Insights on Life: Eliminating Desires

Guan Ming

PureInsight | June 14, 2007

[] When a being
comes into this world, he has nothing.  Nothing in this world
comes with him nor can anything be taken with him when he leaves. 
However, there are many temptations on the journey of life. Nowadays,
people who have strong desires look at those desires as a human's basic
instincts. They believe that desires are the driving force in life, but
very few people will think about the damage from overly indulging our
insatiable hearts. Human beings have seven emotions and six desires.
Desires come from many different areas: for food, material, fame,
personal gain, lust, and power. If a person does not know how to
control his desires, his whole life will only be a process of
continuously pursuing his own desires. Only a wise person who possesses
an empty heart and very few desires knows the joy of simplicity and

In ancient times, the people of China had high moral standards and they left wise advice about controlling our desires.  

"If one cannot control one's desires, the damage will be tremendous." "Trouble results from desiring." (Liu An).

 "When one has desires, he cannot think rationally. Thus, he may
gain more desires which will promote the evil nature and that will foul
up the way he takes care his affairs. Consequently, he will encounter
disaster." (Han Feizi).

"A gentleman with more desires will love money and go astray; an
everyday person with more desires will pursue wealth and eventually
will squander his fortune, ruin his family, and lose his life" (Sima

"Knowing contentment and following it." (Wei Zheng).

"Cultivation of one's heart is nothing more than controlling one's desires." (Mencius).

"When one becomes greedy, one becomes insatiable." (Lu You).

All these famous sayings advise us not to acquire desires, indulge in
desires, nor be addicted to desires.  We should maintain our moral
standards and slowly move from desiring less to desiring nothing while
upholding our strong willpower.

An ocean can contain hundreds of rivers and a thousand cliffs can stand
up straight with strong willpower. Some words were spoken by Lin Zexu,
a Qin Dynasty governor of a province during the period that selling
opium was banned.  Whenever I read his words, I can sense his
open-mindedness, his strong willpower, his generous heart, and his
upright spirit. "When we can be humble and open-minded, we can accept
various ideas. When we desire nothing and struggle with no one, we are
just like the cliffs that can pierce through the cloud and stand up
proudly. The less one desires, the more one relaxes. The less one
seeks, the stronger one becomes.  Desiring weakens one's

The ancient people said, "The heart is shaped by its contents." 
The more desires one has, the more pressure one gets. The more one
desires, the more one becomes shackled.  Once we get into the
canyon of desire, we cannot get out.  Desiring will erode our
spirits, degrade our conscience and, as a result, can turn us into a
slave. In real life, many people have ruined their physical health,
their reputation, and their character because of their desires. When
one's heart is filled with personal gains and desires, one cannot have
good character or strong willpower.

The world is full of temptations and it is extremely difficult to be
desire-free.  To become desire-free, one must maintains a heart as
calm as water. Of course, this is not a realm for the ordinary people.
A heart can only be as calm as water after one has gotten rid of all
the dust from the mundane world and lives with a grateful heart which
has found the meaning of life.  Only once a cultivator understands
the principles of the universe and the true meanings of life, can he be
desire-free, resist temptation, and keep purity in his heart.

Without desires, human beings will naturally have noble characters.
Without desires, human beings will have strong willpower and wisdom.
Without desires, human beings can find their direction in the fog, stay
rational, and stay true to themselves. "Desire-free" is a high
spiritual realm in which the character of a person will be like a pine
tree: standing erect forever under heavy rain and strong winds.  

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