Just like moisture is inseparable from water, and, heat from light, desires are inseparable from the mind. For, desires are but thoughts un-abandoned. Thoughts are just that — thoughts. They are not good or bad, neither sublime or ridiculous, nor right or wrong. All such labels are mere designations you have given them based on your conditioning.
Intrinsically, thoughts are all the same — identical. It is what you do with the thought that matters rather than the actual thought itself. Upon the emergence of a thought, its pursuit will either take the form of a desire or an emotion, positive or negative.
All karma originates from thoughts. A lingering thought destabilizes your mind, disturbing your state of tranquility like the ripple in a still pond. A quiet mind with a purified self remains unaffected by the fulfillment or abandonment of desires; both outcomes are perceived by the mind anyway. So, whether you want sense gratification or gratifying recognition, satisfying love, or a simple laddoo, there is no difference.
While the law of karma cannot be discounted, you are doubtlessly a product of your own desires. Your desires prompt you to take action or tread a certain path. Before you can know the nature of your desires, you ought to understand the nature of your mind.
When a desire is fulfilled, it gives you temporary joy & pleasure. The outcome is as ethereal and elusive as the desire itself. If desires could be satisfied forever, it would not be fallacious to seek fulfillment. However, when fulfilled, countless more spring up. Once you understand the nature of desires, they stop bothering you. Since you now have a firm grip on the tranquil state of your mind, your thoughts will disappear immediately upon their emergence. While desires cannot really be classified, to aid ease and understanding, I am categorizing them for you. Here:
All forms of sense gratification are pure physical desires. You envisage a pleasant outcome from the fulfillment of these ones. Such anticipated pleasure prompts you to hold onto the thought of satisfying your desire. As a result, your actions, emotions, and intelligence work together to attain that fulfillment. These desires can be insatiably active or eternally latent in you, sometimes both.
Whatever you enjoy through the body is basically sense gratification. Most people expend their whole life satisfying these ones. They experience everything through the body, live for the body, and die for it. They remain faithful, obedient, and unquestioning servants of the body. Their life revolves around the body’s needs for food, clothing, copulation, comfort, care, and so forth. The fulfillment of physical desires is fundamentally linked to the body’s well being. The human body, however, continues to deteriorate and many work incessantly hard to maintain it. A vain exercise, that.
The need for love, reciprocation, recognition, and sharing fall under this category. These are the result of an ignorant mind and have emerged from the conditioning of your mind based on your present lifetime and possibly karmic residue from previous ones. These desires impel you to look outside for fulfillment. You need “somebody” for companionship, sharing, etc. Since you are now searching outside for inner fulfillment, you have set out on a quest comparable to ranging the universe from one end to the other. Up until your last breath, you continue to play a puppet to these ones.
The physical ones may subside when the body grows weak and old, but emotional desires remain alive and kicking. These desires arise when you forget your true nature and when you are dependant (see My Truth for more on this term). The term “emotional needs” is a misnomer. Emotions are a product of the conditioned mind and as such the mind has no needs. The sight of a slaughterhouse may trigger a negative emotion in you, whereas it may be positive for the business owner and neutral for the machine operator. It all depends on how you are conditioned. Upon the discovery of your true nature and in maintaining that state, emotional desires will simply disappear.
A conditioned mind, outwardly focused, when temporarily satisfied from the fulfillment of physical and emotional desires, gives birth to intellectual ones. These prompt the individual to create something new or engage in seemingly selfless social causes. Fulfillment from these desires lasts longer than the first two ones.
When all else is going well, and when you feel that sense gratification and emotional fulfillment are not enough, these ones take birth. By their very nature, a certain degree of insight is gained. However, an egotistic, unsettled, and ignorant mind will continue to bind you. You may devote considerable time and energy on these ones, the first two will still not leave you.
Predominantly because you have simply engaged your mind elsewhere rather than settling it. Often, the pursuit of these desires creates something valuable for society though. Creating a charitable organization, working towards a material or spiritual discovery, devoting yourself to a social or religious cause are examples of intellectual desires. Better than the first two, these help you turn inward. The greatest thinkers, inventors, and scientists were the product of intellectual desires.
Unlike the other three, this one is always in singular. When the only burning desire to discover your true nature remains, half the work is done. Chances are you have this desire because you have realized the futility of gratifying infinitely insatiable desires of the first three types.
Fulfillment of the transcendental desire will free you from the fetters of ignorance, removing all shackles of conditioning. Desire of this nature is the ultimate quest of discovering your own truth. Without saying much, you could be Krishna, Christ, Buddha, Mahavir or any of the greatest preachers, prophets or thinkers the world has ever seen.
Your false ego holds the fort of physical desires and in turn is boosted by the fulfillment of such desires. Your emotional desires fuel your ego and intellectual ones satisfy it. Ego, a profound subject matter, is a topic for another time. I shall cover it in the near future.
For now, know that your false ego is merely an accumulation of your karmic imprints due to experiencing the world, for eons, as an external and real phenomena. If you peel away the layers of an onion, you are left with nothing in the end. Similarly, when you purify yourself no trace of ego will remain in you for it is impurity and ignorance that make up this intangible yet concrete element, ego.
The non-fulfillment of physical, emotional, and intellectual desires shatters, hurts, and alters your ego respectively. Paradoxically, the non-fulfillment of transcendental desire will arouse dispassion in you impelling you to work harder toward discovering your true nature. And upon that discovery, your ego will dissolve completely. The first two types of desires make you seek joy outside. That permanent bliss is never to be found outside. So, despite your sincere and strenuous attempts to continuously experience joy from them, you continue, albeit unknowingly, to feed such desires all the while creating more.
When the raiment of your peace and calm is woven from the fabric of intellectualized truth and conceptualized knowledge, it will unwind itself in a jiffy, without notice, any time your latent desires erupt or when in crisis. You can only tame the beast once you understand its nature. Desires are first to be understood, then tamed, followed by their mastery, and later, conquest, before they are eliminated.
Concentrative meditation will still your mind, and therefore desires. Contemplative meditation or pure bhakti will decimate them completely. Eventually, you will need to learn to take your mind off each time a desire arises. With practice, you will actually start to see your desires as mere thoughts with no intrinsic value.
To detect the emergence of thoughts requires an ever-present and alert mind — quite like the security system at the airport that beeps even if you walk through it with a penny in your pocket. The riddance of physical desires requires contemplation and relinquishment. The elimination of emotional desires requires reflection and dispassion.
To rid one’s self of intellectual ones, intelligence and an inward dawning of wisdom is required. Fulfillment of the transcendental desire requires a firm adoption of all aforesaid methods as well as complete surrender if you are a bhakta or an unflinching practice of meditation if you are a yogin.
One need not be alarmed when desires come knocking, it is only natural. The key is to win the battle without fighting, to reach a compromise without making one. When you discover your true nature, you will no longer have any illusions about your needs or desires.
Desires are attractive fruits on the mind tree. How many can you clip or pluck after all; you need to get to the root. And the root of the desire tree is aptly called the mind. Expectations are the illegitimate children — with desires as their step-siblings — of an ignorant mind and a conditioned self. Once married to a desire, be ready to pay child support for a very long time to come. With many ongoing affairs with other desires and de-facto “expectations” at that, you do the math. It pays to be loyal, as the wise say.