The Power of Desire: Transmuting Material Entanglements with the Deeper Yearning of the Soul
Excerpts from a talk at 2007 Convocation by Brother Atmananda
Self-awareness — a Pillar of Yoga
When God decided to have a creation, he projected a part of himself as us and pulled down the curtain of maya over the soul. The soul greatly craves a return to its perfection. There is a constant insatiable longing for God manifested by the ego though the material plane. This desire for perfection expressed through the ego powers our relationship to creation. For if we want anything, be it positive or negative, that can only be had on this earth, we will be back.
One definition of insanity is doing what does not work repeatedly without learning or changing.
With this definition, we are all insane. The earth is an insane asylum housing a bunch of crazy souls looking for happiness in all the wrong places. We slipped and fell into the basement of creation. We frantically look for the light switch and the key to the locked door but we can’t get out. The treatment for this insanity is to redirect our quest for fulfillment by channeling energy from the world to the spine so the soul can get to perfection by reconnecting to its source.
An Avatar is a perfect soul who comes to help. Our avatar has brought these teachings to help us get out of the basement. His is an act of pure love, as he does not need to be here. He has no other reason to be here but to help us. To do the job, he assumes many of the burdens of the human experience. For some he is the guru; for others, a teacher. He is a world Avatar. He is indeed one of the great ones.
God does not mind your faults. He minds your indifference. This is of major importance. It speaks to yearning for God. The most powerful thing you can do is yearn for God.
There are two minds: manas and buddhi.
Manas mind works with the senses and records brilliantly but that is all it does.
Buddhi mind does not stem from the senses but from higher discrimination of what is truth and right. Buddhi mind develops as we awaken.
Material desire is a very powerful opponent. It works through the complex apparatus of the body, senses, and instruments of the body. Our identification with the body is great. This is a difficult fight, an all out war. No one gets out alive! King Material Desire, our most powerful enemy, pulls us away from God towards material creation.
The second bad boy in town is anger. Material desire says, “I want this, I want that.” Anger is when we don’t get it. King Material Desire and anger are the drivers that make us go around in circles, keeping us stuck, here. What to do?
Through pranayama Kriya yoga, bring consciousness and attention to the higher centers in the spine and brain. The more we do this and stay there, the quicker we can get out of our entanglements.
We need help in managing our desires as they are deeply embedded in there and tough to get out. Here are some tips.
First, lack of awareness keeps us stuck. Self-awareness is a pillar of yoga. Remember this sequence:
thought → emotion → action
This is the sequence to keep in mind. These are the puppets of desire, the source of much of our trouble. And it happens very quickly, so quickly that we often don’t see it and therefore can’t catch it before it’s too late. Yogis break this cycle through introspection or self-awareness, meditation, and self-restraint.
In the beginning, when we first start to meditate, we think meditation is causing us to be restless. No. We are just seeing what is already there. Then we get into the mind to see what is actually going on in there. This can be disturbing and humbling. But this is introspection, a necessary step on the road forward, for we must know the extent and nature of the problem.
When we come out of meditation and step on to the stage in the show of life, we need two great qualities: self-restraint and patience.
Self-restraint is one of the 26 soul qualities that make man God-like. Read about these qualities (p. 955 Bhagavad Gita) It may seem daunting but it isn’t if you understand: these are an army of spiritual qualities you can use to wage your battle.
Self-restraint is the power to stay away from what is harmful. Stopping the sequence of thought and feeling before we take action is a crucial step in spiritual evolution. Self-restraint is waiting, holding on. Count ten seconds before you are carried along the tide of thought, feeling, desire, and action. It happens fast. We need to deconstruct the sequence by watching ourselves and stopping it before it happens. There is a little gap that we can use to slow down and finally stop the sequence through choice before it takes us out.
Suppression is holding on to a desire and not doing it. This is torture and not good for us. Self-restraint is part of transmutation.
With introspection and analysis, we can see the roots of our desires, where they come from. Then we can change and transform.
People lay the blame for their troubles on God. This is delusion. God laid himself out and there are options. We choose. We did this to ourselves. God doesn’t punish or reward.
As a result of poor choices, we develop habits and inclinations but this is not who we are. The ego, body, conflicts, and drama are not here for identification but for transformation. We need introspection to become aware of the trend of our thoughts but do not focus on flaws. Rather, for transformation, construct and cultivate the polar opposite good qualities. Our job is to do our best at this each day. That is all we have to do. The workings of the Divine Law will then take us forward.
The second great quality we need is patience. Spiritual progress does not come in a rush. It is very subtle and difficult to measure. As we do the work, we are building an invisible spiritual infrastructure that will help us when the wind blows. Think of the roots of a tree going deeper and deeper into the soil with multiple branches spreading down and in. With these roots, no wind can blow that tree over.
Whatever you are going through is temporary. Maya makes us feel like it will never end. We feel demoralized and hopeless. No. All of us, even if there are great meditations, go through difficult times and dry spells. We all have this because it is necessary. Why? There are certain types of karma that will not fall off unless we go through tough spots with perseverance. Some people give up and leave the path when they experience these rough times. This is tragic. Even though you don’t feel good, you are burning off the karma. During difficult times, you may feel doubt. But later you will see why you needed to go through this. You will see what you built as a result. And you will see that you couldn’t have arrived where you are today without that. There will be brilliant times and dark times, like 2 sides of the same hand. Both are crucial and necessary. Knowing this will make it easier to surrender to the difficult times. Surrender is also easier when you remember you have a Divine Friend, a Divine guru helping. God is there. If he went away, we would disappear as He creates and sustains every atom in creation.
When the mind is pulled toward the world, hold on to the reins and bring it back. Do not get angry. Be patient and kind. The unruly mind and restless body are like children running off. Bring them back with kindly patience. This will speed your evolution.
Sister Gyanamata said all you need is three things:
2. God is the Doer
3. Unruffled patience
Great ones can hold steady to their course. If you stay the course, and if it is right for you to have, it will come.
I went to visit the place where St. Theresa of Avila lived and worked. She was a great saint. This was a very powerful place. I felt it. St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross were friends. When speaking to each other, both levitated. St. Theresa had to hold on to the gate in order not to rise up too high. An affirmation from St. Theresa:
Let nothing upset you
Let nothing frighten you
God alone is changeless
Patience attains the goal
Who has God lacks nothing
God alone fulfills all of our needs
Gratitude helps combat desires. Be grateful for what you have that is good instead of looking for what you want next. There is always something to be grateful for.
Sometimes God fulfills your desires and when he doesn’t, it is because something better is coming. Cultivate trust. He knows. Repeatedly you’ll see that He knows better than we do. Your legitimate desires will be fulfilled but let Him determine the schedule. For example, you may be building a business. You put a lot of hard work into it without results. It is natural to get frustrated. But get quiet and know His timing rules all. There are innumerable details and circumstances that are at play and out of your control. Control is a major part of delusion. To go there is to suffer. Remember a core principle of the Bhagavad Gita is to act without attachment to results. Again, your legitimate desires will be fulfilled on his schedule or something better is coming.
Transmuting material desire to the desire for God
Transmuting material desire to the desire for God involves redirecting the flow of prana. We live in exile from ourselves and we are unhappy. But once we know real happiness is in God inside, we are free to do the work. Then we can practice Kriya with will power and concentration to direct energy and consciousness to the Christ Consciousness Center. This assumes you are past the point of ambivalence and fear of giving up your toys. Kriya yoga powerfully works on that energy that is deeply rooted in the lower charkas and difficult to move. So we need to do it with will power and intensity.
If you have a particular desire, introspect. Get down there and see what it is that you really want and why. The desire for a beautiful house may be a reflection of our desire for the beauty of God. The desire for romantic sex is from maya making us feel separate and alone. It reflects our desire to unite with God, to realize our inextricable connection to all people and creation.
Analyze your material desires. Do you see how they will not give you what you want but that transmutation of those desires to God union will? Transmutation of body consciousness to Cosmic Consciousness is rebirth, the second coming, the resurrection of Christ Consciousness within.
Kriya yoga takes energy from the senses to its home at the Source. Turn the car around and go home. We got here through the descent of the soul with energy going down the spinal cord and out. Home is in and up the cord.
Prayer, chanting, and the techniques are not meditation.
Meditation starts with stillness.
So once you finish the techniques, don’t get up.
Let the peace absorb into every cell in your body. Don’t spill the milk.
These notes are not an official publication of SRF. They were taken by the devotees during talks given by the monks and nuns. Please be aware that there is a degree of human error involved in taking and transcribing notes.