, that is pain, I will hold on to the pleasurable and reject the painful. The mind that is at all alert does not like to live in contradiction. Therefore, it tries to get rid of desire. But if the mind can understand desire without trying to brush it away, without saying: “This is a better desire and that is a worse one, I am going to keep this and discard the other;” if it can be aware of the whole field of desire without rejecting, without choosing, without condemning, then you will see that the mind is desire, it is not separate from desire. If you can comprehend this, the mind becomes very quiet; desires come, but they no longer have impact, they are no longer of great significance; they do not take root in the mind and create problems.

The mind always reacts - otherwise, it is not alive. But the reaction is superficial and does not take root. That is why it is important to understand this whole process of desire in which most of us are caught. Being caught, we feel the contradiction, the infinite pain of it, so we struggle against desire, and the struggle creates duality. Whereas, if we can look at desire without judgment, without evaluation, or condemnation, then we shall find that it no longer takes root. The mind that gives soil to problems can never find that which is real.

The issue is not how to resolve desire, but to understand it, and one can understand it only when there is no condemnation of it. Only the mind that is not occupied with desire can understand desire.

This is the nature of life. And this is meditation.

But don’t take my word for it. Investigate and go into it by yourself. Once you do, you’ll live a different life.