Need and desire can be spiritual

Posted on September 16, 2010
Filed Under mystical journeys, need, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

“When we think the solution to our unhappiness can be found in the external world, our desires can only be temporarily sated. Not understanding this, we are tossed this way and that by the winds of desire, ever restless and dissatisfied. We are governed by our karma and continually plant the seeds of future karmic harvest. Not only does this mode of action distract us from the spiritual path, but it also prevents us from finding satisfaction in our daily life” — Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

I was thinking about what’s written above the other day as I was walking around the Hawthorne district in Portland. I’d just come out of Powells (a bookstore) and I realized that while I’d enjoyed going into the store and looking at the books, I’d also felt a sense of dissatisfaction, a recognition that nothing I could purchase would be anything more than a distraction, an illusion. I might temporarily fulfill a desire and enjoy doing so, but I would still have to come face to face with the underlying reality that whatever I got was only a temporary distraction from that desire, and it would come back to remind me that it needed something more.

Since then I’ve also been thinking how much desire and attachment actually anchor a person into living life, providing the drive that people have to live, and I consequently wonder how much the valuing of the spirit over the material world is just another desire, another sign of dissatisfaction expressed in trying to find some spiritual answer that will take away any sense of need a person has.

Seems to me that need and desire are spiritual in and of themselves. Without the need or desire for something, would we strive so much for our goals, our projects, our ideals, etc.? When we determine that something is not spiritual, aren’t we just creating the dualistic divisions that cause Karma? I find the subtle hierarchical beliefs about the spirit vs the material to be the most dangerous because in trying to divide everything up we also end up labeling it and using that labeling to create the dualistic tension described as karma.

If satisfaction is to be found, it must be found in our ability to make peace with our desires by accepting them as gateways to spiritual experiences that also allow us to perceive the material world as the manifestation of the spiritual. Instead of dividing, why not just experience it all?

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