Freedom from Desire
(Continued from previous issue)
How to Become Free from Desire (Continued)
everything to God: Another potent way to loosen the hold of desires is
to offer everything we plan to eat and drink to God before partaking of
them ourselves. There is an instance where Sri Ramakrishna gave a new turn
to the mind of a householder disciple. Surendranath Mitra was in the habit
of drinking and often went to excess. This had worried the Master greatly,
but he had not asked Surendra to give up drinking altogether. He had said
to him: “Look here, Surendra! Whenever you drink wine, offer it beforehand
to the Divine Mother. See that your brain doesn’t become clouded and that
you don’t reel. The more you think of the Divine Mother, the less you will
like to drink. The Mother is the Giver of the bliss of divine inebriation.
Realizing Her, one feels a natural bliss.” The influence of Sri
Ramakrishna’s words gradually brought about a spiritual transformation in
discrimination: Holy Mother advocates prayer to God for desirelessness;
she says that desire is the obstacle to liberation. Prayer can transform
our mind if it is done sincerely, without hypocrisy. Persistent prayer can
wean our mind from sense enjoyment. Along with prayer Sri Ramakrishna
stresses the importance of discrimination: “You must practise
discrimination. ‘Woman and gold’ is impermanent. God is the only Eternal
Substance. What does a man get with money? Food, clothes and a
dwelling‑place—nothing more. You cannot realize God with its help.
Therefore money can never be the goal of life. That is the process of
discrimination.…Consider—what is there in money or in a beautiful body?
Discriminate and you will find that even the body of a beautiful woman
consists of bones, flesh, fat, and other disagreeable things. Why should a
man give up God and direct his attention to such things? Why should a man
forget God for their sake?”
Giving a different
turn to the mind: When his disciple Hari (later Swami Turiyananda)
asked Sri Ramakrishna how to conquer lust, the Master said to his
surprise, “Why should it go, my boy? Give it a turn in another direction.
What is lust? It is the desire to get. So desire to get God and strengthen
this desire greatly.” Patanjali advocates cultivation of a contrary,
wholesome thought to counteract an undesirable thought. (Yoga Sutras,
2.33) In the words of Swami Vivekananda, merely shouting about darkness
will not dispel it; only bringing in light will.
According to the Bhagavata (11.20.7), Karma yoga, or the path of
selfless work, is a discipline primarily meant for those who have desires
and have yet to develop dispassion for the fruits of their work. Karma
yoga is the inevitable first step for purification of mind. Performing our
work as worship of God, who dwells in us as our true Self, and serving
others without expectation of return—these disciplines can greatly help us
strengthen our will, reduce our desires, and awaken in us longing to break
free from the hold of the mind and the senses.
To summarize, enjoyment of desires in consonance with dharma is acceptable
for living a righteous life in the world. But if our goal is
Godrealization, we have to diligently struggle for freedom from desire.
Desirelessness, in fact, is synonymous with God‑realization; for according
to Vedanta a knower of Brahman becomes one with Brahman, and there is no
second entity for him to desire. Disciplining the mind and the senses,
cultivating love for God and faith in His name, regularly practicing
prayer and meditation, and doing work as worship are some powerful means
to secure freedom from desire.
Meditation & Its Practices