It is often said that the main cause of suffering is desire, or, as Buddha said, “Desire is the root cause of all evil.” However, we should first understand the types of desires before clearly understanding what Buddha meant.
Desires are of two types. One, which give pain and bind us to the world, and the others that give us joy and liberate us. Three types of desires give pain, sorrow and disappointment and three types of desires give joy, happiness and salvation.
Desires that give pain and sorrow:
Desire to acquire more and more — wealth, name, fame, position, status, reputation, richness, self-respect, etc. The nature of these desires is such that when they get fulfilled, they give birth to new desires which, if not fulfilled, cause tremendous disappointment. One is never satisfied with what one has and never feels contentment. Hence one is always feeling pain, sorrow, struggle, competition and comparison.
Desire to be free from pain, sorrow, adverse situations, bad luck and troubles and to be free from people who give pain and sorrow. It is a foregone conclusion that pain, sorrow, personal and professional losses will keep occurring in our lives. So to desire a painless life will never get fulfilled, and this will further cause dejection and sorrow.
Desire to always get favourable results from all efforts, actions, reactions, activities, expectations, karmas, etc. Here we forget that a situation is not just the result of our desire, but also our karma and others’ desires towards us. So regardless of how strongly we desire a favourable result, there is no guarantee of the same.
As there is no rule in this creation that whatever we desire will get fulfilled, that too within our time frame and the way we want, so there is always a component of disappointment and sorrow in such desires.
Desires that give joy, peace, happiness and salvation:
Desire to be desireless: One is content with what one has and does not desire to acquire anything else. In fact, here one is grateful to God for whatever he has given and uses the available resources in helping others, uplifting the downtrodden, serving poor and aged, promoting and protecting nature, religious sentiments, etc.
Desire for everybody’s happiness, success, health, wealth, growth, prosperity and harmony. One does not like, even enemies, to suffer in any way and one is always in the mode of forgiving and seeking forgiveness. Prayers for everybody’s well being is the most important aspect of life in this desire (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu).
Desire for salvation, liberation and enlightenment — the desire to be free from the vicious clutches of karma and from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The desire to get moksha is considered to be the most ideal desire for a human being to have.
These three desires are godly and divine in nature, hence are the givers of peace, happiness and, eventually, liberation. When we desire for these three then even God helps us fulfil these desires. So, now, the choice is ours — what to desire and what not to desire!...