Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Is desire a sin?

( Adapted from Swami Paramarthananda's talk)

Lord Krishna advises Arjuna in Gita (3-37):

काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः। (Kaama esha krodha esha rajoguna samudbhava)
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम्।। (Mahaashano mahaapaapmaa viddhyenam iha vairinam)

It is desire, it is anger born of the quality of Rajas, all-sinful and all-devouring; know this to be the enemy here (in this world).

The same Lord also tells Arjuna in Gita (7-11):
धर्माविरुद्धो भूतेषु कामोऽस्मि भरतर्षभ।।(Dharmaaviruddho bhooteshu kaamo’smi bharatarshabha)
I am the desire unopposed to Dharma, O Arjuna!

Lord Krishna, who conemns desire as all- sinful in the first instance, divinises it in the second instance naming it as Himself.  If we compare the two carefully we notice that the qualifying adjective ‘unopposed to Dharma’ in the second instance causes this change in view.  When desire has its roots in selfish passions and egocentric lusts it is inimical and ruinous, while desires which are Dharmic, selfless, in service to community and in spread of happiness to others, it is an expression of divine grace. So what is condemned in the scriptures are adharmic, inappropriate and abnormal desires while legitimate desires are glorified or recommended.

In scriptures, power of desire is called icha sakthi. Icha sakthi along with Jnana sakthi, power of knowledge, and Kriya sakthi, power of action that complement each other, form the powers of Devi Parvathi. Icha sakthi is the driving force behind the other two forces and plays an important part in the areas of knowledge and action. Desire, kama, is glorified as a Purushartha along with Artha, Dharma and Moksha. In Karma kanda of Vedas we have various Yajnas prescribed for fulfillment of desires, as for progeny, prosperity and health. Purva Mimamsa sutras start with the sutra “Athatho Dharma jijnasa” meaning “Now therefore develop a desire to know Dharma” and Brahma sutras begin with “Athatho Brahma jijnasa” meaning “Now therefore develop a desire to know Brahman”.  So it is only the abnormal, adharmic desire (kama) that is classified as a sin and as an internal enemy along with krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), madha (arrogance) and matsarya (jealousy).  Swami Paramarthananda remarks that the desire must be appropriate, balanced and clean to qualify for being termed normal, healthy desire which is a blessing and not a sin.  Let us see them one by one. 

To be termed appropriate the desire must not violate moral or ethical standards. Some of the desires instinctively arise, some are deliberately cultivated and some are of purva janmavasana (arising out of previous birth).  Deliberately cultivated desires on which one has control, must conform to Dharma.  The vasana-generated desires on which one has no control should be filtered and spurned, wherever they do not conform to Dharma. By leading a moral, ethical life and by associating with Satsangh, and by keeping a watchful eye on one’s thoughts, arresting and abandoning the ones that are negative and unhealthy, instinctive desires can be ensured to be healthy and positive.

Balance in desires means that the desire for acquisition should be matched by a desire for contribution.  While desire for acquisition comes naturally, desire for giving has to be cultivated.  All types of acquisition in terms of wealth or knowledge must be matched by sharing with others. Scriptures prescribe Panchamaha yajna as means to discharge the debt to the five layers of cosmic infrastructure through which Lord provides for one’s well being and growth. The five areas of contributions are:

1)    Nature, embodied as five elements, Pancha bhuthas. Lord is worshipped as one whose manifestation is five elements -------- Deva yajna

2)    All living beings in the form of flora and fauna -------Bhutha yajna

3)    The sociey consisting of fellow human beings ------ Manushya yajna
4)    Teachers, educational institutions (knowledge infrastructure)-----Brahma yajna
5)     Family, important contributor of emotional health------Pitru yajna
Through these, one’s Artha, Kama Purusharthas are balanced with Dharma, Moksha Purusharthas ensuring a balance between material goals and spiritual pursuits. 

The desires must be clean in that toxic byproducts like anger, jealousy, fear and anxiety are not generated in the pursuit of four purusharthas.

Appropriate, balanced clean desires without toxic byproducts, avoiding abnormal and unethical desires are indeed a blessing and need not be shunned as sin.




1 comment:

  1. Great analysis. ஆசை அறுமின், ஆசை அறுமின், ஈசனோடாயினும் ஆசை அறுமின்” easy to say but very difficult to practice!!!!! Thanks