As I have mentioned often before, the two main ways to attain happiness and freedom, according to yoga, are practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya). We have to practice diligently to let go of our attachments to physical and mental patterns which are driven by our desires.
But is all desire bad? Can there be some good desires?
The goal of yoga is self-realization. As Swami Rama, my yoga teacher explains, in Pandit Rajmani’s book, Touched By Fire, “The great sage Patanjali tells us that you have a body but you are not your body; you have a mind, but you are not the mind. Both body and mind are given to you so that you can complete the journey of life, reach your destination, and recognize your blissful self.”
What is our blissful self? It is our union with God, our core self. As many religions call it, our blissful destination is salvation.
As Swamiji continues: “Yoga offers us the tools and means for making the best use of body, mind, sense, and achieving that which the soul could not have achieved without interacting with this beautiful creation.”
Desiring, then, to do the will of the divine (the will of God) is a good desire. Desiring to imitate the divine is a good desire. Desiring to be one with God is a good desire. Desiring to do anything that images the Universal Consciousness, the Source of Life, is a wonderful thing to want. My desire for anything that can be called godly, like love, truth, kindness, compassion, unity, oneness, joy, peace, patience, is honoring and praising the presence of God and bringing me closer to salvation (as religions would say).
We could even say that the way to salvation is to be fully alive with the desire to give to others, the desire to understand others, the desire to serve others, the desire to forgive others, the desire to absorb one’s self deeply in the human condition and human pursuit of truth. Salvation could mean being fully alive with being human. Alleluia!
So, when it comes to people in the Yoga Tradition saying that we should eliminate our desires in order to achieve happiness, we need to distinguish between the desires that bring us closer to our human essence, the divine within, and those that bring us closer to our desires for security, pleasure and power, our animal nature. Yoga teaches us these discrimination skills.
Thank God for the opportunity to practice Yoga!
Thank God for being born human! Only humans can become yogis!
Thank God for the desire to learn Yoga!