Nothing creates more confusion when it comes to happiness than the issue of desire. That’s because most people believe that fulfilling their desires will bring them happiness.
When it comes to desire and a human being’s relationship to it, however, there are two broad schools of thought. The first view maintains that all desires are disruptive and inhibit a person’s evolution. This is the aesthetic view embraced by most Yogic practitioners. The contrasting view embraced by Tantrics maintains that desires are vehicles of transcendence and, by transmuting their frequency, it’s possible to overcome their limitations. The first view implies that fulfilling your desires won’t make you happy; therefore it’s a waste of time. The second view implies that happiness depends on transmuting your base desires into something better before you fulfill them. What is often overlooked in the debate over happiness is the fact that not all desires are created equal. There are authentic desires that emerge from the authentic mind – your genuine vehicle of awareness and perception. And there are inauthentic desires that emerge from the individual mind and ego – an external construct that is only apparently real.
Living with Two Minds
To determine whether happiness is a hoax, you must first recognize that there are differences between your two minds. In my work, I’ve learned that the individual mind and ego is composed of energy and consciousness with individual qualities as well as non-physical beings which have ensconced themselves in your subtle field, the non-physical field of energy and consciousness that interpenetrates your physical-material body.
Energy with individual qualities is easy to recognize. It feels dense and heavy, and it creates pressure and muscle-ache as well as anxiety, depression and self-doubt when it interacts with your subtle field. It has what you can think of as character – or what we call a ‘flavor.’ In most cases, the flavor is unpleasant.
If enough energy with individual qualities gets trapped in your individual mind and ego and you become attached to it, it will create self-limiting desires that will oppose the desires of your authentic mind.
Consciousness with individual qualities can burst or slowly blanket your awareness with attitudes, ideas and obsessive thoughts that create confusion, self-doubt and hateful patterns that can compel you to act in harmful ways.
Non-physical beings vary in complexity. Many of them are parasitic; some are antagonistic to human beings. In either case, they don’t belong inside your subtle field because their desires, will and intent can be integrated into your individual mind and ego.
An Authentic Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Your authentic mind is composed of three essential elements. On the physical level, it includes your brain and nervous system as well as the chemicals in your body that influence its structure and behavior.
On the non-physical level, your mind includes the subtle field of energy and consciousness, its organs and vehicles – and the prana, chi and jing that nourish them. The combination of physical and non-physical elements creates the third part of your authentic mind – the network, which includes the connections your mind has to its individual parts and to things beyond itself.
The organs of perception (sight, sensation, hearing, etc.) are also part of your mind. They can be directed inward into the mind itself – or outward into the external environment. When they are directed outward, they can make contact with other networks and interact with them.
In contrast to your individual mind and ego, which contain a myriad of self-limiting desires, your authentic mind contains only four life-affirming desires. The first desire is Artha. In Sanskrit, artha refers to the desire for material comfort or wealth. Since it’s an economic necessary to amass enough wealth to be free from the drudgery of continuous work, fulfilling this desire is a prerequisite for sustained spiritual growth and development.
Kama is the second desire. It denotes both pleasure as well as the desire for pleasure. In the Bhagavad Gita, desire is put at the center of living and is equated with the life force. Indeed, the Vedas and sutras of Yoga and Tantra never taught that pleasure should be repressed or disparaged as anti-spiritual.
Dharma is the third desire. It literally means ‘that which holds together’ (in essence, that which prevents worldly relationships from dissolving into chaos). In the human community, there is shared dharma, which is common to everyone, and individual dharma, which is specific to each human being. Shared dharma can be equated with appropriate activities.
Individual dharma is the specific path (of appropriate activity) that will lead you back into (conscious) union with Universal Consciousness.
Moksha is the fourth desire. Moksha denotes transcendence, which is spiritual freedom and liberation from karmic attachments and self-limiting patterns. Of the four desires, moksha is the highest. Advaita Vedanta (the non-dual path of Self-realization) teaches that jnana (knowledge), which comes from direct experience, is the means to overcome ignorance (of the Self) and achieve moksha.
Since authentic desires facilitate your spiritual progress, it makes no sense to abandon them. Rather you should substitute authentic desires for inauthentic desires whenever possible. This is not as difficult as many people think – with one exception, which is often overlooked. The exception is the deeply rooted desire for personal happiness.
The Desire for Happiness
It is important to note that the desire for happiness is rooted in the desire for an abstract concept. Hence, the concept of happiness is not something that can be easily measured or quantified. In fact, happiness is not a specific psychological condition or something which can be defined with precision. It’s a subjective reaction to a person’s internal and external environment. The concept of personal happiness is muddied even further by people’s expectations as well as their subjective reaction to their health, worldly success and relationship status. Indeed, the desire for happiness is not the desire for something ‘real’ or tangible, but rather the desire for something which exists in a person’s imagination as a counterweight to the karmic limitations that prevent them from experiencing pleasure, love, intimacy and joy.
It’s also important to recognize that your relationship to happiness is regulated by the Hermetic principle of rhythm, while pleasure, love, intimacy and joy are not.
The principle of rhythm declares: ‘Everything flows out and in. Everything has its tides. All things rise and fall. The pendulum swing manifests in everything. The measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left. Rhythm compensates.’ From this principle, we learn that a human being’s level of happiness is constantly in flux. This means that happiness must be compensated by unhappiness once the pendulum swings in the opposite direction.
Pleasure, Love, Intimacy and Joy
In contrast to happiness, pleasure, love, intimacy and joy exist in the authentic universe of pure consciousness and energy with universal qualities. People who live successful lives recognize the differences between happiness and pleasure, love, intimacy and joy on a visceral level. That’s why they’ve taken pursuit of happiness off their agenda. The best examples are partners in successful relationships and people seeking enlightenment. They intuitively recognize that happiness is an abstract concept that can’t be sustained – because the pendulum swings in both directions. Therefore, instead of trying to do the impossible – sustain happiness –, they focus on real issues such as overcoming self-limiting patterns, communicating better, or transmuting pleasure into love, and love into intimacy and joy.
They also recognize that pleasure, love, intimacy and joy have never been dependent on external circumstances. Having recognized these facts and having abandoned the fruitless search for happiness, partners in successful relationships and individuals seeking their enlightenment focus on acquiring the knowledge and skill necessary to bring their fields of consciousness and energy into a healthy condition where they can serve as vehicles for sustained spiritual progress.
Indeed, by acquiring knowledge and skill and by committing yourself to goals which are in accord with your dharma, you can enhance pleasure, love, joy and intimacy in your life and relationships – and by extension, enhance your relationship to Universal Consciousness – and the authentic universe which emerged from it.