“The world is little. People are little; human life is little. There is only one big thing- desire.”
– Willa Cather (American novelist and winner of Pulitzer prize)
Do you intensely yearn for intimacy or crave for an object? It’s only natural because the human heart is a seat of emotions and desires; we can’t do away with longings.
A Tsunami of wishes, in time, floods the heart of many stoic philosophers- their make-believe is exposed. The Indian scriptures reveal this archetypal struggle in the story of Vishwamitra, a determined sage, who performed penance for over 60,000 years. He was indifferent to the world, and its potpourri of emotions. An attractive damsel from the heavenly planets, Menaka, changed it all by gently tapping her feet on the ground. Her tinkling anklets inundated the sage’s heart beyond his ability to regulate, with lust. Instantly, he opened his eyes to discover a gorgeous form- her coy smiles and seductive spell dealt a lethal blow. From a detached sadhu, he became an attached lover!
Vishwamitra and his companion enjoyed a few hundred years of voluptuous glory. But he wasn’t happy-the gnawing vacuum in the heart troubled him. “There are two tragedies in life,” said George Bernard Shaw in his famous drama, Man and Superman, “One is to lose your heart’s desire, and the other is to gain it.”
Later with determined spiritual practices, where a higher taste enabled the sage to say ‘no’ to the gratification of senses, he could transcend his passions.
The Bhagavad Gita (2.59) explains this phenomenon:
“Though the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the desire for sense objects remains. But ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.”
A striking contrast to Vishwamitra’s example is Haridas Thakur who appeared five hundred years ago in a Muslim family. His ardent devotion to Lord Krishna, the Hindu deity, was not only sensational but also attracted the envy of some. One evil landlord plotted to defame Haridas. He chose a beautiful prostitute to lure him to an illicit affair, but the conspiracy failed because Haridas’s pure chanting had a magical effect on the lady’s heart. She surrendered to God and renounced her immoral ways, and went on to become a famous saint herself.
To be continued…