By George A. Boyd © 2017
Q: Is desirelessness a good thing? The Buddhists teach that you have to become desireless to reach Nirvana. Should I try to renounce my desires?
A: It depends on what outcome you are seeking. There are pros and cons to desirelessness. It produces some positive benefits, but it also has its downside.
Your Desire Manifesting System
To understand desirelessness, we need to clarify what is the desire-manifesting system. This has a personal aspect and a transpersonal aspect.
The personal aspect consists of the activity of the Conscious, Subconscious, and Metaconscious mind, and your personal integration centers of ego and Self.
The transpersonal aspect comprises the activity of the Superconscious mind, and your three immortal centers—attentional principle, spirit, and Soul.
The personal aspect of your desire manifesting system is fueled by your desire or ambition. The outcome it produces is the summation of your knowledge, resources, and commitment.
Knowledge grows from your learning. An evocative question to tap your frame of knowledge is “do you know what to do to succeed in achieving this objective?”
Resources grow from you obtaining what you need to reach your goal. An evocative question to tap your frame of resources is “do you have the help, capital, and tools to do what you need? If you don’t, how might you go about acquiring them?”
Commitment grows from your sustained pursuit of the goal: not letting obstacles or setbacks deter you, not quitting until you reach the goal, and not allowing your determination and resolve to waver. An evocative question to tap your frame of commitment is “are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed and obtain this objective?”
The transpersonal aspect of your desire manifesting system is activated through your faith, your belief that your Higher Power is efficacious and merciful—in other words, that the Divine loves you, wishes for you to be fulfilled, and has the miraculous power to grant what you ask. The outcome this transpersonal aspect manifests is the product of God’s Grace, God’s Blessing, and your transpersonal will—the will of your Soul.
God’s Grace is known as the Law of Abundance, Infinite Supply, or Providence. It is the capacity of the universe to provide what you need and desire. When you invoke the Law of Attraction, you are tapping into this Source. It is always operating in the background, whatever conditions prevail in your life—whether you are rich or poor, it works when you access its power to manifest.
God’s Blessing is the spoken Word that activates the forces of the Superconscious mind. This is the affirmation, decree, or declaration that something specific shall be manifest. Using your intention to anchor an affirmation in the Superconscious mind, or asking an angel, Master, or the Divine to speak this Word brings about this Power of Blessing. Blessing activates the Law of Abundance.
Your transpersonal will is the ultimate arbiter of all you permit, allow, or direct. It gives you permission to carry out specific acts. It does not stop you when you do certain other actions that are part of your destiny. It gives you specific directions to carry out its purpose. Your transpersonal will is the master switch that allows God’s Grace and God’s blessings to flow into your life. If it does not allow these blessings to come to you, you feel cut off from the Source. If it allows them, you feel God’s love is touching you, you feel the Divine is helping you in so many ways.
All six of these aspects need to be functioning to enable you to have the drive and impetus to reach your dreams. If any of them are missing, it is like you are trying to drive your car with one or more missing cylinders.
Becoming desireless short-circuits this desire-manifesting system. By suppressing the activity of the ego, you close the door on personal effort and come to rely entirely on the Providence of God.
The Buddhist monk who lives by begging abandons personal effort to achieve his or her desires and provide livelihood, and becomes dependent on the goodwill and charity of others. In this worldview, you shift your commitment from material pursuits to commitment to achieve a spiritual objective, and you abandon and detach from your personal desires.
The Four Postures for Pursuing Desires
You can either embrace or abandon the personal or transpersonal aspects of this desire-manifesting system. Each posture provides different results:
- The Self-reliant posture – If you embrace the personal, but abandon the transpersonal, you rely solely on your personal effort. In this posture, you may not believe in God—or if you do, you may not invite Divine assistance because what you desire is within your ability and means to achieve it. For example, you might not have to pray to God to pick up the newspaper on your lawn, when you can just walk outside and grab it.
- The depressed posture – If you no longer believe in the efficacy of your Self or of God, you abandon both personal and transpersonal approaches. In this scenario, you no longer believe in anything, trust no one, and give up in hopelessness and despair. This is the posture of those who are mentally ill, or those whose every dream seems unattainable.
- The detached posture – If you abandon the personal, but embrace the transpersonal, you come to rely completely on God’s Grace and Blessings. You refrain from personal effort, and look to God to provide for all of your needs. If opportunities come to you, you may reject them, because you do not want to become entangled in the world.
- The synthesis posture – If you embrace the personal and the transpersonal, you may combine metaphysical treatment and prayer with constructive, goal-oriented personal actions toward achievement of your goal.
Each posture has certain beneficial outcomes.
- Self-reliance brings pride in achievement and strengthens your personality functions.
- Depression is the state of brokenness, where your whole life becomes an evocation, a cry for help. You invite a solution with every fiber of your being—and if your solution is not forthcoming, you are ready to abandon life itself.
- Detachment allows you to focus on spiritual development, and strengthens your ability to express your spirituality, without becoming distracted by the demands of relationships, parenting, and career.
- Synthesis allows you to use the strengths of both aspects, strengthening both and working on both.
This leads us to consider some pros and cons of desirelessness, which is an objective valued in the detachment posture.
Pros and Cons of Desirelessness
What are some positive outcomes of desirelessness?
- You are able to shut down your personality, quiet and still your inner vehicles of consciousness, and your meditation becomes easier and deeper.
- You don’t create as much new karma—as karma stems from desires—and you disentangle yourself from relationships and responsibilities that suck away all of your energy, time, and attention.
- You are free from the burdens—the worry, fear, stress, and self-doubt—that pursuing desire brings.
What is the downside of desirelessness?
- You have difficulty earning your livelihood. You must rely upon the donations, good will, and charity of others. You may need to use government welfare or community assistance to survive.
- You might spend much of your time in an altered state of consciousness; as a result, you may have difficulty functioning in daily life. It may be hard for you to work a job, to run a business, to maintain a relationship or raise a family.
- You may have no sense of personal purpose or reason to be alive. Your only perspective is the spiritual horizon that lies before your spiritual essence—the nucleus of identity, spirit, or ensouling entity with which you identity. Your only motivation is to move further on the Path towards which you aspire, to make spiritual progress and express the gifts of this spiritual essence in service towards others.
In Mudrashram®, we don’t advocate that you should abandon your spirituality, as in posture one; give up in despair, like posture two; or abandon your personality, and live in an altered state of consciousness, as you do in posture three. Instead, we recommend that you become effective in your personal life, while you make steady, conscious spiritual progress—embracing both your transpersonal and personal potentials.
We suggest that the problem initially is having too many desires, but as you grow spiritually, many of these will no longer fit who you have become. For example:
When I was 11 years old, my life was consumed by the desires to watch horror movies on weekends, to go to baseball games, go swimming on the beach in the hot summer sun, to eat hamburgers and soft drinks, to collect stamps and coins, and to watch my favorite shows on television.
Today, I have none of these desires: they all have fallen away; I have outgrown them.
Without desires to drive personal achievement and to make progress towards worthy objectives, you may make spiritual progress, but you may have little to show for that progress in your life. We leave you to consider:
- Which of your desires is truly essential to your life and who you are?
- Which desires are not essential, and you could very well live without them?
- What would your life be like if you had no desires? What would you do? How would you live?
- What is the right balance between desirelessness and desire for you?
- Which of these postures fits who you know yourself to be today? Why?
- Have you ever adopted other postures? What was the outcome? What made you change to your current posture?
- Even though you are in your current posture, do you aspire to shift into another posture? Which one?
We have written about practical meditation, the ability to combine mindfulness and productive, goal-oriented activity in our book, The Practical Applications of Meditation in Daily Life and Education. If you seek to learn more about bringing serenity, plus a sense of purpose and direction into you daily life, you will benefit from acquiring and reading this book.