The Nature of Desire
Once a desire arises, we cannot forget it. There is complete insistence that things must happen the way we want. As long as we have such desires, it is impossible to gain peace. We cannot even sleep properly because our mind is so riddled with desires, let alone poised enough to gain that great and permanent peace.
Another characteristic of desire is that once we have enjoyed something, we crave for it again and again. If we feel itchy and make the mistake of scratching, we will find that the itching increases. The nature of desire is just like having an itch. Once we start enjoying something, there will be more and more craving and longing for it. We keep planning for those pleasures we have not yet experienced, and then after having enjoyed them, we remember them constantly and crave for them. These are the two main things that tend to disturb us when we sit for meditation or when we go to sleep. Either we continue to plan for the future, or we try to remember our past experiences.
This does not mean that we should not plan anything. It is not the day-to-day planning for our job or profession that we need to give up, but it is the planning for pleasures and remembering them that create agitation in the mind. Therefore, if we give up these two—remembering the past and planning for the future—along with correct understanding, we can experience peace beyond our imagination.
My-ness Causes Sorrow
Besides desire, the two other obstacles to attainment of peace are the sense of “I-ness” and “my-ness.” The sense of “I-ness” exists with reference to the body and its activities. When I feel that this body is “I,” then I naturally feel that anything belonging to the body is mine. Thereafter if I lose that object I feel sad. The sorrow exists only because I have this “my” sense. Suppose my watch is lost, will you be unhappy? No, but I will be! Suppose I give my watch to you, and then it is lost. Then losing it no longer matters to me because the sense of “my-ness” is no longer with me. As long as there is a sense of possession, the mind suffers agitation. We feel sorrow only at a loss when this sense of “my-ness” is present—when we feel something “belongs” to us.
A businessman who had lost thousands of rupees came to me once for advice. I told him that the nature of business meant profit and loss and he should have equanimity of mind in both profit and loss. He thanked me for the good advice.
After three days, when he came to me, I was upset for having lost ten rupees. He said, “Swamiji, just three days ago when I had lost ten thousand rupees, you advised me to be calm. Now you are upset at the loss of only ten rupees!”
I said, “My dear, the difference is that the ten thousand rupees were yours, but the ten rupees were mine!”
When the idea of “my-ness” is present, we suffer whether the loss is big or small. In the Gita, Lord Krishna says, he who is free from the sense of “my-ness,” has no agitation.
How can we live practically in the world without a sense of “my-ness?” It is not to be taken literally. Suppose someone asks me, “Swamiji, whose watch is this?” I cannot say that I don’t know, I would say that it is mine. There is no harm in saying that as long as I realize that the watch is merely in my keeping. If a teacher says, “He is my disciple.” This does not mean that the teacher has a sense of “my-ness” and therefore will have no peace. There is a practical use of the word “my.” What we must avoid is the feeling of possession and our attachment to objects. For example, when I travel by plane or train, I say, “my seat number is 25A,” but when I reach the destination, I do not try to take the seat with me. I accept it as mine only for the time being, but I immediately relinquish it without a thought when I leave. I do not consider it as absolutely mine. We must understand that the! possessions are only in our temporary keeping. This is how we can live peacefully with people and relatives and all of the objects that we come in contact with. This is why mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are all called relatives, not absolutes.
Separateness and Fear
Now the question arises: How can we give up this ahamkara or ego, because of which we are suffering? There is a very simple exercise to reduce it. Since we have this feeling that we are great—“I did this, I achieved that”—let us note down on paper what the contributing factors were, and how many people helped us to be what we are today.
Suppose I sing well. Now, for me to be a good singer, how many things were necessary? I draw two columns on the paper and note down my contributions against the contributions of others. By comparing the two my ego must disappear. First, to be able to sing I must be alive and this is certainly not my doing. Secondly, I was gifted with a good voice, which is again a gift from God. Next, I received training from my teachers and other musicians; and finally, I was the recipient of great gifts of tolerance and support from family and neighbors who had to listen while I practiced! With such a perspective we can understand that there is not a single thing that we can do or create on our own. I develop the attitude that it is my privilege to serve and delight others; God has blessed me with this voice for that purpose. Abandoning any sense of doership, we become instruments in the hands of the Lord.
The sense of “I-ness” can be given up with the understanding that God gifted us with all our faculties. Nothing is ours; we should love those around us but never with the sense of “my-ness.” Thus when desires of I-ness, and my-ness (the causes of all our disturbances are not there, we will enjoy peace of mind.
Peace is not gained by any struggle or absence of struggle. It is gained by understanding the nature of what is real. By discovering and realizing the Truth, the wise man becomes peace itself. That is “the peace that passeth all understanding,” that which is beyond our mind and intellect. That peace never gets disturbed. The Gita confirms such a peaceful mind when it says, “Having gained abidance in peace such that even mountain-like sorrows do not disturb one.” This peace is present even while the wise man is working. In this peace the mind is very much alive, awake, alert, vigilant, working, functioning, dealing with life and all its problems and challenges. This is tattva nishtha the determination of the Reality. It is not achieved by running away from life nor when the mind is suspended through laziness or drugs. There is no peace through such means.
The above approach to peace and happiness is the path of inquiry. But there is another approach, the path of devotion. One who is devoted to the Lord and has faith that an almighty, omnipresent, omnipotent Lord is taking care of everything, has no reason to get agitated.
Generally, we think that he who does not believe in the existence of God is an atheist. This is not true. He who believes in the existence of God and still says, “I am not peaceful” is really an atheist. He believes in the great Lord, and at the same time he is worried! What kind of belief is that? If I have firm faith that the Lord is there to take care of everything, that He has given me power, ability, and my work is only to serve Him, then I have no agitation. Then I am indeed on the path of devotion.
The third way to attain peace of mind is through the path of dharma (righteousness). When something that has to be done is not done, or we do something that we should not be doing, there is agitation. If a child does not do his homework, he will be fearful of the teacher’s wrath. This applies to us also. If something is left unfinished, we will always be agitated by the thought of it. Only when we do the work will we be at peace. Therefore, if one performs all of one’s obligatory duties and stays away from prohibited actions, then one is never agitated. For one who follows the path of dharma, there is no fear.
If one can follow any one of the paths he will surely attain peace. If one does not have an inquiring, analyzing intellect, it is all right. He can have simple faith; the Lord will take care of everything. Without faith, even a householder’s life becomes miserable. If partners have distrust between them, there will be disharmony. Where there is faith there is peace.
Peace is the true nature of the mind, not agitation.. That is why when agitation is there, we want to go back to a state of peace. We ourselves are creating the causes for agitation, which are desires, cravings, I-ness, my-ness, lack of faith, and non-performance of our duties. If we put forth effort to remove these causal factors of agitation, we will have true peace of mind.