We all need material security and happiness, but our spirit, our soul or essence longs for something greater than basic survival or fleeting pleasure.
The yogic tradition is based on a philosophy which is relevant to us all, even if you never do a yoga pose in your life! It is founded on the principle that our happiness is dependent on each of us finding our life purpose and fulfilling our destiny, or duty.
Universal yet unique
The ancient wisdom of the Vedas teaches that we are unique while also part of the universal. The soul has two aspects: it is whole, eternal, in a state of oneness with the Absolute; and yet it desires to express itself and its divine nature, in the world.
The yogic term for soul is ‘atman’ which means ‘essence’ The Paramatman or higher soul, is the infinite, unconditional essence beyond all limitation. This aspect of our soul is part of the infinite being.
Jiva is the individual soul, your spiritual thumbprint which is unique to you. It is where your soul meets your unconscious, the part of you that determines your uniqueness, your distinct capacities, your talents and challenges, your inclinations and desires.
It comes into the world with a specific purpose, which it is compelled to fulfil. The Jiva of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Albert Einstein contained the potential for their destiny from the moment they were conceived.
We also shape our destiny as we go through life. Each thought wave affects your mind and this vibration affects your whole life; each emotion shapes your destiny. Our vows, our deeply held promises, influence our body from moment to moment. They even have the power to influence people and circumstances to come into our life that will make achieving our destiny more likely.
Purpose and destiny
In yogic philosophy, our soul has four desires which it uses to propel us towards our unique destiny. The first is dharma, which is the longing for purpose, the drive to become who you are meant to be. Dharma is also the impulse towards altruism, the inner longing of every individual to add their own lustre to the gem of creation.
Dharma is someone’s path; dharma sees our career and other roles as our life work, within a larger context of serving the universe. The question is whether your desires lead you towards your path or away from it.
Our soul’s innate mission or purpose is to realise all we are capable of. Everything in nature is compelled by this imperative; think of flowers and trees, which grow into their perfection from their seed.
When a resolution is little more than a wish, even one that you think many times a day, it has relatively little power to affect your destiny.
The science of manifesting our intentions and achieving anything of significance involves cultivating resolve. This is known in yogic tradition as sankalpa shakti. This helps you to overcome internal resistance and expand your capacity.
It’s one thing to have an intention; it’s another to have it fulfilled. For every resolve there is always some resistance to its fulfilment. In practical terms, this involves identifying your aims clearly, overcoming resistance, and moving towards them with every thought and action.
The second desire, known as artha, is the desire to have the resources to enable us to fulfil our dharma. For some people this is the desire for material resources to fulfil a purpose or mission, for other people it is the skills or qualities needed. Mahatma Gandhi’s artha included meditation and prayer, a vegetarian diet, and taking the action of passive resistance. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to break the racial colour barrier in his sport, and his skills on the field were his artha, his sporting skills were the means by which he fulfilled his dharma. His artha included boundless energy, having the willpower to win at his game, and an extraordinary capacity to endure.
Pleasure and courage
The third soul craving known as kama, is the desire for pleasure. Kama is often taken to mean sensual pleasure, but the deeper understanding of kama includes the pleasures of intimacy, closeness in friendship and family, as well as a love of beauty and art. If it were not for kama, few things of value beyond nature itself, would exist. The truth is that the desire for pleasure is the motivation behind all our actions. Anything we aspire to and achieve produces a feeling of pleasure.
One of India’s most ancient spiritual texts says that without desires, we will not desire to fulfil our duty or our destiny. For pleasure, a courageous man will brave the ocean.
Freedom from limitation
The fourth desire is moksha, the longing for liberation. It is the yearning to be free of all the limitations of the other three desires. Moksha is one of the driving forces of the world’s spiritual traditions. It is the call to prayer, contemplation, meditation. It is the longing to know the eternal, that which is beyond all limitations; to be free of suffering and to realise something beyond the five senses and even death.
The desire for moksha is the desire for lasting peace, beyond sensory pleasure. It is the desire to seek out the sacred, whether it is found in a church or temple, in contemplative solitude, in nature or through self-inquiry. Moksha is the desire to experience awareness; realisation. Fulfilling this desire gives you entry into the most sublime heights of heaven on earth.
Pursuit and attainment
Identifying your deepest driving desire requires you to acknowledge the life you have manifested up until this moment – not the one you are hoping to have achieve in 40 years from now. This means taking a critical and rigorously honest look at everything you’ve accomplished and not accomplished in your life so far. It means taking a look at your dreams – those you have pursued and attained; those you’ve attempted and stopped short of fulfilling; and those you failed to act on.
This is the work of the sankalpas – which means setting achievable goals to reach your aims. The process of sankalpa shakti involves acknowledging to what extent you have achieved your dreams so far, and recognising how much or how little effort you have directed toward fulfilling them for most of your life up to this point.
Following the yogic philosophy of the desires as a practice for personal and spiritual growth, will point you towards finding your soul’s deepest driving desire.
By understanding our desires as the impetus of our soul to manifest our individual purpose, or dharma, we can make sense of our life as a journey towards its fulfilment.
In this way each one of us can recognise our true soul purpose and begin to live in a way that means all our desires and goals lead us towards living our life in such a way that we are fulfilling our purpose.
From The Four Desires, © 2012, by Rod Stryker, published by Hay House.