Desire: A Movement of the Lower Nature
…desire is the most obscure and the most obscuring movement of the lower nature. Desires are motions of weakness and ignorance and they try to keep you chained to your weakness and to your ignorance. Men have the impression that their desires are born within; they feel as if they come out of themselves or arise within themselves; but it is a false impression. Desires are waves of the vast sea of the obscure lower nature and they pass from one person to another. Men do not generate a desire in themselves, but are invaded by these waves; whoever is open and without defence is caught in them and tossed about. Desire by engrossing and possessing him makes him incapable of any discrimination and gives him the impression that it is part of his nature to manifest it. In reality, it has nothing to do with his true nature. It is the same with all the lower impulses, jealousy or envy, hatred or violence. These too are movements that seize you, waves that overwhelm and invade; they deform, they do not belong to the true character or the true nature; they are no intrinsic or inseparable part of yourself, but come out of the sea of surrounding obscurity in which move the forces of the lower nature. These desires, these passions have no personality, there is nothing in them or their action that is peculiar to you; they manifest in the same way in everyone. The obscure movements of the mind too, the doubts and errors and difficulties that cloud the personality and diminish its expansion and fulfilment, come from the same source. They are passing waves and they catch anyone who is ready to be caught and utilised as their blind instrument. And yet each goes on believing that these movements are part of himself and a precious product of his own free personality. Even we find people clinging to them and their disabilities as the very sign or essence of what they call their freedom.
Desire and True Need
To know if it is a need or desire, you must look at yourself very closely and ask yourself, “What will happen if I cannot get the thing?” Then if the immediate answer is, “Oh it will be very bad”, you may be sure that it is a matter of desire. It is same for everything. For every problem you draw back, look at yourself and ask. “Let us see, am I going to have the thing?” If at that moment something in you jumps up with joy, you may be certain there is a desire. On the other hand, if something tells you, “Oh, I am not going to get it”, and you feel very depressed, then again it is a desire.
Unfulfilled Desires Are Concealed in the Subconscious
If you have a strong desire for something you cannot get, you project your desire outside yourself. It goes off like a tiny personality separated from you and roams about in the world. It will take a little round, more or less large, and return to you, perhaps when you have forgotten it. People who have a kind of passion, who want something,—that goes out from them like a little being, like a little flame into the surroundings. This little being has its destiny. It roams about in the world, tossed around by other things perhaps. You have forgotten it, but it will never forget that it must bring about that particular result. … For days you tell yourself: “How much I would like to go to that place, to Japan, for instance, and see so many things”, and your desire goes out from you; but because desires are very fugitive things, you have forgotten completely this desire you had thrown out with such a force. There are many reasons for your thinking about something else. And after ten years or more, or less, it comes back to you like a dish served up piping hot. Yes, like a piping-hot dish, well arranged. You say: “This does not interest me any longer.” It does not interest you ten or twenty years later. It was a small formation and it has gone and done its work as it could. … It is impossible to have desires without their being realised, even if it be quite a tiny desire. The formation has done what it could; it took a lot of trouble, it has worked hard, and after years it returns. It is like a servant you have sent out and who has done his best. When he returns you tell him: “What have you done?”—“Why? But, sir, it was because you wanted it!”
Sweet Mother, is desire contagious?
Ah, yes, very contagious, my child. It is even much more contagious than illness. If someone next to you has a desire, immediately it enters you; and in fact it is mainly in this way that it is caught. It passes from one to another. … Terribly contagious, in such a powerful way that one is not even aware that it is a contagion. Suddenly one feels something springing up in oneself; someone has gently put it inside. Of course, one could say, “Why aren’t people with desires quarantined?” Then we should have to quarantine everybody (Mother laughs).
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.
Overcoming a Desire Brings Greater Joy than Satisfying It: An Example
The Buddha has said that there is a greater joy in overcoming a desire than in satisfying it. It is an experience everybody can have and one that is truly very interesting, very interesting.
There was someone who was invited—it happened in Paris—invited to a first-night (a first-night means a first performance) of an opera of Massenet’s. I think. … I don’t remember now whose it was. The subject was fine, the play was fine, and the music not displeasing; it was the first time and this person was invited to the box of the Minister of Fine Arts who always has a box for all the first nights at the government theatres. This Minister of Fine Arts was a simple person, an old countryside man, who had not lived much in Paris, who was quite new in his ministry and took a truly childlike joy in seeing new things. Yet he was a polite man and as he had invited a lady he gave her the front seat and himself sat at the back. But he felt very unhappy because he could not see everything. He leaned forward like this, trying to see something without showing it too much. Now, the lady who was in front noticed this. She too was very interested and was finding it very fine, and it was not that she did not like it, she liked it very much and was enjoying the show; but she saw how very unhappy that poor minister looked, not being able to see. So quite casually, you see, she pushed back her chair, went back a little, as though she was thinking of something else, and drew back so well that he came forward and could now see the whole scene. Well, this person, when she drew back and gave up all desire to see the show, was filled with a sense of inner joy, a liberation from all attachment to things and a kind of peace, content to have done something for somebody instead of having satisfied herself, to the extent that the evening brought her infinitely greater pleasure than if she had listened to the opera. This is a true experience, it is not a little story read in a book, and it was precisely at the time this person was studying Buddhist discipline, and it was in conformity with the saying of the Buddha that she tried this experiment.
And truly this was so concrete an experience, you know, so real that … ah, two seconds later, you see, the play, the music, the actors, the scene, the pictures and all that were gone like absolutely secondary things, completely unimportant, while this joy of having mastered something in oneself and done something not simply selfish, this joy filled all the being with an incomparable serenity—a delightful experience. … Well, it is not just an individual, personal experience. All those who want to try can have it.
To conquer a desire brings more joy than to satisfy it.
How to Conquer or Overcome the Desires?
What is the most effective way of overcoming desires and attachments: to cut them off all at one stroke, even at the risk of breaking down, or to advance slowly and surely by eliminating them carefully one by one?
Both these ways are equally ineffective. The normal result of both these methods is that you deceive yourself, you delude yourself that you have overcome your desires, whereas at best you are merely sitting on them—they remain repressed in the subconscient until they explode there and cause an upheaval in the whole being.
It is from within that you must become master of your lower nature by establishing your consciousness firmly in a domain that is free of all desire and attachment because it is under the influence of the divine Light and Force. It is a long and exacting labour which must be undertaken with an unfailing sincerity and a tireless perseverance.
In any case, you should never pretend to be more perfect than you are, and still less should you be satisfied with false appearances.
Desire is a psychological movement, and it can attach itself to a “true need” as well as to things that are not true needs. One must approach even true needs without desire. If one does not get them, one must feel nothing.
The first condition for getting rid of desire is … to become conscious with the true consciousness…
No one can easily get rid of desires. What has first to be done is to exteriorize them, to push them out, on the surface and get the inner parts quiet and clear. Afterwards they can be thrown out and replaced by true thing, a happy and luminous will one with the Divine’s.
Yielding to desire is not the way of getting rid of them. There is no end to desires—each one which is satisfied is at once replaced by another one and they go on clamouring more and more.
It is only by conquering the desires that you can get rid of them, by coming out of this consciousness of the lower nature and rising to a higher consciousness.
In order to be cured, my child, not only is it necessary to stop all these unseemly practices completely, but it is necessary to get rid of all these unhealthy desires from your thought and sensation, for it is desires that irritate the organs and make them ill. You must ruthlessly clean up everything and your will is not strong enough for that; invoke my will, call it sincerely and it will be there to help you. You are right when you say that with my help you will surely be able to conquer. That is true, but you must sincerely want this help and let it work within you and in all circumstances.
Desires Creates Difficulties
It is always said that it is desire which creates difficulties, and indeed it is like that. Desire may simply be something added to the vibration of will. The Will—when it is the one Will, the supreme Will expressing itself—is direct, immediate, there are no possible obstacles; and so everything that delays, hinders, causes complication or even failure is necessarily an admixture of desire.
The Effects of Desire
When you have a desire you are governed by the thing you desire; it takes possession of your mind and your life, and you become a slave.
If one is not master of one’s desires, one cannot be master of one’s thoughts.