The great spiritual teachings of the world tell us that we should overcome desire. Many have tried to do this, using various forms of discipline, stoicism, ascetism, even punishing the body when various types of desire arise. Desire is recognized by all these paths as being an obstacle to the realisation of the Divine. Yet it seems that no matter how hard humanity tries, no matter which methods are employed, no matter how strongly desire is suppressed, it cannot be fully extirpated and there is a tremendous amount of suffering that attends both its fulfillment and its denial! Sri Aurobindo recognizes the central role that desire plays in limiting the spiritual development and the need to overcome desire. He takes a somewhat different approach by first analyzing what this force is, how it works, and its role preliminary to developing methods to eliminate this deformation of the psychic Prana.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The root of desire is the vital craving to seize upon that which we feel we have not, it is the limited life’s instinct for possession and satisfaction. It creates the sense of want,–firt the simpler vital craving of huner, thirst, lust, then these psychical hungers, thirsts, lusts of the mind which are a much greater and more instant and pervading affliction of our being, the hunger which is infinite because it is the hunger of an infinite being, the thirst which is only temporarily lulled by satisfaction, but is in its nature insatiable. The psychic Prana invades the sensational mind and brings into it the unquiet thirst of sensations, invades the dynamic mind with the lust of control, having, domination, success, fulfilment of every impulse, fills the emotional mind with the desire for the satisfaction of liking and disliking, for the wreaking of love and hate, brings the shrinkings and panics of fear and the strainings and disappointments of hope, imposes the tortures of grief and the brief fevers and excitements of joy, makes the intelligence and intelligent will the accomplices of all these things and turns them in their own kind into deformed and lame instruments, the will into a will of craving and the intelligence into a partial, a stumbling and an eager pursuer of limited, impatient, militant prejudgment and opinion. Desire is the root of all sorrow, disappointment, affliction, for though it has a feverish joy of pursuit and satisfaction, yet because it is always a straining of the being, it carries into its pursuit and its getting a labour, hunger, struggle, a rapid subjection to fatigue, a sense of limitation, dissatisfaction and early disappointment with all its gains, a ceaseless morbid stimulation, trouble, disquiet, asanti. To get rid of desire is the one firm indispensable purification of the psychical Prana,–for so we can replace the soul of desire with its pervading immiscence in all our instruments by a mental soul of calm delight and its clear and limpid possession of ourselves and world and Nature which is the crystal basis of the mental life and its perfection.”
The Taittiriya Upanishad equates the highest possible forms of bliss in the most evolved beings with “…the bliss of the vedawise, whose soul the blight of desire touches not.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 6, Purification–the Lower Mentality, pp. 629-630