Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The truth about Desire

Desire is a self-consuming process. The more one wants, the more one gets consumed and lost in the wants. On the other hand is objectivity - which comes when one stays away from a situation and can take a neutral stand on it. A neutral stand is possible only when there is a distance. But, when you are over-desirous, you are so lost in the want that you cannot detach yourself from the desire. Hence, it is impossible to be objective about something when you are desirous about it.

When a desire arises, one can choose from three options - first one is to work towards fulfilling it, second is to suppress it, while the third is what I will disclose later in the post. So let us start with the first two.

Fulfilling a desire - When a desire arises, a person tries to satisfy or fulfill his desire. For the same, the person puts effort in a particular direction and gives his best to achieve something. This process of putting effort can lead to 2 outcomes - success or failure. In case of failure, the person can get into brooding (and sometimes depression), regret (of not having worked hard enough) or anger on others (if one believes that the fault for this failure lies with someone else). Eventually, the person may decide to give up or start anew to fulfilling his desire and re-enters the loop.

If the person succeeds in attaining the object/person/situation his desire, then what happens next? Then we move on to the next higher desire (Very aptly explained in Predictably Irrational, by Prof. Dan Ariely). This is also the cause of the social loop that we are in. Once you do well in education, then it is about getting the job, then about the promotions, then next higher post and so on. And thus, you get back into the loop of fulfilling the desire. In either case of success or failure, it leads to misery in the end.

The other option is suppression of desire. This can be done to satisfy someone else, or to live in accordance with social customs or peer pressure, or sometimes even to pain yourself so that you can get rid of your desires. Even this leads to regret (of not doing what you really wanted to do), or to blame and anger (over the external people and situations which have forced you to live life in a particular way) and also brooding and depression sometimes if the desire is very strong.

So, the giving in to pleasure-seeking and desire, and the suppression of pleasure-seeking and desire both end up in misery. Then, what is the way out of misery? We all are striving to be happy, are we not? And to do the same, we are trying to satisfy our desires but it isn't working. Even suppressing the desire doesn't work. Ho la! We are stuck.

The third way of dealing with desire can bail us out. The reason giving in or suppressing a desire doesn't work is because in either case, the desire consumes us and remains in our mind. We lose objectivity in the face of desire. The only way out is to be objective about desire. When a desire arises in us, we should be able to look at it and realize, "Aha! A desire has arisen in me!". When we are able to distance ourselves from our desirous thoughts, we can see them neutrally. Then, depending on the desire, you may choose to pursue it (if it benefits society and others), or choose to reject it (if it is only about self-indulgence) without feeling any pinch. If we are not neutral, rejecting a desire become equivalent to suppressing it and that brings pain. If we are not objective, pursuing a desire makes us feverish and that too brings pain.

Hence, there is a need to be objective to overcome desire. The next question is how? How do I detach myself from that which I desire? The idea is to learn detaching yourself from your own thoughts, and to be able to see yourself neutrally. It comes after being in deep states of meditation as you are then able to detach yourself from your mind and thoughts comfortably. Regular practice helps. Also, one must be wise in deciding which goals to pursue. If desires are about one's own self, one's own emotions, one's own indulgences, and you keep giving in, then very soon you will start losing objectivity about your desires and become an indulgent (just the way some people get addicted!).

Also while in a position of authority and dealing with others, don't support their desires or suppress them. Help them evolve above their desires, by supporting them in taking an objective look at their desires.

The reason over lives are so comfortable is because daily people (our milkman, electricity suppliers, maids, etc.) work on commitment and not on their moods and desires. Live a life based on commitments and treat your commitments above your desires.And learn to be objective about yourself. That is how eventually you will be able to handle your desires with ease and be at peace with yourself.

A suggested starting point: Just look at yourself and find out what are the qualities in which you need to improve. Be objective and start working on them. Self-introspection can be a good starting point to objectivity! Happy detachment! :-)


satyajeet udavant said...

really said it in a superb manner, specially the thought line n its presentation, it keeps one reading.

Naga Kiran said...

haha... nice analysis Shreyans!

Arvind said...

I agree that one needs to be detached from one's desires at some point of time but desire is sometimes necessary whenever you start with something...Take the most simple example of a student preparing for CAT - I am sure he or she is desirious of studying at the prestigious IIM. However, having achieved it, one needs to move onto something else.....