What Is Desire?

Shantideva “Although wishing to have happiness, like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it.” If seeking happiness is the prime directive and nearly all of our available energy goes toward seeking, acquisition and grasping or hanging onto happiness, then we should already have a tremendous amount of happiness. There should be a huge pool of happiness and we should be able to find as much happiness as we want because we were built to be satisfied by getting what we want. And yet, we know that is not true. What you don't want, often comes to you unbidden, and what you really really desire is as though it is held hostage away from you.

Student: If what one really desires is held away from them…but what about when we do get the things that we desire and then we find that they don’t make us happy.

Rinpoche: That’s interesting. It is because the acquisition of objects of desire is not what you really want. You actually want to experience desire. The human realm has been described as a desire realm, that is because the preparation, (both mental and emotional), for desiring is what traps you here. Your capacity to grasp increases, meaning desire is being applied to what you are already hanging onto while looking for another object. This is using desire as motivation.

For example; while passing a new car dealership, a cascade of sensory input causes an upwelling of perceptions. “
Ah! That is the very thing that I want. I want that new car.” Then, your energetic activity begin to stir and fuel further motivation in the form of emotions. You want not just any car, but that particular car. That energy now picks up speed with emotions, rising a source of joy and pleasure could even extend for a short time after buying that very car. From the time you acquire the vehicle until the time the first breakdown occurs, the possibility of that kind of happiness and satisfaction could even possibly sustain the logic for grasping which is now is a source of pride and possible source of identity.

…Of course, if one has an old car already then they don’t have to worry because they know that it won’t take long to feel disappointed. (Laughter). My car is not new, we don’t have to worry about running after happiness with our vehicle. Now the water pump went out, my goodness.

The source of true happiness is the arisal of the benefit mind, which will relieve the suffering of all living beings, but this precious jewel mind is forgotten in the hurry and intensity of desire. The potential for great mind is eroded by intense desire. Whatever good intentions one might have of creating great mind are destroyed through pollution, wasting one’s life and not beginning authentic practice. In that way, the chance that they have for real happiness, authentic happiness, is damaged like a fat man trying to fly while sitting on the back of a butterfly.

edited excerpt from "Inspiration of Deep Altruism" Oct 2003


  1. Thank you very much, Rinpoche!!! very practical!
    I need much patience and training to work not only with my own desires but with growing desires of two little girls(my daughters).
    all the best from Saint-Petersburg,

  2. Thankyou Rinpoche,
    I know that you all are in retreat this very day and I have a great desire to be there, but cannot....but I can listen with my heart for all the energy and good work that is being done for the benefit of all....and join you all on the inside as best I can....
    Thankyou for your Kindness
    Pema Dorje


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