My recent experience of desirelessness has shown me one or two things about the ego and desire.
Imagine that I’m a department store. One department is the Desire Department and another is the Ego Department.
The folks in Desire have an array of tasks to attend to.
They sort out what our desires are.
They arrange them in order of priority.
They outline the condition of fulfillment. A slice of pie. The whole pie. A pie to put in the freezer.
They coordinate with the Ego Dept. for the fulfillment of the desire.
They receive the desired result from the Ego Dept. and enjoy it.
The Ego Dept. defines the program to be followed to fulfill the desire.
It chooses the persona to be used, the lines it’ll speak, the gestures it’ll make, the facial expressions, etc.
It defines the limits within which the pitch will be made. Gentle, needy, aggressive.
It organizes the resources to be used to get the desired result. People, places, and things.
It initiates and guides the action needed to obtain the result.
It hands the obtained object of desire over to the Desire Dept. for enjoyment.
It manages any residue created.
In my view, we glide through these steps without giving them a thought.
On the day the Desire Dept. stops sending desires to the Ego Dept. the latter will close its doors.
That doesn’t mean that, when my body feeds me the information that it wants some food, I don’t eat. But it has the flavor of the Zen saying: When hungry, I eat; when sleepy, I sleep.
It isn’t invested with all the justifications, ceremony, and battle plans that our service of our desires often is. The whole element of background chatter is absent.
Just as Da Free John discovered that the whole 3D chakra system was non-essential to life, (1) so here too, the whole desire system is also shown as non-essential to life.
Can I find support for this view among terrestrial sages? I think so.
Upanishads: Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death; but the wise, knowing the Self as eternal, seek not the things that pass away. (2)
“The desires of the flesh” produce such an amount of traffic on the air waves that the individual utterly forgets the purpose of life, which is to “know the Self.”
Their lives become narrowed down to satisfying the desires of the body and mind and they do not escape the wheel of birth and death (i.e., ascend).
Zarathustra: Men foolishly cling to Passion, that evil guide…, so that they do not think of Fate and by the bent of their nature forget Death…. They ceaselessly wander about on the path of Desire … and at the end of their time they shall be full of Regrets. (3)
Humans have only the space of time between birth and death to realize themselves, the object of life. They forget about the lesson “fate” or karma is trying to teach them. They don’t accomplish the purpose of life or enjoy the divine states and are full of regrets.
Dattatreya: The mind of man fastens itself to various material objects hoping to find enjoyment in them. Instead it gathers only misery. (4)
True enjoyment – the divine states – can only be found in the space made available by a quiet mind and an open heart. Instead humans fasten on to the objects of pleasure, which only leads in later life to the misery of unfulfilled longing.
Krishnamurti: Sensations are both pleasant and unpleasant, and the mind holds to the pleasant, thus becoming a slave to them. (5)
Humans pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Neither of these activities helps us discover who we are yet we become a slave to them.
Buddha: From pleasure comes grief, from pleasure comes fear; he who is free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear. (6)
From attachment to pleasure comes fear that the object of our attachment will be lost and grief when it is. He who is free of the pull of desire suffers neither fear nor grief, just as I experienced no vasanas going off when I was desireless.
Sri Aurobindo: The [grand] deformation which enters in and prevents … purity … is desire. … Desire is the root of all sorrow, disappointment, affliction. (7)
The multiplication of desires and their amplification hides our natural, native purity. They hide our Self. Leave aside our attachment to our desires and we quiet the mind, laying bare our natural purity.
Desire calls up the ego. The ego’s purpose is to protect the survival of itself and everything with which it identifies (partner, children, house, car, job, etc.) and to fulfill the mind’s desires.
Let go of our plethora of desires, detach from them, allow them to be without taking them up renders the mind quiet. In the still water of the quiet mind is the Moon’s reflection seen.
(1) “In February I passed through an experience that seemed to vindicate my understanding. … I saw that what appeared as the sahasrar, the terminal chakra and primary lotus in the head, had been severed. The sahasrar had fallen off like a blossom. The Shakti, which previously had appeared as a polarized energy that moved up and down through the various chakras or centers producing various effects, now was released from the chakra form.
“There was no more polarized force. Indeed, there was no form whatsoever, no up or down, no chakras. The chakra system had been revealed as unnecessary, an arbitrary rule or setting for the play of energy. The form beneath all of the bodies, gross or subtle, had revealed itself to be as unnecessary and conditional as the bodies themselves. …
“Now I saw that reality or real consciousness was not in the least determined by any kind of form apart from itself. Consciousness had shown its radical freedom and priority in terms of the chakra form. It had shown itself to be senior to that whole structure, dissociated from every kind of separate energy or Shakti. There was simply consciousness itself, prior to all forms, all dilemmas, every kind of seeking and necessity. …
“ There was no need to have recourse to any kind of phenomena, problem or structure of seeking. The Shakti was not the primary or necessary reality. Reality was the Self-nature, the foundation of pure consciousness, Siva, who is always already free of the Divine play. Thus, I was certain again that real life was not a matter of experience and evolution. It was to be founded in radical, present consciousness.” (Da Free John,The Knee of Listening. Original Edition. Clearlake, CA; Dawn Horse Press, 1984; c1973, 117-9.)
(2) Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester, trans., The Upanishads. Breath of the Eternal. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1957; c1948, 20.
(3) Zarathustra in Duncan Greenlees, trans. The Gospel of Zarathushtra. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978, 107-8.
(4) Dattatreya in Swami Chetanananda, Avadhuta Gita. The Song of the Ever-Free. Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1988, xxi.
(5) J. Krishnamurti in Commentaries on Living. First Series. Bombay, etc.: B.I. Publications, 1972; c1974. , 1, 102.
(6) The Buddha in Edwin A. Burtt, ed., The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. New York and Toronto: New American Library, 1955, 63.
(7) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1983, 629-30.