Desire – the Good, the Bad and the Sublime

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Both in the Yogic path and Buddhism, desire is sometimes seen as the “devil” and said to lead  to suffering. I would like to take a slightly different route and delineate what constitutes desire and whether it is possible that Desire is really a positive force, leading us one step at a time, into our ultimate self.

In my opinion Desire is life force. It drives us to do more and be more. Desire, Creativity and Growth are aspects of the same subtle force. We cannot grow or evolve without the presence of a thought or an emotion in us which yearns for the presence of something which might be absent, or something which we believe will make us better, happier, more at peace.

“Desire propels us onward and forward and a lack of desire leads us to depression”.

Ego Desires Vs Soul Desires

The four primal founts as known in Yoga – Food, Sleep, Sex and Self Preservation cause us to desire what we need for our survival. Hunger is a desire for food, Tiredness is a desire for Sleep, Pro-creation is a desire for sex, and Working for money (in today’s world) is a desire for Self-Preservation. These are inherent in human nature and while we can manage these needs/ desires, we cannot entirely be rid of them.

The questions that arise are – If we meet these fundamental needs, do the desires finish? What else leads us to desire? Where does desire actually originate?  Is it a thought? Is it an Emotion?

All desires originate at the thought level but are fueled by our Emotions. Emotions are “Energy in Motion”. Emotion takes the thought and feeds it with the energy that is required to make it happen.

Our base desires, or the lower consciousness desires come from a wanting, a need, a lack …. A desire to make us feel more whole. These are the desires I call Ego Desires.

The Ego is a construct of our personality which has been created over hundreds of lifetimes, fueled by genetics, life circumstances and most importantly by social, religious and cultural conditioning. It is a somewhat unreal self that we have created to fit into this world, which might otherwise seem quite unfathomable. The ego is a cover up. It is a defense mechanism, it is who we think we want to be given where we came from, our childhood, our peers, our cultures and our societies. For example, most of us believe that having a good job, a marriage, a partner, a few kids, a nice house are imperative to happiness. These beliefs form the basis of what we desire through our Ego. The Ego always works from lack, making one believe that meeting the desires would lead to happiness. When we fulfil one of our ego desires, we attain a temporary state of happiness, and we feel what we define as pleasure. Unfortunately, this wanes quite fast and so the Ego creates another desire. We yearn for love, a loving partner – we get that and then we yearn to have children. We get that, we yearn for financial freedom etc etc.

Ego desires are based on what Society and our Conditioning expects of us, and are always based on wanting, coming from a sense of lack. Ego desires fulfilled lead to pleasure, Ego desires frustrated lead to anger, jealousy, envy, grief and loss.

What next? 


When we have played the Ego desires game enough, we realize a need for something more, something greater. We then start searching and reaching out for that something. This is the phase, where we start individuating, to break out of the Ego construct of ourselves. We understand that we do not need to conform to what we have been told and believed to be reality and we can choose to be something more or different. We search, we seek, and for many, find our Soul self, for the first time. The soul’s wants and needs are quite different from those of the Ego. The soul makes us look inward, whereas the Ego has always been focused on the outward. We are forced to turn inward, to understand what is within us. We start asking the bigger questions – Who am I? Why am I Here? What is my purpose for being here?

Leading to Purpose

As we start seeking answers to these fundamental questions, we start uncovering our true selves. The stuff that lies behind the ego construct. What and who are we beyond a mother, father, daughter, son, employee, boss, rich, poor etc. This individuation propels us to transform into something new. It is literally a coming out of the cocoon. This process is usually long and painful as we are forced to let go of all the attachments of the Ego self and start de-constructing the conditioning. We can no longer go back to our Ego self, but we have not yet arrived at Soul-self. The transformation can take years/ decades even. Once the transformation is complete and we are no longer a victim of our ego selves, we arrive fully at our Soul Selves. The soul self has desires too. The soul has a desire to self-actualize. To bring forth its highest best unique self into the world of Creation. The major difference between ego desires and soul desires is that ego desires come from a space of lack, a needing – while Soul desires come from a space of abundance. Our soul self seeks to give of itself. It desires a sense of purpose. It seeks to share its unique value add with the rest of the world. It desires a greater reason for existence than food, sleep, sex and self-preservation.  The Soul’s desires are fulfilled when it has an opportunity to be Creative, to be of Service, to be Innovative, to be Compassionate, to be Loving, to be Generous. The emotion that propels the soul desires is Joy.. As the soul grows, the desire to share of itself expands. This expansion continues until it merges into oneness with the rest of humanity where it sees no difference between itself and another. It understands that beyond outer appearances we are bound together by the same Soul stuff. This leads to enlightenment and ultimately perfect peace. At this point, the soul seeks to be a servant to humanity and does whatever it needs to without much cause and concern for the bodily needs.

To Conclude: Desire is the fundamental cause for Evolution. There is no judgement in fulfilling our Ego desires. It is a natural part and parcel of our evolution. We cannot move to transformation or Service if our ego desires have not been fulfilled. But see every desire as a call out for growth.  

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