Ideals and Values/Kāma (Desire) The First Enemy
- 1 What is Kāma? Why is it important to control Kāma?
- 2 The Eight Forms of Desire:
- 3 Can our Desires ever End?
- 4 Are all Desires Bad?
- 5 Desires are Difficult to Control, so be Vigilant at all Times.
- 6 How can we control our Desires?
What is Kāma? Why is it important to control Kāma?
Sometimes transliterated as: Ideals and Values/Kama (Desire) The First Enemy, Ideals and Values/KAma (Desire) The First Enemy, Ideals and Values/Kaama (Desire) The First Enemy
Desire means doing any action mentally, verbally, or physically to make our sense organs ‘happy’ or satisfied.
Desire is the most dangerous of the six enemies. We learned about the 8 step ladder of downfall earlier, and saw that desire appears pretty early on in that list. In fact, Krishna says that controlling our desires is the key to save ourselves from ruin.
Lord Krishna says in the very next verse after describing the ladder of fall (Gita 2.64):
“But a self-controlled man, moving among objects (of enjoyment), with his senses under restraint, and free from both attraction and repulsion (from sense objects), attains peace.” Gita 2.64
In other words, Lord Krishna stresses the importance of controlling our senses if we do not want to go down the ladder of fall.
Uncontrolled desires can bring us into conflict with others, including our own near and dear ones. The following story is given in the Mahābhārata to illustrate how two powerful brothers killed each other because they both desired to marry the same beautiful woman.
Story: Sunda and Upasunda
Sunda and Upasunda were two Asura chiefs born in the dynasty of Hiranyakashipu. The two brothers loved each other a lot, and never fought with each other. One day, they decided to worship Bhagavan Brahmā and obtain the boon of immortality.
They went to the Vindhya mountains in central India and meditated for thousands of years. At last, pleased with their devotion, Bhagavan Brahmā appeared to them and offered them a boon. Both of them asked, “May we become great warriors who know how to yield all kinds of weapons, and may we become immortal.” Bhagavan Brahmā refused to grant them the last part of their desire – immortality, because everyone who is born must die one day. Therefore, the brothers asked, “May we die only at each others’ hands, and may no one else be able to kill us.” Bhagavan agreed.
Sunda and Upasunda now became very powerful, and arrogant. They attacked the Devas and defeated them. They started terrorizing all other creatures. Tired of their atrocities, the Devas approached Brahmā and requested him to do something so as to reign the two brothers. He asked Deva Vishvakarma, the divine architect, to fashion the most beautiful woman, who was then named Tilottamā. Brahmā then asked her to pay a visit to the two brothers, and cause them to fight each other.
https://sp.yimg.com/ib/th?id=H.5004007468499308&pid=15.1 Tilottama went to a lake in the Vindhya mountains, where the two brothers were partying with their friends. When they saw the beautiful lady, they both lost their hearts to her. They rushed to her at the same time, caught hold of her one arm each and asked her to marry them. Tilottamā replied, “I can marry only one of you. Why don’t you decide amongst yourselves which of you two will marry me?”
Of course, both the brothers wanted to marry her. Neither was willing to let go her so that the other could marry her. Heated discussion gave way to arguments, and before long, the two brothers started attacking each other with weapons. Tilottamā looked at them with glee. Eventually, the otherwise invincible brothers killed each other. In a nutshell, it was the lust for a woman that drove the brothers, who could not have been killed by anyone else, and were the mightiest beings in the universe, to die.
With the brothers dead, Tilottamā went to heaven, where she was received with honors. Indra regained his throne of heaven and there was peace on the earth again as well.
The Eight Forms of Desire:
There are eight main forms of desires – one each for the 5 organs of perception, 2 related to our mind, and the 8th related to our body.
1. Words: Words we hear and read. And sounds we hear (for example, music) give us pleasure; this is happiness through words.
2. Touch: Meeting friends and family, hot and cold, soft and hard touch gives us feeling of happiness through the sense of touch.
3. Form: Different forms of the world like beautiful buildings, oceans, mountains, forests, watching TV, movies, games etc., give us pleasure. Such joy is the pleasure through forms.
4. Rasa: Sweetness, hot, sour etc., tastes give us pleasure gained from tasting with tongue.
5. Smell: Beautiful fragrance of flowers, perfumes etc., give us the pleasure gained through our sense of smell.
6. Māna (exaggerated self-respect): When someone or in some place, respect is shown to us, it gives pleasure to our ego.
7. Glory: When we hear glory of our name, we feel happy; this is happiness arising from glory.
8. Rest (being lazy): We feel happy physically not doing anything, being lazy and just chilling.
Can our Desires ever End?
The scriptures give a beautiful story to show how desires can never end if we keep fulfilling them.
Story: Emperor Yayāti gives up Enjoyment and Turns to Dharma and Moksha
File:Kāma (Desire) The First Enemy files/image004.jpgMany people say – “There is only one life. So let us enjoy. Who knows if there will be a tomorrow.” The scriptures narrate the story of Emperor Yayati who was devoted excessively to the pleasures of senses. Emperor Yayati had two wives and many sons. He loved to live a ‘good’ life, indulging in all kinds of pleasure. When he grew old, he was unable to indulge in such pleasures, but his mind still longed for them. So he asked his sons to exchange his youth for his father’s old age. The first three sons refused, and out of anger, he cursed them. The fourth son Puru was very obedient and he exchanged his youth for his father’s old age.
And then, Yayati lived through another youth and enjoyed pleasures of senses. When he grew old again, he realized that he was still not satisfied. Now Yayati felt very guilty that he had cursed his own sons, and deprived his own obedient son of his youth which had rightfully belonged to his son alone. And even after living a second youth, his desires for physical pleasures was not satisfied. He realized the folly of having deprived his own son of his youth, and then said the following famous verses quoted in several scriptures (Brahma Purāņa 10.40-46):
"He who withdraws within himself all pleasures like the tortoise that draws his limbs within itself is indeed a person who has attained the state of Yoga. Never does desire for pleasure subside by indulging in their enjoyment. Just as the fire blazes all the more when Ghee is poured into it, so also it increases at every indulgence.
If one were to possess all the grains of rice and barley on the earth, if one were to possess all the gold, if one were to become the master of all the cattle wealth on the earth or if one were to marry all women on the earth-- he will discover that even this is not sufficient to satiate his thirst.
That being so, one should not be deluded by these things. When one does not have any ill will towards any living being, whether in mind, in word, or in deed, then only does one attain Brahman.
When one is not afraid of others, when none is afraid of him, or when one does not like or dislike others too much, then alone one attains Brahman.
Happiness comes to a person who eschews greed and covetousness-- evils which can never be given up by the wicked, evils which do not become old even when one's own body becomes old and decrepit, evils which are like an ailment that comes to end only when the vital airs die out.
When a man becomes old, his hair become old, his teeth become old; but alas! Only the hope and greed for wealth and a prolonged life never grows old!
The happiness that supposedly arises from indulgence in pleasures and also the great happiness that one attains in heaven-- all these are not equal to even the 16th part of the happiness one attains when his greed is extinguished." Brahma Purāņa 10. 40-46
Yayati then decided to devote the remainder of his life to worship God, practice Yoga and understand the nature of the truth. And when he died, he went to heaven. This story shows how a blind pursuit of pleasures of the senses (tongue, eyes, ears etc.) makes us so selfish that we forget the welfare of even our closest friends and family. Therefore, we should realize that there are more important things in life – Dharma and God. These alone should be our more important goals of life. Sure, we should pursue Kama and Artha, but with the understanding that Dharma and Moksha are more important than these two.
Story: The Seventh Jar of Gold – A Parable of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Once, a royal barber said to his wife, “My dear wife, although I am the King’s personal barber, I want us to become rich. I want you to wear large gold necklaces and bracelets so that all the rich people of our town envy us. Let me go to the King today and ask him to raise my salary.”
As he was on his way to the palace, he decided to rest in the shade of a tree. Suddenly, a mysterious voice from the tree said to the barber, “So you want to become rich! Well, go back home now and you will find 7 jars of gold sitting in your own courtyard.” The barber was astonished to hear this voice come from nowhere. He rushed home to see that his wife stood surprised at the doorstep to tell him that some unknown person had just delivered seven large jars to their home.
“These jars have gold in them! We are rich now. Come, let us check the gold in these jars,” said the barber. They opened the first six jars and found them full to the brim with gold coins. But the seventh jar was only half full!
“Hmmm, it appears that the mysterious voice on the tree did not fulfill his promise. I think I will need to fill this seventh jar of gold myself.” He said to his wife, “Go and bring all your jewelry and all the gold we have in our home. Let us fill out this seventh jar.” The wife responded, “But what is the need to do that? Don’t we have 6-1/2 jars full already? These will last our family for generations! Moreover, if I have to sacrifice my necklaces and bracelets to fill the seventh jar, then people will think that we have become poorer!”
But the barber replied, “You just do not understand! We are just ½ a jar away from having seven full jars of gold. Yes, rich men’s wives wear huge gold bracelets, rings and necklaces, but they store even a larger quantity of their gold in jars like these.” So the wife returned with her ornaments, but the couple discovered that the jar was still half empty!
File:Kāma (Desire) The First Enemy files/image006.jpgNow the barber got irritated and said, “From today onwards, we have to cut down on our expenses, including how much we spend on our food. We should every single bit of money and buy gold with it to fill this seventh jar!” So, the couple started eating less, and with time they grew thinner and weaker. But still, the money saved by them on their food was not sufficient to buy them enough gold to fill out the seventh jar.
The barber then went to the king, and said, “Your majesty, inflation has caused everything to cost twice of what it was a few years back. I am requesting you to double your salary. Look, I cannot even buy enough food to feed myself and my wife!” The king took pity on the barber, looking at his condition, and doubled his salary.
But months passed and still, the barber and his wife could not buy enough gold with their higher savings to fill out the seventh jar. The jar just seemed to have no bottom, because no matter how much gold they put in it, it would just not fill up! After a few months, the barber now looked even more malnourished and the King thought that he had caught some incurable disease. He summoned the barber and asked him to tell the truth about the cause of his declining health. The barber narrated him the whole story and told him about the seventh jar that would just not get full, and was always half empty. The barber ended his sad story saying, “I think I lived a more happy life when I did not have even one jar of gold. Now I have 6-1/2 jars but it is that half empty seventh jar that has just made my life so miserable!”
The King laughed and said, “You fool! That seventh jar is the jar of desire! It will never get full. A person who cannot keep his desires under his control will never get satisfied even if all the gold, diamonds, land, food, clothes, cars, mansions, electronics etc. of the whole world are gifted to him!” The barber got his lesson, and decided that he did not want even one jar of gold. He went to that tree and shouted back, “Take back your jars. I do not want any of your gold.” The jars immediately disappeared from his home, and the barber then lived happily thereafter.
Are all Desires Bad?
There is a common misunderstanding that all desires are a cause of bondage. While it is true that one's desires are infinite in number and therefore can never be fulfilled, to conclude that desires are binding in nature is incorrect. One need not eliminate all desires to be free. In fact, all good actions too result from desires. Rishi Manu says very appropriately –
To be motivated by desire is not to be commended, but it is impossible in this world to be free from desire, for it is desire that prompts Vedic study and the performance of Vedic rites. Intention is the root of desire; intention is the wellspring of sacrifices; and intention triggers every religious observance and every rule on restraint – so the tradition declares. Nowhere in this world do we see any activity done by a man free from desire; for whatever at all that a man may do, it is the work of someone who desired it. By engaging in them properly, a man attains the world of the immortals and, in this world, obtains all his desires just as he had intended.” Manu 2.2-5
The key factor to evaluate is to see as to whether they are binding or non-binding. If one's happiness is dependent upon fulfilling desires, one is naturally unhappy as long as the desires are unfulfilled. Such desires are known as BINDING desires. On the other hand one whose happiness is not dependent upon fulfilling desires is said to entertain NONBINDING desires. It is only the binding desires that bring about the disappointment and sadness to the individual and needs to be addressed.
Moreover, without desire, one would not be able to act at all, since desire alone prompts action. One would not even be able to take one step if one did not have the desire or expectation to move forward. Even Lord Krishna desired that Arjuna understand as to his roles, responsibilities and duties but Lord Krishna's desires were unselfish and were not binding! Sri Krishna was at peace regardless of the outcome. It did not make any difference to his balanced mind whether his disciple Arjuna learnt or not. On the other hand Duryodhana had a binding desire to have the entire kingdom to him and also to destroy the Pāṇdavas. Those desires led him to undertake inappropriate and unethical actions including the war which resulted in his and all Kaurava's destruction.
Desires are Difficult to Control, so be Vigilant at all Times.
We often fail to control our desires because it is not easy to master our senses and our mind. Even many Rishis have failed, so it is even more difficult for ordinary human beings to be successful.
http://www.maransdog.net/TVG/Velukkudi_Sri_Krishnan-Srimadh_Bhagavadham-Podhigai_TV_Audio/img/saubhari.jpgThe Shrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa has the beautiful story of Rishi Saubhari, who decided to abandon the world and do his meditation inside water so that his mind never gets overcome by worldly attractions. But one day, he saw two fishes together and that sight was enough to make him deviate from his vow! He had decided not to marry but now seeing the fish, he suddenly had the desire to get married and have children, even though he was now a very old man.
This story shows how we must never lower our guard. Life is like a garden. To keep the garden beautiful and fresh at all times, we must constantly plant and trim our flowering plants. But at the same time, we can never ignore the weeds that can grow and choke our flowers. Therefore, we must tend our flowers and also pluck the weeds regularly. The human mind is very fertile, like a fertilized garden. To keep it pure and beautiful, we should constantly engage ourselves in good activities (abhyāsa) and also keep making a constant effort to steer clear of bad things (vairāgya). We can never lower our guard, because it takes just a moment for negative thoughts and desires to enter our minds.
How can we control our Desires?
There are two types of solutions by which we can control our desires – Temporary and Permanent. Temporary solutions help us overcome our desires immediately and for the time being, but they cannot prevent these desires from arising again in future. They are immediate cures and are more like cold medicines that treat the symptoms but cannot treat the underlying cause of the problem. Permanent solutions are more long term and take a longer time to implement, but they result in a long lasting solution to the problem of becoming a victim of uncontrolled desires.
Both these solutions should be used. If a patient is down with a severe flu, it is useless to argue with him that he must increase the resistance by taking more Vitamin C. The best temporary solution would be to give him a medicine that makes him comfortable by keeping the symptoms of flu (e.g. fever) under control. And when his flu goes away, he can start a long term healthy life-style so that his episodes of flue become rare and more infrequent.
Temporary Means to Control Desires:
- Get engaged in work immediately so that the mind does not wander off into other things. An empty mind is a devil’s workshop. Keeping it engaged in useful activity does not give the mind any scope to indulge in lust and other forms of desire. Work is considered a very effective tool to keep the mind busy in more constructive things in the scriptures –
O my mental sins, you praise non-praiseworthy things. I want you to leave me, go away from and get lost in deep forests and trees. My mind is engaged in domestic tasks and in dairy farming (therefore there is no place for you in my mind). Atharvaveda 6.45.1
- When desires arise in the mind, go and sit in the midst of several people. The presence of people around us makes us more conscious of what we are thinking, saying and doing, and acts as a detriment in falling victim of desires. This is the psychology that many stores use to reduce shop-lifting. For instance, having a greeter at the entrance of the store sometimes makes the shoppers aware that they are being watched, and therefore they become less likely to shop-lift.
- Reflect on the evil effects of pursuing your desires without any control (pratipaksha bhāvanā).
- Make a conscious effect to desist from fulfilling desires. If you want to eat your 2nd chocolate, tell your mind that you will not do it.
Permanent Means to Keep Desires under Control:
It is very important to change our lifestyle so that we can control our sense organs which want to be satisfied through fulfillment of desires. However, we should strike a balance, depending on where are in our life. For example, some of the means listed below cannot be followed by a family man, but are more suitable for ascetics. Manusmriti says somewhat the same, when it asks us to avoid the extremes:
“Without tormenting his body too much, one should try to control all his sense organs as well as the mind and thereby try to achieve all his purposes.” Manu 2.100
As explained above, we must never lower our guard, but should always engage ourselves in good activities and disengage ourselves from negative tendencies.
Some practical long term and permanent ways to overcome desire are:
- Japa: Chant the names of Bhagavān constantly. Reflection upon the meaning of the beautiful names of Bhagavān creates in us a desire to emulate His good qualities, and give up bad qualities. This reduces our desires for trivial things in life.
- Swādhyāya: Read spiritual scriptures like the Upanishads. When we study spiritual passages from our scriptures, we realize the foolishness of our desires. We understand how we hanker after things that really do not matter in life. Therefore, Rishis recommend that we should read our spiritual books regularly so that their teachings are ingrained in our mind. And if we do have a momentary lapse, specific passages are recommended for study. For example, a hymn that is recommended is Aghamarshana Sukta (Rigveda 10.190.1-3) whose third verse reads –
“The Lord created the sun, the moon, the heavens, the earth and the skies exactly the same way as he had created them in the previous creation.” Rigveda 10.190.3
Reading and reflecting on this passage makes us realize that whereas our desires give us merely momentary pleasures, the reality of the universe is timeless-ness. Therefore, it is foolish for us to hanker after pleasures which are really so trivial in the larger scheme of things.
- Ahāra-Shuddhi: Reduce the foods that generate cravings, like chocolate, alcohol, smoking, drugs, psychedelic music etc. Best is to avoid them completely.
- Yukta-Vihāra: Lead a balanced and a healthy life routine. Go to bed early and wake up early in the morning instead of going to sleep late and then getting up late the next morning. At dawn, there is least disturbance and the mind is fresh and full of pure thoughts. People whose lifestyle is such that they wake up late, and sleep late are more prone to falling prey to desires and other Shadripus because they are asleep at dawn when the mind is pure, and awake when the mind is more susceptible to evil thoughts. Have you ever heard of Mafia leader who goes to bed on time and wakes up early every day?
- Aranyāyana: Residence in the solitude of a forest or in solitude. Most of the temptations occur in cities and other places where there are opportunities and possibilities for different desires to get fulfilled. Therefore, many Rishis would leave their villages and cities and set up their hut in a forest so that they are away from all worldly temptations. But, this is not a possible solution for most of us who must live in cities and villages, in the middle of all the temptations. But distancing ourselves physically from temptations, if possible, can help us overcome many desires. For example, if you are very upset for having broken up with your boyfriend, and still have a continuous desire to meet him, the solution is to move to another town, or to another neighborhood which is far away from him. The physical distance itself will help you overcome the desire in the course of time, by making it practically difficult for you to meet him.
- Sattrāyana or Satsanga: Participating in an assembly of learned scholars. The company of spiritual persons and the learned distracts our mind away from petty and useless things and diverts our mental thoughts towards more meaningful things. We hear their good sermons and teachings, which makes our mind attracted towards better things. Very often, we do not believe that following the path of Dharma will result in greater happiness for us. But when we attend the company of holy men, we see for ourselves how they have benefited from their efforts. As a result, we then want to follow the path of Dharma ourselves. The story of Swami Dayanand Saraswati below shows how he was able to demonstrate the truth of our teachings to a skeptic.
- Anāshakāyana: Abiding in eternal things, i.e., disengage from impermanent things. Everything that we desire in this world will eventually perish, and we will be deprived of it one day. But there is one thing that can never leave us – our eternal soul, within which lives Bhagavān. The story of Tulsidas below illustrates this method of overcoming our desires.
- Ishta: Engage in tasks that benefit others. There is more joy in making others happy, than in pursuing selfish desires to please our senses. When we spend time in Sevā (voluntary work) and serve scholars, the poor, hungry or needy people; or even animals, we get a real sense of satisfaction and joy that we do not get by fulfilling the cravings of our senses.
- Datta: Give charity so that attachment to one’s possessions can be overcome. There is a proverb in Hindi, “If there is no bamboo, how can one play the flute?” Getting rid of something to which we are really attached eventually cures us of the intense desire that we have for that object.
- Bhakti: Direct all the desire of your senses towards Bhagavān. This is in fact a very easy way for overcoming desires. If your eyes desire to see only the objects of beauty, then see only the mūrti of Bhagavān. If you like to smell perfumes, then sit in a Puja where incense is being burned. If you like to listen to certain things, direct your hearing to devotional music. The story of Dhanurdāsa below shows how he directed his desire for beauty towards Bhagavān, the most beautiful one, and became a saint in the course of time.
Story: Goswami Tulsidas (1532-1623 CE) turns his desire towards Rāma:
tulsidasTulsidas had married a lady named Ratnavali. The couple settled down in the sacred city of Varanasi. For the first time in his life, he found someone who really loved him. Therefore, Tulsidas too loved his wife a lot and took very good care of her. One day, Tulsidas went to a Mandir to worship Lord Hanuman and in the meantime, Ratnavali got a message to visit her father’s home as soon as possible. When Tulsidas returned to his home, he found his wife missing. So, he decided to go to Ratnavali’s father’s home on the other side of the river. It was raining very heavily and there was a flood in the Ganga River, which flows through Varanasi. No boatman would take Tulsidas across the river because of the rain and floods. Tulsidas used a floating corpse on the river as a floater and crossed the river to go to the other bank. When he reached the home of Ratnavali’s father, he was in such a hurry that he did not want to take the stairs to her room upstairs. He saw a snake hanging from the window and thinking of it as a rope, he climbed up to her room.
When Ratnavali discovered the kind of risks her husband went through to meet her, she got very upset and said to him – “You are so much in love with me, and I am just a body made of bones and flesh. If you had loved Lord Rama even half as much as you love me, you would be a lot happier.”
These words of Ratnavali shocked Tulsidas. Soon, he abandoned his family life, and took to the worship of Lord Rama and became a Sadhu. He called his wife his Guru for having awakened him from his sleep so that he could see the Lord. Tulsidas then started worshipping Bhagavān Rama and Hanuman with great devotion.
He wrote many holy books like the Ramacharitmanas and stotras like the Hanuman Chalisa. Impressed by his devotion, Hanuman as well as Bhagavān Rama and Lakshman appeared in front of him. This was all the result of Tulsidas giving up his ‘Moha’ for the world, and for his wife.
Story: Dhanurdasa finds the Most Beautiful Eyes:
Shri Ramanujacharya once saw a strange incident – A man was walking backwards, while holding an umbrella over his girlfriend. The saint asked the man the reason for his inappropriate behavior. The man replied, “I worship beauty. Even while walking with this woman, I do not want to waste a single moment by not seeing the beauty of her lovely eyes.”
Ramanuja thought, “I wish that his infatuation for beauty were directed towards Vishnu, the most beautiful one! If that happens, this man would attain great spiritual heights.” Therefore, the saint said, “If you really worship beauty, then come today evening to the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam at the time of the arati (prayer ceremony done with lamps).”
Image DetailThe man was reluctant to go to the temple but his lady-love said, “Perhaps a misfortune would befall you if you do not obey the command of a holy man. So just go for today.” The man showed up at the required time in the temple, and he was overwhelmed when he saw the beauty of the lamps being waved around the Deity. He was moved by the beauty of the prayers being chanted by the devotees, and by the faith in their eyes.
His transformation occurred there and then. He gave up his wrong ways and became a true devotee of Vishnu. His name is recorded as Dhanurdasa in our tradition. Dhanurdasa married his girlfriend with the blessings of Ramanujacharya and they both settled down in the temple city of Srirangam, where the couple spent their lives in the worship of Bhagavān.
Indeed, the realization that Bhagavān is the most beautiful one had made Dhanurdasa lose all arrogance and other negative traits of his character, as well as his love for worldly beauty, that was no match for the beauty of Bhagavān.
Story: Swami Dayanand (1824-1883 CE) demonstrates the claim of the scriptures
http://aryasamajaburoad.org/english/home%20page/images/life%20of%20dayanand/ph41.jpg“One day Sardar Vikram Singh said to Swami Dayanand at Jullundhur, “I understand that the observance of Brahmacharya (celibacy) makes a man very powerful. Is it true?”
Swamiji replied that the importance of Brahmacharya as described in the scriptures cannot be questioned.
At this the Sardar remarked, “Swamiji, you too are a Brahmachārī. But you do not seem to possess extra-ordinary strength.” Swamiji made no reply.
At the end of the congregation when the Sardar got into his carriage, Swamiji went quietly and held fast one of the hind wheels of the carriage, which was drawn by two horses. The coachman whipped the horses several times, but the horses could not move. When the Sardar turned and looked back, Swamiji let go the carriage and said, “Sardarji, you must have got a concrete proof of the power of Brahmacharya.” The Sardar looked at Swamiji in utter bewilderment and said nothing.”
 Page 82 in Pathak (1973)