Suppose someone riding a cycle pedals too fast and falls into a ditch. On getting up, they decide that pedaling caused their accident and refuse to pedal anymore. If cycling was their only means of locomotion, their misdiagnosis would leave them immobilized.
If we liken our life-journey to a cycle ride, then our desires are like our pedals. Sometimes, desires get us into a lot of trouble, as seen most graphically in addicts. To a lesser extent, we all can think of times when our desires led us into some metaphorical ditch.
If desires lead us into trouble, should we just get rid of all desires? Not really. Absence of desires doesn’t ensure well-being; far from it, it may even erode well-being. People who lack desire are prone to depression. Here’s how.
Without desire, we lose the impetus to do anything physically. Worse still, we also lose the impetus to choose among the many thoughts going on in our mind. And when we do nothing, things around us naturally deteriorate. That gives our mind further justification to think negatively, till we end up feeling depressed. Such self-defeating thinking, characterized by moroseness, typifies ignorance (Bhagavad-gita 18.35).
Pedaling needs to be regulated and directed, not stopped — and the same applies to desiring. Gita wisdom inspires us to direct our desires constructively by explaining how our life has profound meaning and value. And the Gita provides empowering spiritual practices that can enable us to control our desires, not be controlled by them. With our desires thus directed and regulated, we all can contribute toward creating a better future for ourselves and for our world at large.
Dominance by desires can get us addicted, but the absence of desires can leave us depressed — learn to direct and regulate desires.
May 15, 2022
Sunanda Das, Temple of the Vedic Planetarium