Desire, a key attribute of the vital being of man, is considered by many to be necessary as the motivating force of action. We frequently hear that without desire, there would be no impetus for action and there would be no possibility of progress. Sri Aurobindo acknowledges the current role of desire, yet at the same time, takes care to point out that desire is not the only possible spur to action and in fact, it is not the true and proper guide for our human journey.
“Desire is at once the motive of our actions, our lever of accomplishment and the bane of our existence. If our sense-mind, emotional mind, thought-mind could act free from the intrusions and importations of the life-energy, if that energy could be made to obey their right action instead of imposing its own yoke on our existence, all human problems would move harmoniously to their right solution.”
If desire is not to interfere with the actions of mind, then we need to find an appropriate relationship between the mind and the vital being in man. “The proper function of the life-energy is to do what it is bidden by the divine principle in us, to reach to and enjoy what is given to it by that indwelling Divine and not to desire at all. The proper function of the sense-mind is to lie open passively, luminously to the contacts of Life and transmit their sensations and the rasa or right taste and principle of delight in them to the higher function; but interfered with by the attractions and repulsions, the acceptances and refusals, the satisfactions and dissatisfactions, the capacities and incapacities of the life-energy in the body it is, to begin with, limited in its scope and, secondly, forced in these limits to associate itself with all these discords of the life in Matter. It becomes an instrument for pleasure and pain instead of for delight of existence.”
Sri Aurobindo envisions here a vital being that, instead of making demands and coloring the scope and direction of action, actually follows the higher guidance and direction and impetus of the Divine Force carrying out its Will in the world. The impulsion to action, then, is not desire, but the channeling of the Divine intention into direct, undistorted energy in the world. The individual becomes the nexus or occasion for a specific action without biasing the action or the fruit of the action by personal gain or loss, desire or aversion.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 8, The Release from the Heart and the Mind, pp. 335-336