Divine Desire and Desire In the Lower Nature

The Gita has stated “I am in beings the desire which is not contrary to their Dharma.” Sri Aurobindo points out that in our normal view of spiritual attainment, all desire must be rooted out and eliminated. There is here an apparent contradiction which Sri Aurobindo undertakes to resolve.

Once again we are faced with a paradox caused by our attempt to understand issues beyond the mind by relying on the mental faculties and our linear and limited way of expressing these concepts. What is, then, this “desire which is not contrary to their Dharma”, and how does it differ from the forms of desire that we usually are trying to overcome?

We understand, through experience, the force of desire in the lower nature. The Gita describes this as impulsion controlled by the action of the Gunas of Nature, and in particular, Rajas.

The desire in the higher nature can actually be defined and described differently. It is free of the taint of rajas and beyond the action of the Gunas. It has more the characteristic of being a “Divine Will” from a standpoint beyond the functioning of the lower nature. While the path of realisation generally leads through the development of Sattwa, to temper the desire-force of Rajas, it must be seen that this is still limited by the action of the Gunas, is therefore unstable, and incomplete.

Sri Aurobindo defines the higher form of “desire”: “The desire meant here is therefore the purposeful will of the Divine in us searching for and discovering not the pleasure of the lower Prakriti, but the Ananda of its own play and self-fulfilling; it is the desire of the divine Delight of existence unrolling its own conscious force of action in accordance with the law of the Swabhava.”

This brings us to the term “Dharma” as used here: “Dharma in the spiritual sense is not morality or ethics. Dharma, says the Gita elsewhere, is action governed by the Swabhava, the essential law of one’s nature. And this Swabhava is at its core the pure quality of the spirit in its inherent power of conscious will and in its characteristic force of action.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 1, The Two Natures, pp. 262-263