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Three Kinds Of Desires In Upanishads

The Upanishads speak of three kinds of desires or esanas: desire for progeny, desire for money, and desire for the worlds (of enjoyment). Only that person who rises above these ultimately inconsequential needs is fit for the highest fulfilment, for the Upanishads declare the state of realization to be that wherein all desires are burnt away, leaving no room for future selfish action. According to them, it is kama or desire that prompts one to act.

According to Sri Ramakrishna, all the basic human passions can be reduced to lust and hankering after money, which he calls kamini (lust) and kanchan (lucre). The attainment of a higher spiritual ideal is impossible without coming out of the clutches of these basic animal instincts. Sri Ramakrishna emphatically states that renunciation of these obstacles, physically as well as mentally, is the most important requirement for spiritual growth. This does not mean that Sri Ramakrishna advised everybody to shun the world and retire to the forests. He himself was a married man. On the other hand, he was against any kind of slavery to worldly tendencies. The Upanishads are also explicit in this regard. A sage says, ‘What shall we do with progeny (or money)? They do not help us in our pursuit of the knowledge of Atman.’

The Upanishads speak of two paths: preyas and shreyas, the pleasing and the good. The former leads to worldly prosperity, abhyudaya, and the latter to spiritual fulfilment, nihsreyasa. Both are important for humans. However, a serious seeker of God chooses the path leading to spiritual fulfilment. Sri Ramakrishna was very judicious in his teachings in this matter. He would teach every person according to his or her capability and past impressions. The Upanishads also teach different types of upasanas or meditations to suit aspirants at different levels of spiritual progress. They never compel everyone to follow the same spiritual practice. Their approach allows for a gradual evolution of the spiritual potential in individuals through graded progression in spiritual practices.