THE FIRST AND LAST FREEDOM CHAPTER 13 'DESIRE'
For most of us, desire is quite a problem: the desire for property, for position, for power, for comfort, for immortality, for continuity, the desire to be loved, to have something permanent, satisfying, lasting, something which is beyond time. Now, what is desire? What is this thing that is urging, compelling us? I am not suggesting that we should be satisfied with what we have or with what we are, which is merely the opposite of what we want. We are trying to see what desire is, and if we can go into it tentatively, hesitantly, I think we shall bring about a transformation which is not a mere substitution of one object of desire for another object of desire. This is generally what we mean by 'change', is it not? Being dissatisfied with one particular object of desire, we find a substitute for it. We are everlastingly moving from one object of desire to another which we consider to be higher, nobler, more refined; but, however refined, desire is still desire, and in this movement of desire there is endless struggle, the conflict of the opposites.
Is it not, therefore, important to find out what is desire and whether it can be transformed? What is desire? Is it not the symbol and its sensation? Desire is sensation with the object of its attainment. Is there desire without a symbol and its sensation? Obviously not. The symbol may be a picture, a person, a word, a name, an image, an idea which gives me a sensation, which makes me feel that I like or dislike it; if the sensation is pleasurable, I want to attain, to possess, to hold on to its symbol and continue in that pleasure. From time to time, according to my inclinations and intensities, I change the picture, the image, the object. With one form of pleasure I am fed up, tired, bored, so I seek a new sensation, a new idea, a new symbol. I reject the old sensation and take on a new one, with new words, new significances, new experiences. I resist the old and yield to the new which I consider to be higher, nobler, more satisfying. Thus in desire there is a resistance and a yielding, which involves temptation; and of course in yielding to a particular symbol of desire there is always the fear of frustration.
If I observe the whole process of desire in myself I see that there is always an object towards which my mind is directed for further sensation, and that in this process there is involved resistance, temptation and discipline. There is perception, sensation, contact and desire, and the mind becomes the mechanical instrument of this process, in which symbols words, objects are the centre round which all desire, all pursuits, all ambitions are built; that centre is the 'me'. Can I dissolve that centre of desire - not one particular desire, one particular appetite or craving, but the whole structure of desire, of longing, hoping, in which there is always the fear of frustration? The more I am frustrated, the more strength I give to the 'me'. So long as there is hoping, longing, there is always the background of fear, which again strengthens that centre. And revolution is possible only at that centre, not on the surface, which is merely a process of distraction, a superficial change leading to mischievous action.
When I am aware of this whole structure of desire, I see how my mind has become a dead centre, a mechanical process of memory. Having tired of one desire, I automatically want to fulfill myself in another. My mind is always experiencing in terms of sensation, it is the instrument of sensation. Being bored with a particular sensation, I seek a new sensation, which may be what I call the realization of God; but it is still sensation. I have had enough of this world and its travail and I want peace, the peace that is everlasting; so I meditate, control, I shape my mind in order to experience that peace. The experiencing of that peace is still sensation. So my mind is the mechanical instrument of sensation, of memory, a dead centre from which I act, think.
The objects I pursue are the projections of the mind as symbols from which it derives sensations. The word 'God', the word 'love', the word 'communism', the word 'democracy', the word 'nationalism' - these are all symbols which give sensations to the mind, and therefore the mind clings to them. As you and I know, every sensation comes to an end, and so we proceed from one sensation to another; and every sensation strengthens the habit of seeking further sensation. Thus the mind becomes merely an instrument of sensation and memory, and in that process we are caught. So long as the mind is seeking further experience it can only think in terms of sensation; and any experience that may be spontaneous, creative, vital, strikingly new, it immediately reduces to sensation and pursues that sensation, which then becomes a memory. Therefore the experience is dead and the mind becomes merely a stagnant pool of the past.
If we have gone into it at all deeply we are familiar with this process; and we seem to be incapable of going beyond. We want to go beyond, because we are tired of this endless routine, this mechanical pursuit of sensation; so the mind projects the idea of truth, or God; it dreams of' a vital change and of playing a principal part in that change, and so on and on and on. Hence there is never a creative state. In myself I see this process of desire going on, which is mechanical, repetitive, which holds the mind in a process of routine and makes of it a dead centre of the past in which there is no creative spontaneity. Also there are sudden moments of creation, of that which is not of the mind, which is not of memory, which is not of sensation or of desire.
Our problem, therefore, is to understand desire - not how far it should go or where it should come to an end, but to understand the whole process of desire, the cravings, the longings, the burning appetites. Most of us think that possessing very little indicates freedom from desire - and how we worship those who have but few things! A loincloth, a robe, symbolizes our desire to be free from desire; but that again is a very superficial reaction. Why begin at the superficial level of giving up outward possessions when your mind is crippled with innumerable wants, innumerable desires, beliefs, struggles? Surely it is there that the revolution must take place, not in how much you possess or what clothes you wear or how many meals you eat. But we are impressed by these things because our minds are very superficial.
Your problem and my problem is to see whether the mind can ever be free from desire, from sensation. Surely creation has nothing to do with sensation; reality, God, or what you will, is not a state which can be experienced as sensation. When you have an experience, what happens? It has given you a certain sensation, a feeling of elation or depression. Naturally, you try to avoid, put aside, the state of depression; but if it is a joy, a feeling of elation, you pursue it. Your experience has produced a pleasurable sensation and you want more of it; and the 'more' strengthens the dead centre of the mind, which is ever craving further experience. Hence the mind cannot experience anything new, it is incapable of experiencing anything new, because its approach is always through memory, through recognition; and that which is recognized through memory is not truth, creation, reality. Such a mind cannot experience reality; it can only experience sensation, and creation is not sensation, it is something that is everlastingly new from moment to moment.
Now I realize the state of my own mind; I see that it is the instrument of sensation and desire, or rather that it is sensation and desire, and that it is mechanically caught up in routine. Such a mind is incapable of ever receiving or feeling out the new; for the new must obviously be something beyond sensation, which is always the old. So, this mechanical process with its sensations has to come to an end, has it not? The wanting more, the pursuit of symbols, words, images, with their sensation - all that has to come to an end. Only then is it possible for the mind to be in that state of creativeness in which the new can always come into being. If you will understand without being mesmerized by words, by habits, by ideas, and see how important it is to have the new constantly impinging on the mind, then, perhaps, you will understand the process of desire, the routine, the boredom, the constant craving for experience. Then I think you will begin to see that desire has very little significance in life for a man who is really seeking. Obviously there are certain physical needs: food, clothing, shelter, and all the rest of it. But they never become psychological appetites, things on which the mind builds itself as a centre of desire. Beyond the physical needs, any form of desire - for greatness, for truth, for virtue - becomes a psychological process by which the mind builds the idea of the 'me' and strengthens itself at the centre.
When you see this process, when you are really aware of it without opposition, without a sense of temptation, without resistance, without justifying or judging it, then you will discover that the mind is capable of receiving the new and that the new is never a sensation; therefore it can never be recognized, re-experienced. It is a state of being in which creativeness comes without invitation, without memory; and that is reality.