Transcending Desires + Purifying the Samskaras
This month’s wisdom is adapted lovingly from The Art of Joyful Living by Swami Rama.
Happiness is the ultimate goal in life. All your actions in this world, whether eating food, getting married, or having children, homes, or friends, are an attempt to find happiness. But do they give you happiness? They offer the best of joys – for a moment – but they do not give you everlasting joy. You find their joy, and then you return again to the same world of conflict, sadness, sorrow and worry. Human union gives you a joy that is only a glimpse, a foretaste of something higher, which is everlasting.
Consider what you are actually doing: through your actions you are trying to fulfill your desires, one after another. Like crazy people, you repeat the same actions every day, trying to fulfill a desire – and yet it is never fulfilled. Your actions just put more fuel on the fire of your desire. But you cannot live without performing actions. No human being can possibly do that.
For example, perhaps a couple builds a home with a modest budget. Both the wife and husband are happy with the beautiful house. But there is nothing inside because they do not have money for the carpet and furnishings. So now they desire to acquire those things, and soon they develop desire after desire…
This is the process: You want to fulfill a desire. You have a desire, so naturally the desire will motivate you to fulfill it, and you are doing something to try to fulfill it. But in a few days’ time, you will discover that your desire is still not fulfilled. So then you go on to another desire. This entire process drives you crazy and creates emotional problems, in this way you make your unconscious mind into a junkyard.
You do this kind of thing unconsciously with all your desires, but such experiments have already been done by the great sages long ago. You should follow their advice: the sages taught that you can never attain anything truly great by fulfilling desires alone. You have to understand this point to make progress. Attaining objects alone can never make you happy. So the question is, how do we attain a state that is free of desire?
You have desires, and you should have desires. You cannot live without having things. But you need to learn a way to live in the world happily, even though you have desires, and there is a way to accomplish that. It is called the path of action, or the path of karma. You can follow this path if you know how to perform your actions with the right mindfulness. But you are not yet happy because you do not know how to attenuate your desires.
You do not need to become swamis or sannyasis, or renunciates and renounce all your desires. Renunciation itself is not important; what is important is learning to live in the world, yet remain unaffected by it. No matter who you are, whether you are a swami or an ordinary person, you should learn this technique. It’s not easy, but it is not impossible to attain a state that is free from desires. And even while you still have desires, you can be happier if you understand how to reconcile them.
At present you try to fulfill your desires through your actions, but it is not your actions that actually make you unhappy. Doing actions is your birthright. You cannot live without action. So you are caught in a trap: human beings cannot live without performing actions, but when they perform the action, they have to reap the benefits of their action – that’s a certainty. And when they reap the fruits of their actions, then those fruits motivate them to do further actions.
Anything you do repeatedly for a long time becomes a part of your life, and that is a habit. You are all beautiful from within because the human soul is immortal but your emotional habit patterns have created a mask for you. Whatever you express, whatever you understand, as far as you can go, is made up of your habit patterns.