Through my reading and research into the practice and effects of mantra chanting and meditation, I’ve come across
the word ‘desire’ many times. It would appear that the aim of meditation is to change how we live with desire – bluntly put, to eradicate it.
This has always puzzled me. The wish to be rid of desire is, surely, a desire in itself. I have the image of someone sitting meditating, thinking to themselves – ‘I really, really, really want to not want anything.’ How can that closed circuit ever get us anywhere?
After nearly three years of daily mantra and meditation practice, I have come to see things rather differently. For me now, it is less a question of removing desire from my psyche and more a matter of seeing each desire for what it is and treating it accordingly.
Desire exists in the mind only. Though the world is full of possible objects of desire – things, products, knowledge, experiences – desire itself has no physical form. There is no object to which one can point and say ‘that is desire’. It has no facial expression (the photo here could denote a variety of internal states – doubt or anxiety for example), no tone of voice even. It is a purely mental process.
When we desire something (beyond the physical requirements of food, water and shelter) we are doing something quite complicated in the mind. We split ourselves off into an imaginary object, the person who is possessed of the car, the house, the clothes, the knowledge, the status, the partner. We imagine ourselves with these things and we feel, for a moment, the happiness, fulfilment or power we think would feel if it were true. This splitting of the self into subject (me) and object (me possessed of what I desire) is unique to desire and is, I believe, the reason why desire is potentially so deeply dangerous to us. While my objects of desire might be, say, a bottle of green nail varnish or the ability to speak Chinese, and yours might be a new kettle or a Master’s degree in your chosen subject, in both cases the real object of desire is not the thing in itself but the imagined self in possession of these things. Desire disintegrates the self, splits it from itself and in this lies its danger and potential toxicity.
For the split, unintegrated, desire fantasising objectified self, even the imaginary self that possesses the nail varnish, the fluent Chinese, the new kettle and the Master’s degree functions as the ‘other’. The integrated self, the unobjectified self, is without desire for it has everything it wants. As long as it is free from physical pain, it is what it wants to be – simply itself. The integrated self is therefore free to experience the world as an integrated entity, beyond subject/object duality, free from the desire or fear of the ‘other’, as there is no ‘other’.
Follow your desire, if that is your will. But if you allow your imagination to fool you into believing that once you’ve got it you’ll be anything other than what you already are, your pursuit will be ultimately fruitless.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha