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Teachings from Hindu Holy Books on Desire

A collection of teachings on Desire From Hindu holy books.

Whatever activity is undertaken (by beings) is the movement of desires. (Manu Smriti)

The self is identified with desire alone. What it desires, it resolves; what it resolves, it works out; and what it works out, it attains. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)

At first in darkness hidden darkness lay,
Undistinguished as one mass of water,
Then That which lay in void thus covered
A glory did put forth by Tapah!
First desire rose, the primal seed of mind,
(The sages have seen all this in their hearts
Sifting existence from non-existence.
Its rays above, below and sideways spread. (Rig Veda Nasadiya Sukta)

Desire is never satisfied by enjoying desire; it only increases as fire when butter is poured upon it. (Bhagavad Purana)

I (Krishna) always follow the footsteps of the sage who desires nothing, who is always tranquil and who has enmity to none, in order that all the worlds within Me get purified by the dust of his feet. (Uddhava Gita)

Material desire is undoubtedly the cause of the greatest unhappiness, and freedom from such desire is the cause of the greatest happiness. (Uddhava Gita)

Just as a fish, incited by the desire to enjoy his tongue, is fatally trapped on the fisherman’s hook, similarly, a foolish person is bewildered by the extremely disturbing urges of the tongue and thus is ruined. (Uddhava Gita)

Giving up all desires born of the will, withdrawing the senses from every direction by strength of mind, attain tranquility little by little with the help of the buddhi armed with fortitude. Once the mind is established in the Atman, one should not think of anything else. Whenever the fickle and unquiet mind strays, withdraw it and restore it to the control of the Atman alone. (Bhagavad Gita – 6.24 – 6)

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.5) describes the connection between desire, will, and karma: "The Self is identified with desire alone. What it desires, it resolves; as is its resolution, so is its action. And whatever it carries out into action, that it reaps." Sri Shankara comments on this passage: "Desire manifests itself as longing for a particular object, and, if unchecked, it assumes a more definite shape and becomes resolve."

A famous verse from the Mahabharata ("Shantiparva," 177.25) describes the role of sankalpa in triggering our downfall: "O desire, I know your root. You spring from resolve (sankalpa). I shall not tag my will to you. You will then be destroyed with your root."