Main Pages

By Region




Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Desire?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Desire

An Expression of the Dynamism and Energy of Our Being

What happens if you throw desire into the mix? Then you not only love each other, you want each other—which is usually experienced sexually: “I don’t just love you, I also find you quite yummy, very attractive. I am laying my eyes on you right now, but I would love to lay my hands on you!” And the other person says, “I was just feeling the same thing.” We have all had experiences like that. Desire in itself is a powerful force. It is an energetic, instinctual primal force. As we have seen, desire is an expression of the powerful dynamism and energy of our Being. It is an expression of the creative force of the divine. And when desire is an expression of mutual love, it becomes an intensifying eruption. The interactive field between two people not only becomes charged up, it begins to sparkle, to throb, to pulsate. That is what desire brings to the field—a pulsation, a throbbing, an energetic quality. Your experience of immediacy feels not only sweet and appreciative but also like a throbbing, pulsating force that wants to move toward, wants to get closer to the other person. This is divine eros!

Attachment is Caused by Desire and Fear

Ultimately, attachment is caused by desire and fear, desire for the good and fear of the bad, desire for pleasure and fear of pain, desire for life and fear of death. If you examine fear and desire you will see that fear itself is based on desire, fear of death is desire for life, and that its opposite, fear of life, is desire for death. Desire is there because of the absence of understanding. What will free us from attachment is understanding, or knowledge of how things really are. So we could say that attachment is based on fear and desire, fear is based on desire, and desire is based on lack of understanding or ignorance. If we are ignorant, we end up being attached. We are ignorant of the actual fact that union is the absence of boundaries. We create more boundaries with our attachments, which then stop us from getting exactly what it is we think we want.

Blocked by Our Ideas of What Desire Means

At some point, we may start to have a craving of the kind we have been describing here—for something more or deeper that we can’t name. And perhaps our desire wants to express itself in a new way but we can’t seem to allow that force to take us toward what we want. We are blocked by our ideas of what desire has meant to us in the past. In fact, initially, we may not even recognize the force in us as desire. Most of us think of desire as being always for something outside us, so it is difficult to imagine desire without it being focused on an object. Take the situation of falling in love. As long as our experience of desire is attached to another person or situation, we believe that love itself is dependent on the outside. Unless our love is liberated from this attachment, our full potential to love—which is present in us whether we are relating to another person or not—cannot reveal itself to us. But we will never reach that freedom unless we first allow ourselves to completely feel our wanting as it is. And the ego has a hard time doing that.

Conflicted Desire

So we end up having two forces, two tendencies, two manifestations, in our consciousness and in our experience: giving, open, generous love on one hand, and wanting, desire, passion on the other. And these frequently appear to be in opposition to one another. In fact, most people experience them as conflicting forces. For many individuals and in many spiritual teachings, spirituality means—and spiritual development requires—letting go of wanting, letting go of desire, letting go of the world and embracing the spiritual. Only this, they think, will make them more loving, more compassionate, selfless, and ultimately free. But most human beings have difficulty with that view because to them it means that they have to become some kind of saint: “I’m not sure that becoming free that way is for me. Who wants to be a saint? They don’t have much of a life; they’re always generous, always giving, and do nothing for themselves. Not only don’t you have much of a life, there’s not even a thought of having an erotic life!” We will be exploring how to be passionate and to feel a strong wanting without that desire being in conflict with the selfless kind of tenderness, with generous sweetness. We will come to see that there is such a thing as divine eros and that we can experience it. And we will discover how to be open to that possibility and access that dimension of reality.

Desire as Negative Merging Affect

Another of Buddha’s insights is that desire is suffering. A superficial understanding of this deep truth can inspire seekers to undertake all kinds of renunciations and deprivations in the guise of spiritual discipline. Desire is the expression of undischarged tension; this is, in fact, the usual understanding of desire. However, when we study the feeling of desire itself we find out that it is pure negative merging affect. When desire is a result of a real need, like hunger, then its tension can easily be discharged by the adult individual. But when it is tied up with past experience, it is the expression of a chronic undischarged tension, which again is negative-merging affect. One can experience this directly in states of expanded awareness.

Desire is an Expression of Eros

Desire is a natural force in us; it’s a natural condition. In the same way that love is a natural condition, desire is also natural. We have reactions, ideas, and beliefs about desire because somewhere within our consciousness we know it. Desire existed within our psyche long before we had a sense of who was desiring anything. It is more fundamental than who we have come to know ourselves to be. Eros is more than desire, but desire is an important expression of it. We can relate to desire in many different ways, but without desire, eros is dead. On the other hand, bringing the desire element into our love creates the feeling of erotic love, that robust feeling of juiciness that we enjoy and want. We may desire our desire to come forward when we see how it interfaces with love.

Desire Related to Attachment Keeps Us Dissociated from Our Nature

Even so, we need to understand that not all desire is the same. For most individuals, desire and grasping onto the object of desire are the same thing. Desire that is related to attachment is suffering, and it keeps us dissociated from our nature; this type of desire has mostly to do with the self and its object of desire, not with the desiring itself. But as we have seen, desire can function as an avenue to our nature—if we can use the desiring energy that is usually directed outward, thereby creating attachment, to go inward. It takes a determination and a love for the truth to stay with that energy and follow it back to its origin, thereby liberating the energy of desire to serve freedom instead of keeping us bound in suffering.

Feeling the Feeling of Pure Desire Itself

When you really let yourself want something and you bring your focus back to the experience of the wanting itself, at some point you start to feel that you are alive with wanting. You are fully alive with an energetic, bubbling, sparkling, effulgent wanting: “Oh my God, this feels really good. I feel alive. I am finally letting myself feel this thing that I haven’t let myself feel since the day that person rejected me . . . or the time when this thing didn’t happen . . . or the day I was so disappointed when I didn’t get that thing I worked so hard for.” If you keep allowing that feeling, the focus on the outer drops away and you are able to feel the feeling of pure desire itself. Desire has a bubbling, energetic quality that has a fullness to it, a full, dynamic feeling. It is sparkling, bright, tingly, effervescent. Getting in touch with that energy is a way to unleash the fullness and sufficiency of the sense of divine eros that is naturally a giving. A transformation begins to happen: Your desire is no longer just about wanting to pull something toward you. You feel passionate, but your focus is no longer on getting your needs met by some outside object. Now you don’t just want to get love, you also want to give yourself, to pour yourself out: “I’m giving this all that I have and all that I am!!” Desire becomes a moving out of yourself toward what you love. The love you feel is overflowing, and now it is also full and sweet. All of the possibilities and potentials of being in touch with your own energy allow the love to flower. The love fills out the desire with itself.

Identifying with Desire

Identifying with your desire will only perpetuate the chasm by strengthening a self-image that is split off from who you are. In other words, you will not become complete by acquiring something you haven’t got or by fulfilling a desire; you can’t reach completeness by trying to complete yourself. Who you take yourself to be, your sense of yourself as incomplete, can’t be completed because its very nature is an incompleteness. The chasm is infinite and cannot be filled. You can resolve this issue only by realizing that you are split. Seeing this and not acting according to the split can bring freedom. You fall back into yourself and realize that you are complete, that who you truly are has always been complete, and has never lacked anything, that you cannot lack anything. Having this perspective helps us to orient ourselves towards self-understanding and towards our work here. We cannot help continuing to desire, and even to continue to believe our desires. We cannot help thinking the thoughts of a person who is incomplete. However, if you allow the possibility that this may all be a wrong identification, a split from who you are, your orientation may change. You might believe less strongly in your desire and fears, and begin investigating them more. Instead of acting out your desire for love or approval, recognition, acknowledgement, pleasure, or fame —any desire—you can begin to observe the desire itself.

The Cycle of Rejection, Hope and Desire

When the personality is analyzed in its minutiae you will see the cycle of action and reaction. Originally, there is the reality of what is there, and then there is saying no to that reality. Then there is hope for another reality. Then there is desire for that other reality. Right? There is a rejection of now, a hope for something else in the future, and then a desire for it. The cycle of rejection, hope and desire all together leads to an activity, to trying to achieve what is desired. Any hope, desire, activity, or reactivity necessitates more than anything else rejection of the now. If the now is completely accepted there will not be a hope, there will not be a desire, there will not be a movement away from or toward, or any movement at all. There will be stillness, complete stillness.

The Desire for Autonomy

Ironically, however, when we realize the Personal Essence, that is, when it is a permanent attainment rather than simply an experience, we no longer feel the desire for that coveted autonomy. It simply ceases to be an issue, and falls away, leaving us with no need or desire for autonomy, nor any conflicts around autonomy. We are, and in our Being we are absolutely autonomous. We are ourselves, our own person. Our qualities are completely our own, our capacities are simply part of us. We are able to act freely and autonomously, appropriate to the situation, without feeling or thinking we are autonomous. Our autonomy is now second nature, and is not qualified by our situation. We might be practically restricted from doing what we want, but nothing can stop us from being who we are. We might be literally in prison, but as our Personal Essence we are free and autonomous. We need do nothing to be autonomous; our sense of Being is our autonomy. Thus when our actions or expressions are controlled by external circumstances, we experience no loss of autonomy, no loss of self-esteem; the restrictions are felt as just external and superficial restrictions. Our bodies, even our minds, can be restricted, but who we are cannot be touched. We seek autonomy, have all kinds of issues and conflicts about autonomy, only when our autonomy is not completely established. And ego autonomy is never complete autonomy. Only the realization of Being can bring complete, absolute autonomy.

The Desire for Freedom

The desire for freedom, liberation, enlightenment, self-realization, inner development, or whatever it is called is not a response to a call from outside you. It is not that you hear of enlightenment, and then you want to be enlightened. It is not embarking on the journey because others, people you know, are on it. It is not a fad. It is not a desire for self-improvement. It is not an attempt to be some kind of an ideal model you have in your mind. It is not doing something according to some beliefs and opinions you have picked up someplace, recently or in the far past. The search is a very personal concern, an intimately personal interest in your situation. It is a response to a call deep within you. The call at the beginning is a vague, almost imperceptible and mysterious flame. It shows itself as a questioning of the disharmony you live in. It is your disharmony, as you experience it. It is your own questioning. And it is your personal yearning. If you want to be enlightened or realized like somebody else, who you heard was able to attain, then the search is not yours yet. It is somebody else's, Buddha's or Mohammed's. The stirring must come from you, from your depths. The questioning must be of your situation, your mind, not of some system that somebody else has set up. You can use the system to help you, but ultimately it is your life, your mind, your quest.

The Desire to Return to One's True Nature

The purpose of the Work, however, is not primarily to eliminate suffering. The desire to return to one’s true nature is an innate impulse that is there even in the absence of suffering. The more we are in touch with ourselves, the more we feel this innate desire to know and be who we really are. We want the freedom to live as we’re supposed to live, to fulfill all our potential. When we don’t live that way, we suffer. That suffering, rather than being a problem that the Work aims to solve, is simply a hunger for our true selves. It is a signal that we want to return to our true nature. The purpose of many schools and methods throughout history has been to bring people back to their true nature. This impulse has inspired religions and spiritual movements all over the world. The Work, we see, is very old. It has existed as long as humanity. So what, more specifically, is the Diamond Approach to the Work? To come closer to an understanding of the Diamond Approach, we can look at the difficulty of the Work. It has always been assumed that it is very difficult to actually do the Work by those who are in the Work or who have established schools for the Work. It has also been assumed that very few people, only a small part of humanity, will attempt to take the path of returning, that fewer still will get anywhere, and that even fewer will actually complete the path. The path is perilous and, because of this, very few have attempted it, and very, very few have completed it. This is how it has been seen: that the nature of the Work itself is difficult and perilous. What we are now learning, however, is that, contrary to the assumptions of the past, it is not the nature of the Work to be so difficult. The reason it has seemed so up until now is primarily due to the fact that we have not had a certain kind of knowledge—what we call psychological knowledge.

The Drive for Union

Desire can lead us to the distillation of itself, as an energy that we reconnect to. Desire in the human being can be felt as instinctual or emotional. Instinctually, it can arise as the sexual drive or as a drive toward self-preservation of the physical body. But the pure energy that is the origin of this force can blend with the purity of essential love, so that we can rise to another level of experience that combines the love of the heart and the drive of the life force. The driven power of the energy that was once focused on procreation combines with the love that melts boundaries between our own soul and the Beloved to become one powerful force that culminates in a drive for union. This is the type of feeling we have for or with another person when we are in love. It can arise in a way that is fortified by union with our true nature, in which both of us are deeply in touch with the infinite nature of Being and are bursting into existence together with the power of life. We are born afresh and new—full, rounded, beautiful beings of divine nature within the field of the relationship. We are united with the depth of Being, the depth of our nature, and with each other, all as one unity. The Beloved that lives in our heart is the core of this type of relating. In this unity, we know that we are that and can never be separated from it or from each other.

The Force Behind Manifestation

This energy of desire is also the force behind manifestation. We are here because this force is birthing us into existence right now, exploding and arising at this moment. At each point in our experience, we are exploding into now, nakedly, purely. And this now is the presence of this dynamic force that is birthing us into existence this very moment. So one of the ways we experience the force of manifestation through individual consciousness is as desire. Anytime we feel a desire, it can open up the potential for the qualities of our nature to arise. Desire is the force that calls us toward something we don’t know, that leads us to what is beyond that which we’re wanting. One of the main ways the vibrating, scintillating, throbbing quality of our Being can express itself is as desire. When we want something, our desire is pushing itself up for recognition as the dynamism of our being; what fuels the wanting for that person or object or situation is always rooted in the energy of Being itself. But we tend to get caught up in the content of the desire rather than staying in touch with the fact that desire itself is starting to well up. Desire is the expression of the true energy of Being. When felt fully, it reveals itself and reconnects consciousness with its origins.

The Most Powerful Desire We Have

As you consider this perception of oneness, you will see that in a very deep place in you, in the deepest part of your heart, there is a very deep grief, the deepest wound, the wound of the separation from oneness. And there is longing in our hearts, the deepest longing, the deepest yearning. The most powerful desire we have, in the deepest part of our hearts, is the longing to cease as a separate individual; to be united, to see that there is really only one because it is our ultimate nature. If it is cut off from our perception, there has to be a sense of loss, a deep, gaping wound that does not heal, and there inevitably arises an immense longing a very deep ache, so that no matter what you experience or feel, there is dissatisfaction and discontent. Your heart does not allow itself to be completely happy because this oneness is what your heart ultimately wants, and everything else it wants is just a little reflection of this. You might think your heart wants this and that, and it is all true, but these all are superficial wants. What will make your heart dance in happiness is this perception of oneness, your direct knowledge of the unity of yourself and everything in one nature.

The Single Desire of the Heart

We could say that the heart has a single desire—to recognize and be one with the light from its source—and this desire is hidden by many veils. These veils let through only some of the light, and each one lets through a different amount. Though the light is veiled, the veil does reveal something of the light. But we do not know that; we usually take the veil itself to be the light. We take the external circumstance that we long for to be our ultimate heart's desire. We do not see the circumstance as a veil, so we don't rend the veil. As a result, we do not “fly heavenward.” We don't go nearer, become more intimate. We continue to be sad, lonely, and alone.

Love Unveiled, pg. 141

The Truth that Desire is at the Root of Suffering

The Noble Truth that desire is at the root of suffering is such a deep truth that it is not easy to see experientially, except after long inner work. It is naive to imagine that the student will be convinced of this deep universal truth just by looking at his everyday desires and by noticing the frustration that arises. When an individual suffers due to desire, he usually attributes the suffering to the lack or loss of gratification, and not to the desiring itself. This means he believes desire is fine if gratification is forthcoming, if he gets what he wants. But this is not Buddha's teaching about desire. The issue is not the possibility of no gratification. The teaching is very clear that the movement of desire itself is suffering. But this perception is very subtle. It cannot be understood except at very fine levels of consciousness. In fact, the complete conviction about the teaching regarding desire does not come about until the later stages of the path, when the individual can see and feel for himself that the teaching is indeed true.

Two Possible Consequences

That is a good and very interesting insight about the question of desire. We are finding out that desire has many conflicts and issues around it. It is not as simple as we might have thought. Before we can be free from our desires, we first need to experience desire, to embrace our desire, which we may find is not easy. But hopefully, Cupid will have enough arrows for all of us. It usually looks as though he only has a few on his back, but I think there is no limit to their number. We will see that there are difficulties in love being true love and in desire being complete desire—and then there is what happens between them! Part of the conflict between the two is something that makes it difficult to experience desire. Many of us are afraid of our desire because it might affect our love, positively or negatively, and we are afraid of both possibilities—desire can make us love more or it can make us less loving.

When Desire Runs Wild with the Interest and Joy of Discovery

When the energy of true desire combines with the fluid sweetness of love, we feel the presence of love and the generosity of heart together with the wanting and the desire—all as one unified presence. We experience an effulgently sparkling energetic presence. The desiring has a feeling of fullness in it. It is no longer a desire out of need; it is a robust fullness, a sweetness, an expression of love. It originates from connectedness, from presence, from being the now. Desiring is now coupled with generosity, and it is both giving and receptive of the gifting. A dance of a giving way of loving, and a bubbling delight of desire, now becomes possible. Desire runs wild with the interest and joy of discovery in the moment. Whether in relation to another person or not, the desire can arise and magnetically draw us near the source. We find ourselves wanting to know, discover, explore, find out about life, the world, and the inner world: What is this dance going to be like? What is this day going to bring? What will I find? What am I? How will I know you differently today? How will I know myself? What will it mean? How can we interact?

Subscribe to the Diamond Approach