I have heard at various times throughout my spiritual journey that desire is the root of all suffering. Satya Sai Baba, the most revered Indian saint of our time said, “Desires that cling to the mind are the blemishes that tarnish the inner consciousness. Control your senses; do not yield to their insistent demands for satisfaction.”
Ammachi, my guru, says that “Creation and sustenance of desires will only push us again and again into sorrow.” She says that devotion alone is not enough to bring peace to the mind, love is also needed. A true devotee, she says, has no desire, just the desire to love God in any circumstance.
I have had brief moments where this type of love has bubbled to the surface of my heart and mind, but the truth is, I do not sit in front of Amma’s picture every day and chant my mantras, and dive into the depths of my subconscious mind because of my love for the Divine. I don’t sit there for the love that Amma gives either. I do it because I want to walk again. And why do I want to walk again? I want to walk, I want to recover all of my faculties, because I want to experience the alluring pleasures of the material world.
I want to experience the soft touch of a beautiful woman. I want to feel warm sand between my toes on an exotic beach, and swim in the bluest oceans. I want to drive down the road listening to my favorite tune, as my hand catches the wind outside the window. I want to travel the world and climb the highest mountains. I want physical freedom not spiritual. I want to be able walk out my front door and do as I please and not worry about where the nearest restroom is. I want to experience the world without physical limitations.
It’s not that I am not aware of the pitfalls of desire and the temporary pleasures of a material world. Before my injury I was completely attached to my physical body, thinking it represented who I was. The only thing that stood in my way of peace and happiness was one desire or another that was unfulfilled. There was really no purpose in my life other than getting the one thing that I couldn’t have. Even if I managed to get a hold of a glittering object of desire, I soon realized it wasn’t what I expected it to be, or I grew tired of it, immediately reaching out for the next missing piece of the puzzle. I know full well the pain which is caused by believing that the material world and the fulfillment of material desire can bring me happiness. But this knowledge has not made my attachment to material desire disappear. It is alive and well.
Perhaps I am not worthy of telling my story of redemption. The story I have created in my mind, the story I am trying to live up to… A young man with the world at his fingertips crumbles beneath his brittle bones. In his determination he discovers the power of spirit and God, and seeks out liberation. Spiritual truths descend upon him, divine light pervades his senses, and he is cured! The love he feels, humility, the gratitude inspires him to lift up his brothers and sisters. They too can achieve the impossible!
I inspire myself just thinking about it, but it’s not true. How can I achieve liberation when I still drown myself in desire? “How can you not?” says one Indian sage.
Several months ago I finally finished the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda. Each day I read a little, inspired by Yogananda’s desire for spiritual truth. It encouraged me to move beyond my own material desires, and instead reach out for the ultimate goal of self-realization. Predictably, my material desires quickly overpowered the more enlightened ones. But, missing the inspiration of a real Yogi, I did a quick search on Amazon and downloaded a new book, “The Incredible Life of a Himalayan Yogi: The Times, Teachings, and Life of Living Shiva: Baba Lokenath Brahmachari”.
Once again I found myself pulled into the world of Indian mysticism. From infancy Baba Lokenath was destined for self-realization and the spreading of light and love. Groomed by his guru he set off into the jungles of India to find God. I had barely begun the book, but it didn’t take long before a particular passage struck me, a passage on desire. In Baba Lokenath’s own words…
“In man is the seed of desire hence, there is the possibility of divine transformation… The entire creation is created with a divine design. It has its own inner harmony growing toward ultimate perfection. Nothing that is created is without deep significance. From the limited world of the material plane to the highest realms of spiritual oneness everything is a part of the divine design of the Supreme One. It is only through the desire for the transient objects of material life that the higher desire for spiritual flowering will awaken in the heart of man.”
I was very surprised to hear a Yogi speak of desire in this way. He explains that you cannot deny that even at the root of the dedicated search for enlightenment, is the phenomenon of desiring. “If you cannot desire the part, how can you grow and desire the whole?” he asks.
Desire is in fact, an integral and unavoidable component of the spiritual path…
“Your material life and the natural tendency of desiring material happiness is divinely designed to take you to a state of higher evolution. Through this material desiring you reach a stage, where, through the Grace of the Divine, when the time is ripe, your mind turns towards God and His Glory.” – Baba Lokenath
He specifically mentions, that sexual desire in particular will one day transform into love for the Divine, where eventually one transcends desire in the world of Bliss. He states, “It is not possible to reach the state of divine love through the suppression of sex.”
Now to someone who is seeking whatever version of the story they like best, me perhaps, this might seem like permission to live a life of debauchery and material satisfaction. One could try to find happiness in this manner, but ultimately the reason material desire is necessary on our path to liberation, is because the dissatisfaction it creates will eventually birth the desire for something greater. So are we back to where we started? Feeling guilty for desiring? Not necessarily. Knowing that desire is an integral and divinely placed aspect of our being and existence, can help shed the guilt of experiencing its hold over us as we march forward along the spiritual path.
The yogi will dedicate his or her entire life to stripping away every hint of material desire, until all that is left is a burning desire for God union. But as much as I love learning from and about yogis, I am not a yogi. There is a large part of myself that is seeking out spiritual liberation for the sake of love and peace and spiritual freedom. But as of right now there is a much larger piece that is seeking out a healthy physical body that can experience the material world and its many illusory pleasures. This doesn’t make me a bad person. I’m just a spiritual being having a very human experience. And who knows? In the end, these desires that I will inevitably find unfulfilling, may result in true peace and freedom, and the manifestation of the greatest and highest goal of a human birth… self-realization and the unexplainable experience of infinite, everlasting love.
But still, the nagging question remains. Do my material desires keep my ego alive, keep me from accessing the divine healing that rests within my spirit? The past month or so I have actually felt a profound shift in the healing energy I am receiving from Francis and the physical progress it is invoking, yet I still wonder, is it necessary for me to further raise my level of spiritual consciousness in order to finally raise my body from its sleeping state? I don’t know. I am confident I have undergone tremendous spiritual growth because of my injury and the spiritual journey it created. I do believe that our power to manifest grows as our spiritual vibration increases. But I cannot force it to happen. I can’t force a spiritual awakening.
Perhaps it is not necessarily my desires getting in the way, but my attachment to them. Maybe it’s time to surrender those desires to God, give them to God and allow them to rest at the seat of higher consciousness. Invoking spiritual will, as my friend Dr. Hawkins describes it. Whereas the will of ego likes to take a desire and strangle it to death, choking it with all its expectations, the will of spirit relinquishes it, opens the floodgates, and watches the miracle unfold. Will my ego relinquish control? Can I subdue its need for power? I can, yes, but patience is required.
And so I will sit and absorb myself in spiritual practice, opening myself up to the process of spiritual evolution. I will do what I can to accept my current state of being with all its faults and limitations, while also knowing the real essence of who I am and my existence. I will sit, I will close my eyes, I will chant, I will show up… and do my best.