The Source and Origin of Desire and the Mechanism of Its Action in the Being

An individual experiences a craving, an urge, a desire and automatically tries to fulfill it through some action. If it is hunger or thirst, the individual wants to eat or drink. If it is a more complex desire, something that cannot simply be accomplished, the mind is brought into the picture to determine a way to succeed in that desire’s accomplishment. We rarely reflect on where and how these desires arise, and what the mechanism is that makes them conscious within us, at least to the extent of pushing us into action. Sometimes desires are expressed that run contrary to the rules or customs of society and the individual may have a guilty conscience for doing something frowned upon in society. For those who seek to quell desire in order to practice a spiritual discipline of some sort, there can be a feeling of guilt that arises when the desire gets fulfilled, with the sense that somehow the individual is the source of these desires.

There is, however, no inner ‘desire-generating mechanism’ within the individual being. Sri Aurobindo examined the source of desire and found rather that they originate outside oneself in universal Nature. The individual receives the vibration from outside and if he is receptive to those waves, he translates them into a feeling, an emotion or a thought that brings about an awareness of a felt need.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “All the ordinary vital movements are foreign to the true being and come from outside; they do not belong to the soul nor do they originate in it but are waves from the general Nature, Prakriti.”

“The desires come from outside, enter the subconscious vital and rise to the surface. It is only when they rise to the surface and the mind becomes aware of them, that we become conscious of the desire. It seems to us to be our own because we feel it thus rising from the vital into the mind and do not know that it came from outside. What belongs to the vital, to the being, what makes it responsible is not the desire itself, but the habit of responding to the waves or the currents of suggestion that come into it from the universal Prakriti.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Desire, pp. 291-296