It will help you, in doing this and in changing your desire, if you realise that the great evolution of humanity goes on along two paths–the Path of Forthgoing, and the Path of Return.
On the Path, or marga, of Pravritti–forthgoing on which are the vast majority of human beings, desires are necessary and useful. On that path, the more desire a man has, the better for his evolution. They are the motives that prompt to activity. Without these the stagnates, he is inert. Why should Isvara have filled the worlds with desirable objects if He did not intend that desire should be an ingredient in evolution? He deals with humanity as a sensible mother deals -with her child. She does not give lectures to the child on the advantages of walking nor explain to it learnedly the mechanism of the muscles of the leg. She holds a bright glittering toy before the child, and says: “Come and get it.” Desire awakens, and the child begins to crawl, and so it learns to walk. So Isvara has put toys around us, but always just out of our reach, and He says: “Come, children, take these. Here are love, money, fame, social consideration; come and get them. Walk, make efforts for them.” And we, like children, make great efforts and struggle along to snatch these toys. When we seize the toy, it breaks into pieces and is of no use. People fight and struggle and toil for wealth, and, when they become multi-millionaires, they ask: “How shall we spend this wealth?” I read of a millionaire in America, who was walking on foot from city to city, in order to distribute the vast wealth which he accumulated. He learned his lesson. Never in another life will that man be induced to put forth efforts for the toy of wealth. Love of fame, love of power, stimulate men to most strenuous effort. But when they are grasped and held in the hand, weariness is the result. The mighty statesman, the leader of the nation, the man idolised by millions–follow him home, and there you will see the weariness of power, the satiety that cloys passion. Does then God mock us with all the objects? No. The object has been to bring out the power of the Self to develop the capacity latent in man, and in the development of human faculty, the result of the great lila may be seen. That is the way in which we learn to unfold the God within us; that is the result of the play of the divine Father with His children.
But sometimes the desire for objects is lost too early, and the lesson is but half learned. That is one of the difficulties in the India of today. You have a mighty spiritual philosophy, which was the natural expression for the souls who were born centuries ago. They were ready to throw away the fruit of action and to work for the Supreme to carry out His Will.
But the lesson for India at the present time is to wake up the desire. It may look like going back, but it is really a going forward. The philosophy is true, but it belonged to those older souls who were ready for it, and the younger souls now being born into the people are not ready for that philosophy. They repeat it by rote, they are hypnotised by it, and they sink down into inertia, because there is nothing they desire enough to force them to exertion. The consequence is that the nation as a whole is going downhill. The old lesson of putting different objects before souls of different ages, is forgotten, and every one is now nominally aiming at ideal perfection, which can only be reached when the preliminary steps have been successfully mounted. It is the same as with the “Sermon on the Mount” in Christian countries, but there the practical common sense of the people bows to it and–ignores it. No nation tries to live by the “Sermon on the Mount ” It is not meant for ordinary men and women, but for the saint. For all those who are on the Path of Forthgoing, desire is necessary for progress.
What is the Path of Nivritti? It is the Path of Return. There desire must cease; and the Self-determined will must take its place. The last object of desire in a person commencing the Path of Return is the desire to work with the Will of the Supreme; he harmonises his will with the Supreme Will, renounces all separate desires, and thus works to turn the wheel of life as long as such turning is needed by the law of Life. Desire on the Path of Forthgoing becomes will on the Path of Return; the soul, in harmony with the Divine, works with the law. Thought on the Path of Forthgoing is ever alert, flighty and changing; it becomes reason on the Path of Return; the yoke of reason is placed on the neck of the lower mind, and reason guides the bull. Work, activity, on the Path of Forthgoing, is restless action by which the ordinary man is bound; on the Path of Return work becomes sacrifice, and thus its binding force is broken. These are, then, the manifestations of three aspects, as shown on the Paths of Forthgoing and Return.
Bliss manifested as desire is changed into will Wisdom manifested as thought is changed into reason. Activity manifested as work is changed into sacrifice.
People very often ask with regard to this: “Why is will placed in the human being as the correspondence of bliss in the Divine?” The three great Divine qualities are: chit or consciousness; ananda or bliss; sat or existence. Now it is quite clear that the consciousness is reflected in intelligence in man–the same quality, only in miniature. It is equally clear that existence and activity belong to each other. You can only exist as you act outwards. The very form of the word shows It –“ex, out of”; it is manifested life. That leaves the third, bliss, to correspond with will, and some people are rather puzzled with that, and they ask: “What is the correspondence between bliss and will?” But if you come down to desire, and the objects of desire, you will be able to solve the riddle. The nature of the Self is bliss. Throw that nature down into matter and what will be the expression of the bliss nature? Desire for happiness, the seeking after desirable objects, which it imagines will give it the happiness which is of its own essential nature, and which it is continually seeking to realise amid the obstacles of the world. Its nature being bliss, it seeks for happiness and that desire for happiness is to be transmuted into will. All these correspondences have a profound meaning if you will only look into them, and that universal “will-to-live” translates itself as the “desire for happiness” that you find in every man and woman, in every sentient creature. Has it ever struck you how surely you are justifying that analysis of your own nature by the way you accept happiness as your right, and resent misery, and ask what you have done to deserve it? You do not ask the same about happiness, which is the natural result of your own nature. The thing that has to be explained is not happiness but pain, the things that are against the nature of the Self that is bliss. And so, looking into this, we see how desire and will are both the determination to be happy. But the one is ignorant, drawn out by outer objects; the other is self-conscious, initiated and ruled from within. Desire is evoked and directed from outside; and when the same aspect rules from within, it is will. There is no difference in their nature. Hence desire on the Path of Forthgoing becomes will on the Path of Return.
When desire, thought and work are changed into will, reason and sacrifice, then the man is turning homewards, then he lives by renunciation.
When a man has really renounced, a strange change takes place. On the Path of Forthgoing, you must fight for everything you want to get; on the Path of Return, nature pours her treasures at your feet. When a man has ceased to desire them, then all treasures pour down upon him, for he has become a channel through which all good gifts flow to those around him. Seek the good, give up grasping, and then everything will be yours. Cease to ask that your own little water tank may be filled, and you will become a pipe, joined to the living source of all waters, the source which never runs dry, the waters which spring up unfailingly. Renunciation means the power of unceasing work for the good of all, work which cannot fail, because wrought by the Supreme Worker through His servant.
If you are engaged in any true work of charity, and your means are limited and the wealth does not flow into your hands, what does it mean? It means that you have not yet learnt the true renunciation. You are clinging to the visible, to the fruit of action, and so the wealth does not pour through your hands.