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Understanding DESIRES

by Swami Sivananda

1. Consecutiveness in Desires

There is consecutiveness in desires even though separated by class, place and time on account of the unity of memory and impressions.


Death is similar to sleep. Birth is like waking from sleep. When you see a friend whom you saw forty years ago the events and occurances that took place long ago come back to your memory at once, and those that happened recently are held in check or abeyance. This is your experience in your daily life. The same law applies to Vasanas and different kinds of births. There is unity or identity in Samskaras and memory. Desire Samskaras will manifest as desires. Kriya Samskaras will manifest as actions. Jnana Samskaras will manifest as Smriti or knowledge. The suckling of a child and the act of swimming of a duckling - these instinctive acts are proofs of a memory which must be the result of their corresponding and inseparable impressions left by the same acts in a previous incarnation. There is continuity of Vasanas or impressions as cause and effect. Every act leaves Samskaras in the Chitta which cause memory. Memory in its turn leads to fresh actions and fresh impressions. This cycle or Chakrika goes on from eternity like the analogy of seed and tree. In a human body the Samskaras of various human bodies only will operate. The Samskaras that were produced through experiene in other kinds of bodies lie dormant. Therefore, the continuity of bodies, Samskaras and desires is kept up, though there is separation in species, time and space. The desires, ideas and feelings constantly change. Some of the old desires, ideas and feelings are constantly departing from their store-house, the mind, and new ones are replacing them. This constant change does not in any way interfere with the harmony of mental operations. Only some of the old desires, ideas and feelings depart. Those that remain, work in healthy cooperation and concord with the new arrivals. The new arrivals are strongly magnetised by the old ones. They both work in harmony and this harmony retains the identity of the mental existence.

2. Desire Is Beginningless

They (the Vasanas, desires) are beginningless, as the desire to live is eternaI.


'They' refers to 'the desires.' Desires have no beginning and end. Every being has clinging to this physical life (Abhinivesa). This 'will to live' is eternal. Experiences also are without any beginning. Brahman is 'Anadi Anantam'. Maya is 'Anadi Santam'. Maya terminates for that person who has attained knowledge of Atman. You cannot think of a time when this feeling of 'Aham' or 'I' has not existed. This 'I' exists continuously without any interruption. From this we can very easily infer that there had been previous births for us. Mind is very subtle and all-pervading like ether.

How could there be fear of death and desire to avoid pain, in any being, who has only been born, if he has had no experience of liability to death, it being understood that desire to avoid anything is only caused by remembrance suffered in consequence thereof? Nothing which is inherent in anything stands in need of a cause. How should it be that a child, who has not experienced his liability to death in the present life, should, as he may be falling away from the mother's lap, begin to tremble and hold with his hands tightly the necklace hanging on her breast? How is it that such a child should experience the fear of death, which can only be caused by the memory of the pain consequent upon aversion to death, whose existence is inferred by the trembling of the child?

Some philosophers say that the size of the mind corresponds to the size of the body with which it is connected. It contracts and expands like a light placed in a jar or a house, as the case may be. This is wrong. The flame of the light neither increases nor decreases, neither contracts nor expands according to the space. So also, the Vrittis of the mind only contract or expand. The mind remains the same always. The mind, therefore, is all-pervading and subtle. The happiness of a baby which is inferred from smiles should be considered as proof of a previous life.

3. How to Destroy Desires

Being held together by cause, effect, substratum and support, they (Vasanas) disappear on the disappearance of these (cause, effect).


Vasanas produce actions. Actions strengthen the Vasanas. Vasanas and actions produce Samskaras in the Chitta. Samskaras again produce Vasanas, memory and action. This Pravaha is running from Anaadikala. Egoism and Raga-Dvesha are the causes for virtuous and vicious actions. The Asraya is the Chitta wherein Samskaras are lodged. Alambana are the objects. The contact of the senses with objects brings in fresh desires. If the cause, effect, support and objects are destroyed, all desires also will be doubtless destroyed. Dharma brings happiness. Adharma brings pain. The cause for desire is happiness. The cause for hatred is pain. Effort takes place by these. This effort is done by mind, speech and action. Through this effort you favour some and hurt others. Enjoyment is not possible without hurting others. Then again by these acts, virtue, vice, pleasure, pain and through these Raga, Dvesha are again developed. This Samsara is kept up by this six-spoked wheel. Avidya makes this wheel to revolve. This is the root cause for all Klesas. This is Hetu. Phala is Jati, life-period and Bhoga (enjoyment).

4. Mind Acts for the Purusha

The mind through its countless desires acts (for the enjoyment) of another (the Purusha), as it acts in association.


Just as the body exists for the enjoyment of the Indriyas, just as the Indriyas exist for the enjoyment of the mind, so also the mind exists for the enjoyment of the Purusha. Just as the house which has assumed its shape as such, by various meterials being brought together, exists for the enjoyment of another, so also this compound mind exists for the enjoyment of the Purusha.

5. Desireless Mind

Of these, the mind born of meditation is free from desires and impressions.


There cannot be any abode for desires or Raga-dvesha (attraction and repulsion) or Punya-apunya (virtue and sin) in the mind that is born of meditation. The other minds born of Tapas, Mantras or herbs, etc., will have abode for desire, Raga-dvesha, etc. The minds are fivefold according to the means resorted to. This is explained in Sutra IV-1.

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