The nature of desire. Understanding its power is key to inner transformation.
Desire is the glue that holds the mind together. Without this energy, the ego is simply a figurehead. It is powerless to bind thoughts by itself. Desire functions like the banks of a river, guiding mental energy along a specific path towards preset aspirations. Hope sustains itself through powerful incentives, which can be summed up in one word, happiness — the complicated problem of the mind and its existence centers around this desire. Both materialists and spiritualists harbor a desire to be happy.
The ego ensures that there is a tangible focal point where happiness accumulates. Our desires target many different objects and experiences in the world, the essence of which comes back to the focal point that the ego creates. However, neither is a desire permanent, nor is the ego permanent. The ego seeks permanence through objects of the external world. The objects we accumulate and own is externalized desire and ego. We keep returning to those objects seeking happiness. When happiness is linked to ownership, it is a diminishing quantity.
The ego is a continuous presence in the conscious waking state. We “seed” the senses with our desires, and the ego hopes to harvest happiness through them. The mind is not capable of holding all of our desires. Unmet desires create “heat and friction” in the mind, and when they boil over, we become unhappy and irritable. The “rivers of desire” in the mind are innumerable, all wanting to go separate ways. Our aspirations and goals related to them keep changing. A river accepts hundreds of rivulets and streams, creating one flowing body of water which ultimately reaches the ocean. If all desires big or small, could similarly blend, and the resulting flow of energy would be a tremendous mental resource.
When the ego is operational, the powerful tool of desire falls under its ambit. We cannot eliminate desire, nor should we attempt to do so. In its purest form, it is energy. When gold falls into the hands of a thief, it does not lose its value or luster. It’s up to the thief to decide how to use that gold. Similarly, whether a desire is under the control of the ego or not, its energy does not diminish. The ego chooses to use this energy in a manner we may not, when fully aware and in control.
When we are in charge of the energy of desire through awareness, it can be transmuted into many different forms. It is a potent and easily accessible source of energy if we know the knack of using that energy. Just as our eyes are important to us in our interactions with the external world, the energy associated with desire can play a role in our inner growth. But first, the ego will have to be defanged. Desires flowing through the ego may turn poisonous, and the mind weakens. When desires melt into awareness, the mind stores that energy and becomes stronger.
The ego is outward-looking, and it drags the desire for happiness into the world. Humans have been searching externally for happiness for centuries, and will likely continue to do so far into the future. The fact that collective human effort over centuries has been unsuccessful in finding externally, a lasting well of happiness should be enough to motivate us to look inwards. This is unlikely to happen as long as the ego has the upper hand. The ego looks in one direction, towards the outside.
Like street lights that light up roads at night, making them safe and comfortable, the ego provides “direction and light” in otherwise dark and confined mind space. Once the sun rises at dawn, those same street lights that were so essential serve no purpose. It becomes easy to see where we are walking when the entire sky is lit up with sunlight. Similarly, when awareness dawns, the limited “light” of the ego pales in comparison. Awareness needs a certain intensity to break free from the ego. Otherwise, like desire, it remains trapped under the ego. It “outsources our awareness” to objects of the world through our thoughts.
When there is a sense of ownership over objects, awareness remains trapped. As long as we are with and are enjoying objects we own, we don’t keep affirming, “I’m the owner.” When we are not with those objects, we carry the “ownership certificate” in the form of a thought. Such thoughts are in the safe custody of the ego.
It is easier to taste happiness through a worldly experience compared to finding an independent inner source. Happiness related to the external world is like a drug. There is a constant desire for more, which focuses the mind’s energies outward. It is a radical change for the mind to look inward. When we can touch, feel, taste, smell, and hear our way to happiness, why would the mind give up such easy and unfettered access to happiness?
The same object cannot provide a similar intensity of happiness in every encounter. The senses develop a tolerance, and objects diminish in value as our ability to extract pleasure from them diminishes. The senses are part of the nervous system, and any external input that generates happiness has to go through the nervous system. Like any other bodily structure, the nervous system suffers fatigue associated with overuse. It cannot ensure an interrupted flow of happiness to match the uninterrupted flow of desire.
When the flow of desires is towards the world, a lot of that energy backs up in the mind, as not every desire can find fulfillment in the world. The ones that are unfulfilled pile up in the mind, effectively creating dams within, where mental energy pools. Unhappiness, disappointments, and frustrations are the direct result of the lack of freedom for the energy of the mind to freely circulate.
Gaining the upper hand over desire is essentially the fight between the ego and awareness. The ego wants us looking outwards, while awareness in its purest form sees no difference between the outside and the inside. From a practical view, the world cannot help us remain happy all the time. When we become aware of this, not intellectually, but as a deep-seated conviction, it weakens the foundation of the ego. We begin to turn inwards not through force, but from the lessening of the grip of the ego, which severs the link between desire for objects and subjective happiness.
As the strong force of desire moves inward, it takes our awareness along. There are no inner objects for the ego to hold onto; consequently, it remains pointed outwards. The movement of desire inward may be used to explore the unknown depths within each. Going inwards, the energy of desire is not a scattered stream. The objective is clear, which is happiness and that energy can be turned towards that one aspiration. This effectively makes the mind one-pointed. There are no worldly objects that come in the way. Once we are saturated with happiness, with a little more effort, we can drop the vehicle of desire, and there remain joy and our awareness of that inner blissful state.