Friday, April 13, 2012

What are desires?

We all constantly battle with our desires, many times don't know how to deal with them. After all what are desires? Why they come to us? From where they come? How to deal with them? Is it bad to have too many desires? Are there good desires and bad ones? There are so many questions like this related to just one subject 'DESIRE'. Technically desire is defined as 'conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment'. They are supposed to bring happiness upon their fulfillment, that's why we all chase them. But if we can't fulfill them then same desires bring unhappiness and depression in our lives. Most of the time whatever bad things (and good things also) happen to us is blamed on desires we carry. Desire is one of the strong motivators for our actions (good or bad). Motivational aspect of desire has been very well documented in philosophy, human desire is considered as fundamental motivation for most of human actions.

Our culture and general education trains our brain (mind) to differentiate between good desires and bad (or amoral or unethical) desires. We get trained to differentiate between them but no one can stop them from coming to our mind. Desires come to us automatically, its a natural phenomenon. They don’t ask for our permission before entering in our mind. Since our entry in this world knowingly or unknowingly we desire something or the other. We desire for food when we are hungry, sleep when we are tired, water when we are thirsty, even our basic needs are also linked with our desires. Generating desires is a sign of active and functional brain or mind. People in unconscious state or in coma though alive don't desire anything because their mind is not in active state.

Path of renunciation blames our desires for all material attachments, according to Buddha we should cut the flow of our desires to achieve liberation. But how to cut the flow of desire? To stop desiring (or not to have any desire) itself is an desire, so technically we can not have desire free stage. Our mind is such that it likes to move around, it's curious about many things. We have physical needs and then mental or psychological needs, one needs to fulfill them to live a healthy life. It's also true that there is no limit for desires, they are endless, they keep on coming. Our needs are limited but desires are endless. I think the best way to deal with desires is to let them come and learn to deal with them. If we try to suppress them unnaturally then they will bounce back with stronger force (like Newton’s third law every action has equal and opposite reaction). We can ignore them if we feel they are unwanted desires, or even store them somewhere in deep closet of our mind and eventually they will get lost or go away. Active desires need constant attention, they overpower our mind, take total control over it and then start dictating our behavior. We should be in control of our desires, they should not control us.

If our mind is at peace and full with good thoughts and then only (or mostly) good desires will come to our mind because bad desires wont find any attention and won't survive long. They might come (as I said we can't stop them) but wont stay or survive there. I think the stage of ultimate happiness  is not when you are free from all desires but when you have total control over them. You neither resist them nor run after them, they come and go like people around you. We meet many people in our life but not all of them become good friends, desires are like that, we get many of them but not all stay with us, it's up to us to decide, choice is ours. If we learn to do this, then we can learn to take life as it is with thankfulness and enthusiasm.

Thanks for reading and your comments are always welcome.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 


  1. There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it.
    ~GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Man and Superman

    Desire rules over men, those half-gods vain,
    And is the tyrant of their heart and brain.
    ~FERNAND GREGH, "Desire

    Human nature, at its best, had always been based on a deep heroic restlessness, on wanting something--something else, something more, whether it be true love or a glimpse just beyond the horizon. It was the promise of happiness, not the attainment of it, that had driven the entire engine, the folly and glory of who we are.
    ~WILL FERGUSON, Happiness

  2. Hello Vinay,

    I have found your blog link on speakingtree i have joined this site for peace. I am impress with your writing style,very concise stick to subject. Most of the time we really get lost to understand the main motto of achieving our desirable things. Thanks for posting this article which has clear my doubts.

    1. Thanks a lot Vinod for visiting my blog and posting your comment. I am glad that you liked my post and it helped you in some way. We all are here to learn and share our views and learn from each other. Don't hesitate to post your comments, concerns, doubts or questions. Once again thanks a lot for your kind words. Keep smiling and be happy.