Can we ever be free from desire?
- What is desire? And why do we separate desire from the mind? And who is the entity that says, “Desire creates problems; therefore, I must be free from desire”? Do you follow? We have to understand what desire is, not ask how to get rid of desire because it creates trouble or whether it is a product of the mind. First we must know what desire is, and then we can go into it more deeply. What is desire? How does desire arise? I shall explain and you will see, but don’t merely listen to my words. Actually experience the thing that we are talking about as we go along, and then it will have significance.
How does desire come into being? Surely, it comes into being through perception or seeing, contact, sensation, and then desire. Isn’t that so? First you see a car, then there is contact, sensation, and finally the desire to own the car, to drive it. Please follow this slowly, patiently. Then, in trying to get that car, which is desire, there is conflict. So in the very fulfillment of desire there is conflict, there is pain, suffering, joy, and you want to hold the pleasure and discard the pain. This is what is actually taking place with each one of us. The entity created by desire, the entity who is identified with pleasure, says, “I must get rid of that which is not pleasurable, which is painful.” We never say, “I want to get rid of pain and pleasure.” We want to retain pleasure and discard pain, but desire creates both, does it not? Desire, which comes into being through perception, contact, and sensation, is identified as the ‘me’ who wants to hold on to the pleasurable and discard that which is painful. But the painful and the pleasurable are equally the outcome of desire, which is part of the mind – it is not outside of the mind – and as long as there is an entity which says, “I want to hold on to this and discard that,” there must be conflict. Because we want to get rid of all the painful desires and hold on to those which are primarily pleasurable, worthwhile, we never consider the whole problem of desire. And when we say, “I must get rid of desire,” who is the entity that is trying to get rid of something? Is not that entity also the outcome of desire? Do you understand all this?
Please, as I said at the beginning of the talk, you must have infinite patience to understand these things. To fundamental questions, there is no absolute answer of yes or no. What is important is to put a fundamental question, not to find an answer, and if we are capable of looking at that fundamental question without seeking an answer, then that very observation of the fundamental brings about understanding.
So our problem is not how to be free from the desires which are painful while holding on to those which are pleasurable but to understand the whole nature of desire. This brings up the question: What is conflict? And who is the entity that is always choosing between the pleasurable and the painful? The entity whom we call the ‘me’, the self, the ego, the mind, which says, “This is pleasure, that is pain; I will hold on to the pleasurable and reject the painful” – is not that entity still desire? But if we are capable of looking at the whole field of desire, and not in terms of keeping or getting rid of something, then we shall find that desire has quite a different significance.
Desire creates contradiction, and the mind that is at all alert does not like to live in contradiction; therefore, it tries to get rid of desire. But if the mind can understand desire without trying to brush it away, without saying, “This is a better desire and that is a worse one, I am going to keep this and discard the other”; if it can be aware of the whole field of desire without rejecting, without choosing, without condemning, then you will see that the mind is desire; it is not separate from desire. If you really understand this, the mind becomes very quiet; desires come, but they no longer have impact; they are no longer of great significance; they do not take root in the mind and create problems. The mind reacts; otherwise, it is not alive, but the reaction is superficial and does not take root. That is why it is important to understand this whole process of desire in which most of us are caught. Being caught, we feel the contradiction, the infinite pain of it, so we struggle against desire, and the struggle creates duality. Whereas, if we can look at desire without judgment, without evaluation or condemnation, then we shall find that it no longer takes root. The mind that gives soil to problems can never find that which is real. So the issue is not how to resolve desire but to understand it, and one can understand it only when there is no condemnation of it. Only the mind that is not occupied with desire can understand desire.