by Derek O'Neill
Many different spiritual paths and teachings include reflections on desire and attachment, and how it can keep us from our truth. Across the spectrum of thought, belief about higher desires – to do good and let go of lower desires – is a common thread. Being human means we experience desire. In order to live a spiritual existence, we have to look at desire and begin to define it differently for ourselves, and for the world.
If we trace back where desires come from, we find attachment and the fear that drives it. We are scared that we will not have love, or money, or status. We can even become attached to anger and resentment, sadness, or other emotions. Attachment exaggerates and distorts what we think we must have, and creates even more desire. More desire creates more attachments. It is a cycle that manifests into suffering.
Desire is a natural part of being human. Wanting something is not “wrong” or unnatural. It’s how we recognize, explore, and process desire. There are many belief systems and teachings that incorporate a karmic view of desire, as something you are born into this lifetime with.
Hindus call it the garland of karma. You have a set of desires that were unfulfilled in a past life and because they were unfulfilled, you have come into this life again. If you have a desire to do something and it is a driving desire that will not harm others, you must fulfill it. If not, the karmic wheel will continue to bring you back here until you have that experience. If you repress a driving desire, it will only pop up again and again. It is one of the pearls on your chain.
Buddhism uses the word ‘tanha’ or ‘thirst’ for desires that crave and cling to expectation and attachment. It’s a lower desire that mirrors an addiction where satisfaction will never come, unless more is provided, in a never-ending chain of suffering. A good, higher desire aspires to and wishes for improvement and light, whether it be in service to others, better understanding, compassion or remembering your truth. It is the experience of filling a karmic, higher purpose that allows us to let go of the obsessive pursuit of the external things and circumstances that actually make a lot of people miserable.
Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” What did this really mean? Is it wrong to have wealth, possessions and materialistic items? I believe it is our attachment to these things that Jesus referred to. The hump on the camel is represents attachments, if we are attached we cannot go through the eye of the needle, the eye representing consciousness, love and peace. The message is simple, stop grasping, stop being attached to things it causes suffering. Spend time giving thanks and gratitude.
The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu spiritual text that comes from a larger volume of work called The Upanishads, which means ‘to sit at the feet of the teacher.’ The Bhagavad Gita includes important and insightful writings on desire. There is a concept in the Bhagavad Gita that says “Do not reach for the fruits of your actions”.
If you chase after a result, the energy of desire pushes away what you are looking for.
When you desire something very badly, you can be absolutely assured it’s never going to arrive. There’s a good chance you won’t even know what you are calling forth with that desire. You are already on a royal road to happiness if you understand that happiness is the space between two pains, and pain is the space between two happinesses. With happiness comes pain. You must not be attached to outcomes. To be enlightened is to react in exactly the same way to both happiness and pain during the course of your life.
How do we connect with consciousness and learn to react with neutrality to all that arrives in our lives? The answer is very simple – you don’t do it. It comes through you naturally when you sit in grace and become its vibration.
There are four stages of meditation, or spiritual practice, that the Bhagavad Gita tells us we will move through, towards letting go of attachment and desire:
Be still and be constant with your meditation practice and don’t be hard on yourself. If you grasp for enlightenment, you will never attain it.