How to Have Fewer Desires


Having less desires is something which is emphasized by all great teachers of the world. But recently I have across so many law of attraction teachers who say that all our desires are achievable and we can ask universe for more and more. So I am torn between the idea of whether to desire something or not .

—navi, India


Dear Navi,

Paramhansa Yogananda suggested a wonderful prayer, “Lord, may I reason, may I will, may I act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity, to the right path in everything.” The emphasis here is to offer everything to God, including our desires so that we will be released from any karma that may result from our thoughts and actions.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells his disciple Arjuna, “He who forsakes desires for lesser enjoyments, unattached to sense objects, devoid of the consciousness of ‘me and mine,’ receives the lasting joy of God-peace.”
By releasing our lower desires the soul becomes free to return to its true home in God. The challenge we face is that even when a desire is fulfilled, it usually gives birth to more desires! It is also because the memory of the pleasure of that fulfillment, leads to the desire to experience that pleasure again.
It’s helpful to understand that the fulfillment of a desire doesn’t give us permanent joy. This is due to the reality that nothing can give us joy, because we are joy. Desires merely place conditions upon that joy that limit our ability to really enjoy anything. We place a condition on our happiness by saying, “I won’t be happy until I get such and such.” When we get it, we feel so good only because we’re relieved, and we affirm the happiness that we had already in the first place.
When we try to fulfill material desires, what usually happens is that we find that they just keep growing, but the opportunity for fulfilling them becomes less and less. The way out of this trap is to let go of those desires, and to learn to re-direct that energy up toward the brain. When we can do that, then we achieve true freedom. Freedom doesn’t mean doing just what we want to do, unless we understand that what we really want to do is become one with the Divine. We want to be in a divine flow. But if we allow ourselves to be drawn in to our egoic desires, we can never get into that flow, and never find what we really want in life.
Nayaswami Pranaba