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Is It Truly Possible to Get Rid of Desires? Let Us Understand from Bhagavad Gita

Reading Time: 6 minutes

विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिन: |

रसवर्जं रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते ||2.59||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 59 (In Sanskrit)

Objects go away from one who abstains, except the taste remains. Taste also goes away for one having seen the supreme. ||2.59||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 59 (English Translation)

For one who withdraws from worldly pleasures, they might become less exposed to objects of enjoyment. That being said, desires do not simply disappear. They can be overcome, but you can’t make the conscious decision to stop desiring. 

The same applies to those who are enlightened. For an un-enlightened person who simply withdraws from worldly pleasures, the desire for those worldly pleasures continues. But for an enlightened person who has looked within for the true source of contentment, any kind of desire for worldly objects also goes away. Desires do not go away as an act of will. We cannot choose to make them go away. 

We overcome desires by discovering that the true source of contentment is within us. This inner contentment does not depend on external objects.

How Can We Beat the Control of the Mind?

यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चित: |

इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मन: || 2.60||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 60 (In Sanskrit)

O Arjuna, even with effort, for a wise person the turbulent senses forcefully carry away the mind.||2.60||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 60 (English Translation)

Even an enlightened person who strives to shift their attention within away from worldly pleasures can be forcibly distracted by the mind.

The mind is often counted as the sixth sense. This sixth sense is turbulent, always active, and difficult to control. The mind can be extremely powerful. 

It would be unreasonable to assume that one’s thinking instantaneously changes after their initial discovery that inner peace comes within. We all know how habitual our minds are, and this is no exception for an enlightened person. 

An enlightened person does not immediately leave behind their thoughts or habits. In the moment, these thoughts can take over but they will pass. Eventually, the sense of urgency disappears. Even if you are enlightened, you will still suffer from habitual thinking which is contrary to the truth that you have discovered. For that enlightened person, to feel the momentary pang still occurs but eventually dissipates. 

There is a specific practice to remove this habitual thinking is called Vedantic contemplation. What is Vedantic contemplation? let us find out…

How Meditation Helps Curb Desire

तानि सर्वाणि संयम्य युक्त आसीत मत्पर: |

वशे हि यस्येन्द्रियाणि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 2.61||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 61 (In Sanskrit)

Having controlled all these (senses) one should sit in meditation, concentrating on me.One whose senses are restrained, his wisdom is firm. ||2.61||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 61 (English Translation)

To get past the momentary urge of desire, by withdrawing the six senses you can remain engaged specifically in meditation by being focused on oneself or the inner divinity.

A newly enlightened person can withdraw the mind and senses to overcome desire. When you are focused on the inner divinity, you are focused on the true source of contentment and peace. To the extent that you are focused on this inner fullness, desires become trivial.

Shri Krishna is referring to Vedantic contemplated, describing it as meditating on his presence within you or on your inner divinity, the true source of peace and contentment.

When that person brings the mind under control through meditation, that person’s wisdom is firm.

How Can the Cycle of Desire Be Broken?

ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंस: सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते |

सङ्गात्सञ्जायते काम: कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते || 2.62||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 62 (In Sanskrit)

For a person dwelling on objects, attachment to them arises. From attachment, desire is born. From desire, anger arises. ||2.62||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 62 (English Translation)

There is a series of eight errors that carries you into a bath of adharma because of the mind’s capacity to be hijacked by raga and dvesha. Before explaining how to break free from the cycle, we will first look at the steps of desire.

Imagine a person who sees a commercial for an expensive car. Every time he turns on the TV he sees another commercial advertising this object. When he is constantly exposed to these desires, attachment arises. When you look upon that external thing as being essential for wellbeing, that is attachment or emotional dependence. That’s what advertising is about—they attempt to instill in you a deep desire.

The step prior to desire is to be exposed to that object repeatedly, the second step is attachment. Attachment is the conclusion that a specific object is important for your wellbeing. In the third step, desire arises from that attachment.

Attachment and desire are deeply connected. Attachment is considered something essential for your welcome, whereas desire is wanting that object.

In the next step, anger arises from that desire. Anger is obstructed desire that prevents you from fulfilling your desire. 

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम: |

स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || 2.63||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 63 (In Sanskrit)

From anger, delusion comes. Due to delusion, values are forgotten. When values are forgotten, the intellect is destroyed. When the intellect is destroyed, one is lost. ||2.63||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 63 (English Translation)

Obsession might ensue if you are constantly thinking about how you can get this object. A delusion is a form of being obsessed, and with it comes scheming on how to obtain the object.

What happens next is loss. You do not lose your memory due to this delusion, but smriti (memory) is a word that describes your assimilated values. You have a value for honesty, for following dharma, etc. that you hold in your mind and are deeply ingrained in you that you receive from your parents and other authority figures. These deeply ingrained values are called smriti.

Due to this obsession, your values are abandoned. When you are obsessed with something, you can be led to do something that you know is wrong. That’s the power of delusion. 

Due to this obsession and delusion, that value for honesty and not stealing can be overwhelmed. 

Your intellect then disappears after your values have been overwhelmed. You can no longer discern what is right and what is wrong.

Your intellect is supposed to be used to keep you on the path of dharma, but instead, that intellect is used to take you off the path of dharma. You’re scheming ways to obtain this object of desire. 

Finally, when your intellect is engaged in adharmic activities, the person is destroyed. 

So, how do we break the sequence? 

One level of distortion sweeps you along to the next step. There is an inevitability and you are helpless swept along from one phase to another. If you could avoid being exposed to the object of desire, then there wouldn’t be an issue. Hypocrisy is associated with withdrawing from the world, but you still have the desires in your heart. You artificially withdraw from the world by living in a cave. Trying to avoid being exposed to objects of desire is not a real solution. The problem is sangha (attachment). That is where the problem can be addressed. 

You avoid getting attached by knowing that the object of desire is not essential for wellbeing. The true source of peace and contentment comes from within. That is with you regardless of whether you have said object or not. That recognition is the solution to the problem of attachment.

What the Gita Teaches Us

Eight steps can illustrate how our mind gets hijacked from desire. The first step is dwelling on an object of pleasure, which leads to attachment. From that attachment comes desire. From desire, comes anger. Anger leads to obsession. Delusion leads to abandoned values. Intellect is destroyed. Finally, one is lost. With this knowledge, one can understand how desire works to control us. Since desire cannot be avoided, the solution lies in recognizing that contentment already exists within, and obtaining an object of desire does not change one’s happiness.