The hunger created by unfulfilled desire is the main cause of human unhappiness.
We all have desires. Desire is one of the basic drives that propels human consciousness forward. The act of being is intimately associated with the desire to act, to feel, to achieve. None of us is immune to this basic reality. However, some of the desires that we strive to fulfill in life are destined to be unfulfilled. This, too, is a basic reality of human existence. So how can we learn to evolve beyond this seemingly endless cycle?
The concept of happiness is basic to the human condition. When stress and chaos build in life, and we are confronted with problems that seem insurmountable, too often, we turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
Too often, we allow the hunger for things that we cannot have in life to take away our ability to fully enjoy the gifts that we already have.
The Buddha taught that “All life is suffering,” in the first of his Four Noble Truths. Physical illness and mental illness are suffering; not to obtain what one desires is suffering; to be united with what one dislikes or separated from what one likes is suffering. A great philosopher once said: the world is not a problem for a person with no preferences. This truth about life leads many people to seek out paths to enlightenment, meditation, and spiritual practice as a way to end the hunger.
Millions of people are drawn to Eastern spirituality and meditation for this reason. Once they identify the cause of their suffering as desire, they struggle to eliminate it from their being. A number of these people have come to work with me, wondering why their spiritual pursuits have not brought them the peace of mind that they were expecting. I have noticed that quite often, spiritual pursuits and meditation can lead to anxiety, bitterness, and unhappiness. For the most part, I have come to believe that this happens because most people are not honest about their reasons for seeking out a spiritual path in the first place.
I find that many people see the desire to evolve beyond the basic nature of human need as a sign of the evolution of consciousness. However, through therapy and working through their true feelings, a very different understanding of the concept of need and desire emerges.
Most people find that for the vast majority of their lives, they tend to diminish and fold their desires down to the smallest and most workable ratios that life will allow.
When they become more honest about their desires, a different feeling emerges. The concept of desire is interlinked with hunger; and therein lies the problem. If we learn to expand our desires and use them to help us to evolve, then we can learn to use the hunger rather than be used by it. A well-known Indian teacher, Sri Nisargadatta, once commented, “The problem is not desire. It’s that your desires are too small.” Opening to desire allows it to become more than just a craving for whatever the culture has conditioned us to want. Desire is a teacher: When we immerse ourselves in it without guilt, shame, or clinging, it can show us something special about our own minds that allows us to embrace life fully.
This new way of conceiving desire may be a true path to freedom for millions. Examining what we truly want without restraint or fear of ridicule often leads us to embrace the deepest aspect of self, the part of who we are that seeks in the first place; the soul.
Look at what you really want in life, and then magnify the thought. Blow it up to a proportion that you never dreamed possible. Expand upon the desire until you can no longer see the edges of what you want.
Rather than treating desire as the cause of hunger and suffering, one can choose to embrace it as a valuable and precious resource, an emotion that, if harnessed correctly, can awaken and liberate the soul for a fuller and more evolved life.