Freedom From Desire (Part 7)

How to Become Free from Desire (Continued)

Offering 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 his disciple.

Prayer and 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.

Selfless work: 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.

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