Desires go away not by gratification or repression but by purification
Desires that we know are undesirable sometimes impel us. If repeatedly impelled, we may feel, “Let me just indulge and get it over with. At least the desire will go away.”
However, desires don’t go away by gratification. Desire is like fire, and indulgence acts like fuel for that fire. Fuel-wood placed in a fire may decrease the fire initially, but only till the wood starts burning. Similarly, the relief we feel after indulgence soon disappears, and the desire returns, stronger.
Neither do desires go away by the other extreme of repression. Even if we bury a desire deep within us, it eventually re-emerges like a Phoenix to torment us again. Why? Because repression haunts us with feelings of deprivation. When the deprivation feels unbearable, we relapse.
The only lasting solution to unhealthy desire is purification. We are souls, who are eternal-conscious-blissful (sat-cit-ananda) and who naturally desire pleasure. Desire is not the problem – misdirected desire is. We are meant to find pleasure by lovingly connecting with our all-attractive Lord, Krishna. We need to purify our desires, redirecting them from worldly things to him. The Gita (05.11) states that yogis seek purification with all their faculties – body, mind, intelligence and even senses. Among all yogas, bhakti-yoga purifies most efficaciously because it connects us quickly and directly with all-purifying Krishna.
Moreover, while we are becoming purified, bhakti-yoga allows regulated gratification, thus pre-empting feelings of unbearable deprivation. However, critical for our purification is that we don’t obsess over either gratification or repression, but focus on Krishna. Absorption in him helps us relish higher happiness, thereby triggering the realization that worldly pleasures are paltry and unworthy. This realization inspires us to long for Krishna more than for worldly things.
That changed longing comprises purification and empowers us to transcend our residual undesirable desires.
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