Overcoming the Force of Desire

The mechanism of attraction and repulsion, the impulsion of the force of desire, must be conquered in order to move the attention away from the outer world and focus it on the spiritual impersonality the Gita recommends as the first necessity of the spiritual endeavor. There is a striking passage in the Taittiriya Upanishad that has been called the “calculus of bliss” in that it recounts the ever higher forms of bliss attainable by the soul that reaches various states of existence, including divine states of existence. At each level however, it is noted “..and this is the bliss of the veda-wise, whose soul the blight of desire touches not.”

Anyone who has seriously tried to resist the force of desire, whether it is greed for food, sexual drive, desire for wealth or physical comforts or enjoyments, hunger for praise or recognition, lust for power, ambition of various sorts, or other forms of physical, vital, emotional satisfaction will recognise that overcoming the force of desire is not a trivial achievement.

Sri Aurobindo takes up the theme: “Thus to impersonalise your being is not possible so long as you nurse and cherish and cling to your ego or anything that belongs to it. Desire and the passions that arise from desire are the principal sign and knot of ego.”

“There can be while you cherish desire no assured stainless tranquility, no settled light, no calm pure knowledge. There can be no right being–for desire is a perversion of the spirit–and no firm foundation for right thought, action and feeling. Desire, if permitted to remain under whatever colour, is a perpetual menace even to the wisest and can at any moment subtly or violently cast down the mind from even its firmest and most surely acquired foundation. Desire is the chief enemy of spiritual perfection.”

The practical application: “Slay then desire; put away attachment to the possession and enjoyment of the outwardness of things. Separate yourself from all that comes to you as outward touches and solicitations, as objects of the mind and senses. Learn to bear and reject all the rush of the passions and to remain securely seated in your inner self even while they rage in your members, until at last they cease to affect any part of your nature. Bear and put away similarly the forceful attacks and even the slightest insinuating touches of joy and sorrow. Cast away liking and disliking, destroy preference and hatred, root out shrinking and repugnance. Let there be a calm indifference to these things and to all the objects of desire in your nature. Look on them with the silent and tranquil regard of an impersonal spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 563-564