Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Difference between Desire and Love By Ramana Maharshi

In order for us to surrender ourself completely, we must give up all our desires. But is it possible for us to remain completely free of desire? Is it not natural for us to be always driven by some form of desire? Can we not surrender ourself to God simply by giving up all our selfish desires, and replacing them with unselfish desires?

We can answer this last question only by understanding what we mean by an unselfish desire. Some people believe that if they are concerned only for the welfare of others, and that if they sacrifice all their own personal comforts and conveniences and dedicate all their time and money to helping other people, they are thereby acting unselfishly and without any personal desire. However, even if we are able to act in such an ‘unselfish’ manner, which few if any of us are actually able to do, what actually impels us to do so?

If we are perfectly honest with ourself, we will have to admit that we act ‘unselfishly’ for our own satisfaction. We feel good in ourself when we act ‘unselfishly’, and therefore acting in this way makes us feel happy. Hence our desire to be happy is what ultimately and truly motivates us to act ‘unselfishly’. There is therefore truly no such thing as an absolutely ‘unselfish’ desire, because underlying even the most unselfish desire is our fundamental desire to be happy.

We all desire to be happy. However, because we each have our own personal understanding of what makes us happy, we each seek happiness in our own individual way. All our actions, whether good or bad, moral or immoral, virtuous or sinful, saintly or evil, are motivated only by our desire for happiness. Whatever we may do, and whatever effort we may make, we cannot avoid having the desire to be happy, because that desire is inherent in our very being.

Is it then impossible for us to be completely free of all desire? Yes, it is, or at least in a certain sense it is. If by the word ‘desire’ we mean our basic liking to be happy, then yes, it is impossible for us ever to be free from it. However, our liking to be happy exists in two forms, one of which is correctly called ‘love’ and the other of which is correctly called ‘desire’. What then is the difference between our love to be happy and our desire to be happy?

‘Love’ is the only suitable word that we can use to describe the liking to be happy that is inherent in our very being. Happiness is truly not anything extraneous to us, but is our very being, our own real self. Our liking for happiness is therefore in essence just our love for our own real self.

We all love ourself, but we cannot say that we desire ourself. Desire is always for something other than ourself. We desire things that are other than ourself because we wrongly imagine that we can derive happiness from them. We can therefore use the word ‘love’ to describe our liking to be happy when we do not seek happiness in anything outside ourself, but when we seek happiness outside ourself, our natural love to be happy takes the form of desire.

Therefore we can be completely free of desire only when our natural love of happiness is directed towards nothing other than our own essential being. We will never be able to free ourself from the bondage of desire until we replace all our desire to acquire happiness from other things with an all-consuming love to experience happiness only in ourself. In other words, we can transform all our finite desires into pure and infinite love only by diverting our liking for happiness away from all other things towards our own essential being.

The obstacle that prevents us from surrendering ourself entirely is our desire to obtain happiness from anything other than ourself. But how does such desire arise in the first place? If our love just to be is our real nature, how have we forgotten such love and fallen a prey to the vultures of our desires?

So long as we remain as our infinite consciousness of being,which is what we truly always are, we can experience nothing other than ourself. In such a state nothing exists for us to desire, and therefore we are perfectly peaceful and happy in ourself. But as soon as we rise as the finite body-bound consciousness that we call our ‘mind’ or ‘individual self’, we separate ourself seemingly from the happiness that we truly are, and we experience things that seem to be other than ourself. Having separated ourself from our own real self, which is infinite happiness and for which we therefore naturally have infinite love, we are overwhelmed by desire to regain that happiness.

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