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How Desire Originates? – Study Based On Hindu Teachings

When desires can spell man’s ruin, they merit a deeper study with a view to doing something about them. How do our desires sprout? From the subtle impressions in the mind, called samskaras. Our every act and thought leaves a subtle impression in our mind called samskara. There are good and bad samskaras corresponding to good and bad actions and thoughts. And it is these samskaras, collected over innumerable births, that determine what we are every moment. And in Swami Vivekananda’s words, their sum total determines our character.

Each action produces an inevitable karmaphala, or fruit of action. This result of action is bound to visit the doer with unerring certainty. Besides this, the action also leaves its mark on the individual’s mind. This mark or impression is called samskara, which is of two types: (a) karmasaya, the tendency or desire to repeat an action and (b) vasana, the memory of the action.

Every repetition of an action or thought deepens the samskara, deepening with it the tendency to repeat the action or thought. When the samkara become sufficiently deep, the action or thought become a habit and makes us good or bad in spite of ourselves. The deeper the samskara, the greater the effort required to change a habit or thought pattern. The effort involved in turning a new leaf is so formidable that many give up the struggle midway. People exclaim, ‘Who says you can’t give up smoking? I gave given it up many times!’

Vasana is memory of an action or a perception. This memory also stores in it the knowledge of how we perceived a thing. If we eat a rasgulla for the first time, the knowledge about the sweetness of the sweet — that is, how it differs from the sweetness of any other sweet — is stored in the samskara.

By itself, the memory of an action is harmless. It doesn’t bind our soul. We get bound only when our will, the dynamic aspect of buddhi, hooks itself to the tendency or desire produced by karmasaya.