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Namah Journal

The inner approach to health

Dissolving desire

James Anderson


Desire is not healthy. It impedes our growth. It has no place in the New World. The only way to dissolve desire is to live in the true consciousness and, when it arises, to act upon it from that poise. When that happens it can be transformed into the psychic counterpart of aspiration.

I have been intending to write about desire for some years now. Something though, has always held me back. How can I offer myself as an authority when the riddle remains so unsolved inside? Writing about it has compelled me to look closer at my own relation with this action of the life-force. It is a vast and many-tiered subject. This energy has many facets: physical satisfaction and vital craving up to the more rarefied levels of emotional satisfaction and aesthetic and intellectual fulfilment. However at each level it drags us down. Looking at desire, I feel compelled to ponder from what standpoint I am writing. Just how far have I gone towards eradicating it?

What is more clear to me are the issues that desire presents and, thanks to the guidance of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the best way out. However, implementing it is a massive undertaking. Our being requires a complete overhaul. It is undeniable that as soon as we embark on a path of growth, desire becomes a great impediment to our well-being and health. The trouble with desire is that as soon as it is triggered there is an automatic impulse to give oneself to it. It is a knee-jerk reaction and the habit unfolds from the moment one is born. As long as ego is present there will always be identity with it. One needs to be constantly awake to forestall its effects on the being, something way beyond the capacity of most of humanity.

In spite of its attractions, desire only takes the sweetness out of life. If one gives oneself over to it, one will embark on a road to misery. If allowed to proliferate inside, it will plague our entire psychology. It muddles and twists our emotions; it debases our noblest sentiments and warps our mind. Desire creates a massive division inside and if one embraces it one climbs over a fence with little prospect of ever coming back. One convicts oneself to a life-sentence of suffering. The stakes are higher if one is committed to an upward path and the potential fall much greater. If we give ourselves completely to it, we might even get harassed to the point of madness and fall away completely from the path. There are so many forces encircling us and which exploit this energy to completely reverse our progress. If the slightest resonance exists, they rush in immediately and seek to take over. On a personal level the result can be catastrophic.

The outside gets pulled down too. The physical is not immune because every inner mark or blemish inevitably leaves an imprint on the body itself. If we succumb to desire, our body will fall prone to fatigue and exhaustion. Every time we attempt to satisfy it, pain enters through a backdoor and gives the whole experience a savage twist. It also reduces our immunity to attack for under its influence the surrounding subtle sheath protecting us will narrow down to nothingness. It is evident that certain states of mind precipitate their own unique illness or disease and desire is no exception. Initially the energy may give the body impetus but there always comes a time for pay-back. The vital nature that had nurtured the desire will become eventually limp and lifeless through constant gratification. In the end, the body will lose its engine. It is like living an early death.

But desire in modern society is a fact of life. Humanity is a vast sponge that soaks up desire. As it presently stands, man’s future depends upon it and with many, it is even considered healthy. For quite a few, fulfilling desire is the only way to live: it is their sole reality. Others will try to muddle along when dealing with this ever-present affliction. One veers from suppression to indulgence and tends to ration oneself and avoid the more obvious pitfalls. A pact is made and its influence is permitted as long as the energy doesn’t go crazy and try to take over one’s life. A compromise solution produces a makeshift sense of well-being.

Ultimately though, there is no future for desire and there is no place for it in the evolutionary plan. Desire is truly a vibration of the past and at present this huge vital vibration only clogs our advance. But it is a huge riddle and with the ego it is often eventually viewed as enemy number one. So how should we deal with this energy in our day-to-day living?

The solution to desire

Perhaps the most appropriate answer I can give is not to seek it out and deal with it at all because confronting this energy head-on doesn’t strike me as a sensible solution. Only when a problem arises should one address it. Focus on the Truth and the Whole and not on desire. How can one tussle against such a universal force? A better solution might be to ignore it and just try to get on with one’s life. This is probably what most people try to do. This course seems more practical and requires a certain will and mental control. This seems to me to be a more pragmatic answer to desire. At best though, it can only be truly a stopgap.

Something new is needed. The answer lies within and everything depends on the level of our consciousness. It is as simple as that. Before anything else, seeds of inner peace and equanimity need to be sown. This is the base from which our dynamic consciousness should rise. Consciousness combines with Force and when one tends the consciousness and allows it to rise; it will resolve automatically even the basest vibrations. What is needed is a station high above the play to allow the consciousness that is present there to exert a continual pressure on the field below. It is from the heights that one must act.

Dissolving one’s desires takes time. Sri Aurobindo stated frequently that no one gets rid of them easily (1). A resolute approach is required and no piecemeal procedure simply will suffice. We need to continually deepen our relationship with the Supreme. We offer the results of our efforts and expectations to the Divine Śakti. Most important of all, we offer desire itself at Her Feet. It is not a battle one can hope to win singlehanded; so a sincere surrender is always required. Something new and vast has to take over. Desire is not what we are. One needs to pitch one’s camp firmly in the Truth. In our true nature we are pure and perfect. Getting there is the difficulty, but once one is in that state, there is simply no effort. Effort suggests a struggle and struggles only bring anguish. Truly, it needs only our presence. This presence gives it the necessary protection; that is all that is required. In time, with practice, something masterful gradually takes over. However our inner poise needs to be maintained; otherwise the slack might bring us back to desire once more. The state of our consciousness becomes the overriding concern: we must aspire for it to climb higher and higher. We should connect more and more with our true centre. It is there that the psychic flame rises, a flame which burns away every negativity. The fire of aspiration can take the place of desire and become our fuel for living. If the aspiration is sufficiently intense and intact, an unbroken thread will be maintained. Here is a programme for human growth as the consciousness needs constant refinement. It is the only true way because through it one aligns to the Truth, which has its own unique way of resolving every disturbance.

The point is, it is not premeditated. One raises one’s consciousness for the joy of progress and not to uproot desire. One doesn’t focus on desire but if it steps forward one deals consciously with it. The fact is, only the consciousness can annul desire and when consciousness truly aligns we experience everything then through the portal of the soul. It is an entirely natural state and there is no room for ego. When one gets pulled downwards, one lives in a shadow where nothing is conceived in a true light. One’s orientation entirely reverses and our conception of reality totally changes. It is like living in another world! Victory is never guaranteed but as long as we maintain this thread our destiny remains secure.

There may often be occasions when negative vibrations try to take over but once one has a glimpse of the Truth, one should hold onto it for dear life. That is our safeguard. One will reach a stage where the downward tug weakens and when that happens, one moves into a realm of greater freedom.

Desire comes from outside where there will always be forces waiting for the faintest resonance and opening in the being. We may experience ripples in our consciousness when such pressure is present. So a detached poise is invaluable at all times. If something negative tries to intrude, and if connected, we look at the object as something completely foreign. If we catch the vibration entirely, at that very moment, it is instantaneously dissolved and transformed. We need to be alert and effortless at the same time. If we stay clear of mental interference, our consciousness can spontaneously respond to these negative inputs.

“The first condition for getting rid of desire is, therefore, to become conscious with the true consciousness; for then it becomes much easier to dismiss it than when one has to struggle with it as if it were a constituent part of oneself to be thrown out from the being. It is easier to cast off an accretion than to excise what is felt as a parcel of our substance.

“When the psychic being is in front, then also to get rid of desire becomes easy; for the psychic being has in itself no desires, it has only aspirations and a seeking and love for the Divine and all things that are or tend towards the Divine (2).”

In the early stages of growth at the very least, safeguards should definitely be made. Desire is very contagious and it is better to avoid those places and people where this vibration swarms. It is not easy to elevate one’s consciousness when environmentally there is such a gravitational pull on it. In time, one begins to recognise and then filter this unpleasant vibration but, at the beginning at least, it is difficult to separate ourselves from it. The company we keep can have a massive impact on our lives. We need also to look at our own company. Is there a tendency for our condition to plummet when one is alone and bored or listless? One needs to be extremely aligned to be immune to such influences. As a bare minimum, a round-the-clock awareness is required.

I believe that desire can be transformed. There is a psychic counterpart to it and that lies in the deepest aspiration. Once we climb over that fence, our entire orientation changes, — “what you have to do is to shift the objective of desire; instead of turning it towards things that are external, artificial, superficial and egotistical, you must join it as a force of realisation to the aspiration directed to the truth (3).”

Transforming desire

An ultimate remedy is to move from ‘awareness’ to ‘consciousness’ because then our attention becomes truly effective. The key is inner connection. When one aligns to one’s true nature, the necessary shift occurs and the answers come. These answers may be unspoken, and usually are, but they have a remedial effect throughout all our being. Then the matrix becomes truly dynamic and desire, like everything else, will get transformed.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Birth Centenary Library, Volume 24. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, p. 1399.

2. Ibid., p. 1398.

3. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 3. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, p. 194.

James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.

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