Recently a young man asked us, “Why do we do things that we know will make us unhappy, even when we don’t really want to do them?” This is a universal dilemma, and one that brings so much suffering into life!
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks this same question on behalf of all of us to his guru, Krishna: “What is it that draws me, even against my will, into delusion? What is that force?”
And Krishna replies, “It is the power of desire and anger, impelled by rajo guna.”
According to the teachings of India, there are three gunas, or qualities, that permeate all creation. The first is tamo guna, the downward-pulling energy that darkens our consciousness and binds us to such states as violence, lust, and greed.
Next is rajo guna, which Krishna mentioned in his answer: It is the activating quality that keeps us forever restless and attached to finding happiness outwardly through the mind and senses.
Finally there is sattwa guna, the elevating energy that leads us towards the search for truth and lasting inner happiness.
Rajo guna keeps us in a state of perpetual discontent and awakens desires. When these are frustrated, as inevitably they often will be, we become angry. Thus rajo guna activates both desire and anger, the twin enemies of true peace and happiness.
What can we do to overcome uninvited desires born of restlessness?
1) Be vigilant and watch the thoughts that drift through your mind before they build to become deep-seated desires. For example, you might think: “What a pretty car. I like that car. I Want that car. I NEED that car. But I CAN’T AFFORD THAT CAR. How frustrated I am!”
2) Counter little desires with will power and self-discipline: “That’s a nice car, but the one I have is just fine, and it’s all paid for. How happy I am!”
3) Simplify your life and get rid of “unnecessary necessities,” as Master called them. When we can live our life in uncluttered contentment, we begin to tune in to sattwa guna and to enjoy inner peace.
4) Perform all your daily tasks with attention and concentration. Our duties can be the best opportunities to train our mind to become one-pointed. Studies of brain activity show that happiness and concentration are closely aligned.
5) Meditate and energetically oppose restless tendencies. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows that this is no easy task, but it is the key to success and happiness. By concentrating at the spiritual eye, we can burn up the seeds of desires before they begin to trouble us.
All of these are ways to take control of your life and overcome desires. As Sri Yukteswar, Yoganandaji’s guru, said, “The forceful activating impulse of wrong desire is the greatest enemy to the happiness of man. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control; see that the frogs of weakness don’t kick you around.”