by Swami Krishnananda
Purity is achieved by freedom from desire, and desire should be distinguishedfrom necessity. When one is hungry, one should eat, when one is thirsty oneshould drink, when one is fatigued, one should sleep. These absolutenecessities cannot be called desires because without these necessities onecannot even survive.
Desire is a destructive form of longing which innervates the whole system,longing for things which are not necessary for the maintenance of the body.Every kind of luxury should be considered as desire. One has to judge foroneself whether this particular thing is absolutely necessary, or one can becomfortable even without that. Each one is one's own judge. If one cancomfortably live happily without certain things, asking for those things onceagain is called desire. It will disturb the mind.
There are levels of desire, of a lower category and a higher category, etc. Youmay feel like having a cup of tea. It is a minor desire; have it. You may liketo go for a walk – go, go for a walk. Any object that brings about tumult inthe emotion, that is an object of desire by which you either want it intenselyor hate it intensely. Intense wanting and intense hating will affect theemotions. The test of good health is freedom from emotion, correctunderstanding without any kind of ebullition, burning desire of any kind. Thisis briefly the definition of desire.
There are two kinds of desires, anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic desires areconstructive, helpful and necessary for maintaining health and peace of mind.Catabolic desires are destructive in their nature. They throw the energy out.Any procedure by which we can conserve our energy is anabolic. Any process bywhich we deplete our energy and then become weak, that is catabolic. One mustbe able to very carefully distinguish between one and the other. Understandingis the judge, it is called Viveka-Shakti, capacity to distinguish between whatis absolutely essential for living a normal life and what is irrelevant. Thisis a preliminary definition to the question "What is purity?"
So purity is not like an apple that falls from a tree; it has shades of definition.You will not find any such clear description of this subject in any book. Eachone has to use one's common sense.
It is necessary to save life. Suppose you find a snake is wriggling, encircledby forest fire. You would like to save it, but you do not go and catch hold ofits neck. So even a good desire like wanting to save the snake should not befulfilled in a reckless way. People generally take a long stick and throw itlike this, etc. etc.
There are desires of a different type – like sexual desire. It is neither goodnor bad, like fire. Do you consider fire as a good thing or a bad thing? Youcannot say anything about it. It can destroy or it can cook your food. So,likewise, sexual desire is a conservative process of maintaining a balance inthe system, it is not capable of definition in a cut-and-dried manner. It is,as any desire is, relative to circumstance. But if it is a passion, you maydistinguish between desire and passion. Passion is voluptuous, tumult-like, andmakes one sick afterwards. Great discrimination has to be exercised here.
There is a famous passage called Kama Gita in the Mahabharata. The desire says,"People try to conquer me, but they do not know that even the desire to conquerme is a desire, they don't understand that, so I am behind all theirattempts."
Desire for God sublimates all other mortal desires. The higher absorbs thelower, the lower should be transmuted to the higher by meditation.