“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.” ― Jim Carrey, American - Canadian actor
Lord Krishna explains the concept of desires in Bhagvat-gita 2.70
samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat
tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve
sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī
"A person who is not disturbed by the incessant ﬂow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being ﬁlled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires."
Here, Lord Krishna explains that desires that enter our hearts are like rivers flowing into the ocean, one cannot stop this phenomenon but He explains in essence that one should become deep like the ocean so that one doesn't get affected. "How to become deep like the ocean?", one may wonder. The only way to make our hearts deep is by taking deeper shelter of our spiritual practices. The more we advance in spiritual life, the more our hearts become deeper. But, this deepening of heart may take sometime, till then how do we manage our desires? Here is a practical solution. The solution is simple - by tapping into the power of the past, present and future.
THE POWER OF "THE PAST"
Even though we need to be in the present as a rule and as a habit to get the best experience of life; it is wise to revisit our past from time to time and refresh the experiences and the lessons learnt. Very often because we underestimate our past and overlook it, we unconsciously keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again especially when it comes to managing our desires. The kind of desires that arise in our hearts now, have risen in our hearts in the past too. How did we deal with it, then? What was our experience of trying to run after fulfilling our desires? Was it worth the endeavor? How long did the spike of joy last? What was our experience when that spike died off? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves when confronted with the strong urge to fulfill our desires.
If we honestly study our past and relive those moments and experiences of fulfilling our desires, we will invariably come to the conclusion that - it wasn't worth the endeavor involved. We will realize that even though we experienced a "high", as soon as our desire was fulfilled, the "high" didn't last that long and when that "high" became a "low" (which is the law of this world), we too became low and morose, only to be motivated by our mind with the promise to experience a permanent "high" as soon as the next desire is fulfilled. In this way, we foolishly keep accepting the empty promises of our mind and thereby remain stuck in the vicious cycle of trying to fulfill "the never to be fulfilled" and "the never to end" material desires. As Prahlad Maharaj, the great saint of lore declared, "the only way to be happy is to stop trying to be happy (by trying to fulfill our desires)". Fulfilling material desires is a game that can never be won, it can only be quit. So, if we have not learnt sufficiently from our past, might be it's time to take a break, get into our past, relive it, experience it without getting stuck in it.
THE POWER OF "THE PRESENT"
The next powerful tool to deal with our endless desires is to tap into the power of the present. This means, when desires arise in our hearts, we need to pause, slowdown, not escape the feeling or not distract ourselves from the feeling that desires produce in our hearts. If we closely observe and are deeply aware to the moment, we will appreciate the fact that desires agitate our hearts. Just like, if a stone is thrown in a still pond, what happens? Ripples are created and the stillness and peace of the pond is distributed. Similarly, material desires agitate the stillness and peace of our hearts. When the water in the pond is agitated, we cannot see the reality and everything appears chaotic. Similarly, when the pond of our heart is agitated, we cannot see the reality of life and everything appears chaotic. See the irony - we try to fulfill our desires to experience peace when material desires themselves are the cause of our loss of peace. If material desires arising in our hearts destroys our peace, how can we expect the process to achieve it and the actual experience of achieving it to give us peace. It is simply not possible. As the Srimad-bhagvatam empathetically declares that material desires, the endeavour to fulfill it, the experience of it, and the after-effects of it are all troublesome and filled with misery. In simple words - misery in the beginning, misery in the middle and misery in the end. That's the summary of material desires in one sentence.
Thus, one practical tool to avoid this "misery cycle" is to connect to and feel the feeling that desires produce in our hearts. For example, if we want to overcome lust, we need to feel the feeling of being lusty. Not become lusty but to feel what happens in our bodies and minds when we become lusty. If we observe in a detached spirit, we will realize that being lusty contaminates our body and mind, our hearts begins to palpitate, our senses get agitated, our consciousness gets polluted and we feel miserable and our peace is destroyed. Once we truly experience this on a experiential level then our inner intelligence awakens and we decide to give up and let go of this desire because it doesn't serve us in anyway. Therefore, one practical and powerful way to overcome material desires, is by feeling the feeling it produces in us by being fully present to it when it arises in our hearts. As someone rightly said - "the only way to overcome a feeling is by feeling it and not escaping it".
THE POWER OF "THE FUTURE"
The final and the last tool which we will be highlighting in this article to deal with our desires is the power of tapping into the future or fast forwarding our life. If the first tool was about "rewinding our life", the second tool was about "pausing our life" and the third tool that we are about to discuss is about "fast forwarding our life". When the urge to fulfill our desires arise in our hearts, we can take sometime to fast forward this desire and see where it takes us. Then we can question ourselves, "if this is the place that we want to be in our life in the near future?".
One-time a very ambitious, young and a dynamic man came across a saint who was sitting peacefully in a small, remote hut and chanting the Holynames of God. This ambitious man, looking at the saint in disgust asked him, "Why are you wasting your life doing nothing?" He told him to go out, achieve something and become successful like he is trying to become.
The saint coolly asked him, "What is your immediate goal?".
The man said, "I want to become a millionaire."
The saint prodded him further, "What will you do after becoming a millionaire?".
The man enthusiastically replied "I will build a huge house in the city."
"Then, what you will do?", asked the sage.
The man replied, "Then, I will marry an extremely beautiful girl."
The saint prodded further, "What will you do next?"
"Then, I will travel around the world with my wife and enjoy."
Now, already envisioning his future in his mind, without being prodded further, he continued in a state of ecstasy, "Then, I will expand my business further. Then, I will train others to become successful. Finally after doing all this, I will build a small cottage in a remote forest and sit peacefully and relax."
The saint as if anticipating this answer, said, "I am already doing what you will do at the end. Why don't you join me and peacefully relax here. It will save you so much endeavor."
The young and ambitious man was stumped by the wisdom of the saint and learnt a vital lesson on the futility of carelessly and blindly fulfilling material desires.
Like this man, we can fast forward our life in our mind's eye, before we give in to our desires and see in our mental vision if this is the path we want to take in our life. If the answer is a resounding "yes" then we may go ahead and fulfill that desire but if the answer is a "no", we need to reconsider giving in to that desire. As the saying goes - "if you don't take your life to where you want to go; you many land up, where you don't want to go."
You see, there is no end to these desires as we explained in the analogy at the start of this article. At one time or the other in our life, we need to say "enough is enough". Otherwise we will go on, life and life, trying to fulfill that, which never can be fulfilled. How much is enough is something that we will all need to individually decide but putting that cap on our desires is a must without which our life will go without any direction and purpose like a ship without any captain. It will be wise to remind ourselves that, we are not "human doings" or "human happenings" but we are "human beings". Let us live a life of "being" happy and peaceful than just living a default, unthinking, busy life of "doings" and "happenings". Let us experience our spiritual being in it's truest sense free from material hankerings and thus experience the peace that Lord Krishna speaks of in the Bhagavad-Gita. Finally, let us remember that the path to freedom and liberation is achieved not by fulfilling desires but by surrendering them.