Desire is not to be killed, suppressed or destroyed, nor is it meant to be indulged in senselessly. Desire is the heartbeat of life and the key to mastering life is the understanding of desire. This understanding, which is born out of relentless observation of it’s structure and movement, is the road to freedom and Self-realization.
In the excerpt below on the mastery of life and desire, J. Krishnamurti goes into this most important topic and discusses the complexities of desire and how it relates to enlightenment and liberation. Below the excerpt I highlight and discuss some of his key points and ideas.
J. Krishnamurti on Mastering Life and Desire:
Now desire, contrary to general belief, is the most precious possession of man. It is the eternal flame of life; it is life itself. When its nature and functions are not understood, however, it becomes cruel, tyrannical, bestial, stupid. Therefore your business is not to kill desire as most spiritual people in the world are trying to do, but to understand it. If you kill your desire, you are like the withered branch of a lovely tree. Desire must keep growing and find out its true meaning through conflict and friction. Only by the continuance of the conflict can understanding come. This is what most people do not see. As soon as the conflict comes, and the sorrow born of conflict, they at once seek comfort. Comfort, in its turn, breeds fear. Fear leads to imitation and the sheltering behind established tradition. From this come rigid systems of morality, laying down what is spiritual and what is not spiritual, what is the religious life and what is not the religious life. It is the fear of life which produces guides, teachers, gurus, churches, religions. Please, I know.
None of these things are going to satisfy a mind which is really enquiring, which is really in revolt. As soon as you fear, you have the desire to conform, to listen to everybody, to become a machine, a type. And all this is but contraction, and contraction is slow death. It is not in this way that desire can ever fulfil itself. Growth can only come by the liberation of desire, and liberation here means freeing it from all fear, and so from the cruelty and exploitation which results from the quest of comfort, which is the refuge of fear. And this, in its turn, can only come about through the wearing down of the egotism in desire by contact with life itself. Only in this way can the reality be reached which is the true consummation of desire. And so, truly to grow is to learn to love more and more, to think more and more impersonally, through experience.
Desire, freed from its limitations and from the illusion of fear, becomes joy, which is but the true poise of reason and love. From being at first personal, limited, anxious, clinging, it grows by suffering till it becomes all-inclusive, till it is as the sunset which gives and does not ask anything in return. In the same way, by continual experience, by choosing, by assimilating and rejecting, thought becomes more and more impersonal. When both thought and desire are purified, then we get the perfect balance and harmony between the two, which is the fulfilment of life and which we speak of as intuition. Such purified life is the highest reality, and I say that every man and woman must sooner or later attain to it. It is not reserved for the few, because life is not the possession of the few. It is that which is struggling for realization in every human being, and the path to realization is the same in all cases. It is by struggle, effort, choice and conflict.
Now this highest reality is something which I assert that I have attained. For me, it is not a theological concept. It is my own life-experience, definite, real, concrete. I can, therefore, speak of what is necessary for its achievement, and I say that the first thing is the recognizing exactly what desire must become in order to fulfil itself, and then to discipline oneself so that at every moment, one is watching one’s own desires, and guiding them towards that all-inclusiveness of impersonal love and thought which must be their true consummation. When you have established the discipline of this constant awareness, this constant watchfulness upon all that you think and feel and do, then life ceases to be the tyrannical, tedious, confusing thing that it is for most of us, and becomes but a series of opportunities for growing towards that perfect fulfillment.
The goal of life is, therefore, not something far off, to be attained only in the distant future, but it is to be realized moment by moment in that Now which is all eternity. In such realization every moment controls the future; by what you are now, you make yourself the master of tomorrow. To understand life and to live it with understanding you must make yourself free of all the illusions which desire throws up in its efforts to grow. And this means that you must be free of fear, for all such illusions are born of fear. Once you have attained to fearlessness, then you will understand clearly what desire is really seeking, and how it may attain its end. The man who is seeking happiness, and understands what he is seeking, must have no divorce between his desires and his actions. Knowing what desire really wants, he will translate this into daily action. In other words, all his actions will show forth that poise of reason and of love, which is desire’s true goal because it is the liberation of life.
Mastering Life, Mastering Desire Analysis
1. Selfishness to Love:
One of the key points Krishnamurti is making above is the movement of desire from egotistical and self-obsessive to loving and all inclusive. Essentially he is asserting that it is the diminishing of constant self-interest, which ordinary desire is saturated with, accomplished through the act of awareness and discernment, which leads to a life full of joy, love and clarity.
So as much as possible refrain from falling prey and feeding desires that are exclusively self promoting and instead nurture a holistic view of humanity and be compassionate, loving and peaceful.
2. Constant Self Awareness:
To bring about this great change and master your life, you need to be constantly watching the movement of your mind and the ceaseless activity of desire from moment to moment. This is the way forward. Such observation diminishes the grasp which the egotistical mind has over you and frees you from the constant pattern of self-concern.
This demand is indeed great, for the mind is not easily watched and understanding the motivation behind all you do, think and feel is not trivial. But we are speaking of the highest goal of humanity here, so it ought not to be easy. Rise to the challenge, you have what it takes to go all the way.
3. Be Fearless:
As Krishnamurti points out, the mastery of desire and subsequent mastery of life begins with being fearless. Being afraid leads to constant escaping from the present and escaping is a self-isolating, ego strengthening activity. In order for desire to move towards love, such endless self-concern has to wither away. Fear promotes the endless search for self-security, while fearlessness allows you to move in a different direction altogether.
Fearlessness allows you to stand apart and examine what is happening dispassionately and impersonally, without needing to seek comfort or security. This examining, inquiring, watching is what leads to the understanding of desire and “what is”. Not trying to change “what is” into what “should be”, as per the goals and ideals put forth by the fearful mind, is the key to finding your True Self. This state of witnessing and observation, leads to intelligence and opens the door to the beyond.