How to Use Desire in Yoga

Desire is unavoidable, but what and how we desire can make a big difference in our spiritual development. There is a state aspire to in yogic practice called nirivikalpa samadhi. It is described as a “pure, undifferentiated consciousness” which “contains no phenomenal impressions whatever, no seeds of desire and attachment.” Until that time, we can aspire to reach the state of Brahman, or God. The phrase, “Ask and it shall be given,” comes to mind. Christ promised the same thing that Patanjali did. If we long for something with great intensity, we usually organize our thoughts and then our actions around making that a reality. The word tivra means intensely. When we want something intensely, we become single minded. This singlemindedness is the key to manifestation.

How many mistakes did Thomas Edison make before perfecting the light bulb into a practical invention? Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t ‘invent’ the lightbulb, but rather he improved upon a 50-year-old idea. His single-mindedness allowed him to take the ideas of Humphrey Davy, an Englishman, and turn them into something none of us can imagine living without today. It took Edison one and a half years of work to improve upon the original idea to come up with a working light bulb. And although must of us focus on one aspect of his achievement, that of discovering the right kind of filament, he actually had to invent a total of seven system elements that were critical to the practical application of electric lights as an alternative to the gas-powered lights that were prevalent in his time. Essentially, to enjoy success, Edison could not give up.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba said, “I am the current that flows in every bulb and illumines it. Those who see me as separate are seeing falsehood. I am in your hearts; you are in Mine. Don’t be misled into doubt and distress.” The only time we have even a possibility for failure is when we start to doubt – when we give up. Our efforts in finding our oneness with God take an all-souled effort. As long as we see a difference between ourselves and someone else, spatial or temporal, we do not see the Truth. The factors of space and time and a lot to wrap our minds around, but can you imagine what the mind had to imagine when inventing a light source that was not created by rubbing two sticks together? Was the light bulb always present and just realized or was it made up – invented? Depending on your world view, you will have a different answer, but in the yogic philosophy all is already created, we must simply realize its existence. This is the concept of God. There is no time and no space. There is no lack for anything you could ever imagine in your mind and thereby not make a reality in the physical world. It only takes intense longing, intense desire and One-mindedness.

There was a great teacher called Acharya Sankara, he often talked to others to help remove the misconceptions that kept them from achieving their desires. Many people though that traveling to the truth mean that they must undertake a great pilgrimage to a holy city or shrine. Sometimes this was impossible for people who were old, ill or of limited financial means. But this great teacher pointed to the teachings of the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra to tell people that they must not travel literally, using a vehicle or their own two feet, but they must travel within themselves, to the core of their being, to their truest desire and ignite it there to make it a reality. Our intention is so great, that we do not realize its power.

Swami Krishnananda said, “The achievement of an object, temporal or spiritual, is ultimately an effort towards achievement of unity with one’s own self. Though in the beginning it looks like a movement of the seeker towards the sought, due to the individuality of the seeker and the consequent isolation of the seeker from the object that is sought, the more we advance towards the object, the nearer we seem to come to our own self. This is very strange. One’s intention is to move towards an object, but what is happening is that one is coming nearer to oneself. The reason is that the object that we seek has some connection with us. So the nearer we go to the object, the nearer also we come to our own self, because the self of the object is somehow or other, at least remotely, connected with our own self. And finally, the intention is to unite oneself in the possession of the object. The ultimate success is union of oneself with the object that has been sought. We are in complete possession of it; not an ordinary possession of an imaginary character, but an absolute commingling of oneself with that objective so that it is inseparable from our being - we have enjoyed it perfectly, to the utter core.” This is how desire is eventually eradicated.

Jnana yoga has to do with understanding the power of our own longing. There is a notion that there is a “doer” of things, but this is false. This is the wrong notion. We are absolute intelligence, we are all pervading just as God, so there is nothing to “get” there is nothing to “do.” There is an idea in the Upanishads ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ - ‘That Thou Art’. We are all that we could desire already. It is only an understanding of this, not at an intellectual level but a deeper level that will bring us to the realization that we already have everything we could ever desire because we already ARE everything that we could ever desire. We already desire intensely for what we are deep within – we are GOD. We are Oneness, we are Infinite Possibility. Even Einstein said that imagination was more important than knowledge. Can you imagine this vastness? Can you imagine the sheer magnitude of Tat Tvam Asi? It is in our minds and hearts that we realize that longing for something ‘with-out’ is actually a longing for that which is within. As the Temple of Delphi says, “Know Thyself” this is the desire we must cultivate because in the Self is God.


Yoga is great to help control our desire. My kids are doing yoga and they have a good discipline. These yoga books helped my kis a lot.

YogiDiva, Really you have lot of knowledge. great

Great read. Can desire to understand and increase our scope of experience lead to wisdom?

Nice post, great things you have shared here.


This is an important aspect of yoga and you have compiled good information. Can I add something that will make your effort reach better and to more?

As it takes ‘two to tango’, any knowledge transfer has a giver and the receiver. You have quoted words of wisdom which were said in their respective contexts and your post will be read by several readers in myriad contexts too. If you will see, the words were spoken with several ‘subjective’ meanings and will be received with similar variations.

It would be great to hear YOUR personal meaning of desire and then to look at the quotes for reference. Until you do that let me present my take.

After realizing the intuitive nature of desires that could be curbed but not extinguished before arising, the final state of desirelessness appeared to me a like a death sentence. Desires appeared inconquerable and as inevitable as life itself. After dwelling on it, I realized a need for distinguishing animal instincts like hunger or procreation inherited from the very evolution as given and not to be taken as desires. ‘Desire’ as you have written is what we make of the natural instinct. We translate instinct into culture specific wants like ‘hunger’ becoming ‘dinner at Olive Garden’. Desire is further expressed as time-space specific indulgence and the instinct is left far behind. Thus, instinct is a need, desire is a want. Desire in this sense starts where the instinct ends.

Some desires don’t even have an instinct as the trigger. They are generated from the lure of the material objects or the stored memory of the resulting pleasure. This is avarice, plain and simple. This can come packaged in many shapes, sizes and colors. Greed, jealosy, ego … a list of drivers can go on.

Realistically, even spiritual achievements are no exception to the above and their ‘spirituality’ does grant it them any exalted status. This is why in yoga giving up ‘desire to live’ and finally giving up the last desire of ‘enlightenment’ is a pre-requisite.

But, in the journey from a life driven by desires to the destination of desirelessness, a simple test is how we can cultivate ‘relaxed indifference’ towards the desires that haunt by limiting them to just the basic instincts if that is what they primarily are.