Two Options for the Seeker to Eliminate Desire

When the spiritual aspirant hears that he must eliminate desire from his consciousness, he frequently takes this as a message of ‘renunciation’ and thereby determines to live an isolated life free from the efforts involved in living in the world and interacting within the societal framework. Even when he tries to live quietly in the forest, or the desert, or some kind of monastic retreat setting, he finds that desire follows him there. There eventuates then a struggle or battle to try to defeat the promptings of desire and in some cases, the seeker even resorts to mortification of the flesh and other types of abuse to ‘punish’ the recalcitrant body and vital being for giving in to desire, or, at the very least, constantly fixating on it. These methods however, tend not to work!

Whether one fulfills the desire, or aggressively suppresses the expression of the desire, the focus and attention remains tuned to the vital-physical centre where the desire arises. Further, by taking ‘ownership’ of the desire, the seeker believes that he must excise something that is part of his own nature and personality. Giving full license to the desire in the guise of ‘exhausting’ it also tends not to work. The seeker can deal with desire by moving outside the frame within which it is active, thereby taking the position of the neutral or disinterested observer of the action, rather than being involved and controlled by its energy.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “When one lives in the true consciousness one feels the desires outside oneself, entering from outside, from the universal lower Prakriti, into the mind and the vital parts. In the ordinary human condition this is not felt; men become aware of the desire only when it is there, when it has come inside and found a lodging or a habitual harbourage and so they think it is their own and part of themselves. The first condition for getting rid of desire is, therefore, to become conscious with the true consciousness; for then it becomes much easier to dismiss it than when one has to struggle with it as if it were a constituent part of oneself to be thrown out from the being. It is easier to cast off an accretion than to excise what is felt as a parcel of our own substance.”

“When the psychic is in front, then also to get rid of desire becomes easy; for the psychic being has in itself no desires, it has only aspirations and a seeking and love for the Divine and all things that are or tend towards the Divine. The constant prominence of the psychic being tends of itself to bring out the true consciousness and set right almost automatically the movements of the nature.”

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

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