Where Does Desire Come From?

Everyone experiences the tug of desire. We observe something and suddenly we want to have it. We experience something pleasant and we want to have it happen once again. Sometimes we feel a sudden urge for something after being exposed to a commercial message. At other times we can simply be in a room where people are engaged in exercising the impulse of desire of various sorts and we find that the vibration of desire wells up within us. This is considered to be a normal part of life, so most people do not even pay attention to the process or the result. If a desire is frustrated and left unfulfilled, it brings with it a sense of loss, but if it is fulfilled, we oftentimes do not get much, if any, long-term satisfaction out of it. The action of desire is so central to our vital existence that it bears close examination.

Dr. Dalal notes: “The vital, like the mind, has certain inherent disturbances of its own. Being the seat and source of desires and longings, the vital constitutes one of the chief psychological disturbances, though extremely few people are conscious enough to experience desire as a disturbance. The fact that desire constitutes a disturbance or suffering is well brought out in the following remarks made by the Mother in response to the question: Where does desire come from?”

“The Buddha said that it comes from ignorance. It is more or less that. It is something in the being which fancies that it needs something else in order to be satisfied. And the proof that it is ignorance is that when one has satisfied it, one no longer cares for it, at least ninety-nine and a half times out of a hundred. I believe, right at its origin it is an obscure need for growth, as in the lowest forms of life love is changed into the need to swallow, absorb, become joined with another thing. This is the most primitive form of love in the lowest forms of life, it is to take and absorb. Well, the need to take is desire. So perhaps if we went back far enough into the last depths of the inconscience, we could say that the origin of desire is love. It is love in its obscurest and most unconscious form. It is a need to become joined with something, an attraction, a need to take, you see.”

“Take for instance… you see something which is — which seems to you or is — very beautiful, very harmonious, very pleasant; if you have the true consciousness, you experience this joy of seeing, of being in a conscious contact with something very beautiful, very harmonious, and then that’s all. It stops there. You have the joy of it — that such a thing exists, you see. And this is quite common among artists who have a sense of beauty. For example, an artist may see a beautiful creature and have the joy of observing the beauty, grace, harmony of movement and all that, and that’s all. It stops there. He is perfectly happy, perfectly satisfied, because he has seen something beautiful. An ordinary consciousness, altogether ordinary, dull like all ordinary consciousness — as soon as it sees something beautiful, whether it be an object or a person, hop! ‘I want it!’ It is deplorable, you know. And into the bargain it doesn’t even have the joy of the beauty, because it has the anguish of desire. It misses that and has nothing in exchange, because there is nothing pleasant in desiring anything. It only puts you in an unpleasant state, that’s all.”

Dr. Dalal continues: “The chief point to be noted in the above-quoted passage is that the ‘anguish of desire’ constitutes an inherent disturbance of the vital. As long as the vital consciousness prevails, one is in ‘an anguished state’ of desiring, and it is impossible to have inner peace.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Disturbances Associated with the Vital, pp. xix-xxiv


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