How does desire arise? It comes in diverse ways. Sometimes it happens when you see an object. Let us take a familiar illustration. You go to an elderly aunt’s home and she asks, “What would you like to have — something hot or cold? What about a snack to go with it?”
“No, no, I am full. I just had my lunch. I don’t want anything.”
Your aunt refuses to take “No” for an answer. A slice of chocolate cake and delicious mango ice cream are placed in front of you. You see them and say, “Well, on second thought, anytime is dessert time!”
Now what changed your mind and created desire? It arose because you saw the object. Had you not seen it, there may not have been any yearning for it.
At times, desire arises when someone describes an object. For instance, your friend narrates the story of a fascinating movie. The longing to see it arises in your mind. You think, “What a wonderful movie. I should also go and see it soon.” A craving can arise after hearing about an object without seeing it. Even an aroma can create desire. These analogies are related to eating, but similar comparisons can be applied to other situations as well. Desires that trouble man rise from seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching — that is, they emanate from the senses.
Sometimes, while sitting alone the mind relives an earlier enjoyable experience. That very memory creates a desire to repeat it. “I must go again on a vacation to Europe. It was so wonderful.” Here, though the object is not in front of us, our memories have kindled a longing to repeat that joyful experience.
Perception by itself does not create desire. Yearning rises when the mind starts projecting beauty, joy and enjoyment on a particular object or experience. Sometimes, perception acts as an excuse or a trigger for the mind to fantasise. At other times, there is nothing; but the mind continues to crave objects and experiences.
Here, the mind has little to do with the present. It associates with and remembers pleasant past experiences, giving birth to desires.
The intellect has the ability to plan, think and improvise; it also knows how to improve upon previously experienced pleasures. The senses see objects in the present; the mind focuses on the past; and the intellect plans the future.
Therefore, desires arise by perception, remembrance, thinking and planning. When longing arises, it creates agitation, veils our faculty of thinking and discrimination. When desire arises, we must be vigilant; we should examine whether it is sattvik, rajasic or tamasic in nature; question its impact on the mind and ask whether it should be fulfilled or not.