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Why do we Desire External Things?

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QUESTION: I have been listening to your Bhagawatam streams, and I am at the part where “Shiva Teaches About Vishnu” [ed: starts here]. For the first time, I am getting some clarity about mind, intellect and self. But I have two questions I cannot resolve: Desire is the root that causes Consciousness to evolve into ego, intellect, etc. so…

  1. What creates this desire? (Usually we hear that the mind creates desire, but the desire in question here exists previous to the mind)
  2. Why does the desire move outwards, towards external things? Why does it not move inwards?

What Creates Desire?

Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by the word “create.”

Creation means to be produced from something else. Parents, for example, create children.

Has everything that exists been created? If so, we have a very difficult dilemma: Children were created by parents, who were themselves children created by parents, who were also children created by parents… when does it end? How does it end? It is an “infinite regression.”

Actually, some things are not created. They exist, but they were not created. They are the basis of existence, not a specific aspect of it.

For example, consciousness.

Consciousness is the basis of reality. Reality, after all, is what can be seen, heard, felt, etc. Consciousness is the potential form of everything that can be seen, heard, etc. Consciousness therefore is the basis of reality, and the ultimate creator of reality, but is not something created within reality. This is the meaning of enigmatic statements like anādiḥ ādhiḥ (“The Beginningless Beginning”), and sarva-kāraṇa kāraṇam (“The Causeless Cause of all Causes”).

Now lets talk more directly about your question. You asked about desire.

Desire is a dharma (inherent property) of consciousness, similar to how brightness and warmth are dharmas of fire. Consciousness is perception. Desire is an aspect of perception. Specifically, desire is the motivating aspect of perception.

This explains the enigmatic statements in the Upanishads describing the Supreme Consciousness as kāma (desire).

Entities are their dharma, and cannot exist without them. So if consciousness is beginningless, then its dharmas (including desire) are also beginningless. This is why we cannot answer the question, “What created the desire of consciousness?” It is similar to asking, “What creates the brightness of fire?” It is the function of fire to be bright. Fire itself has brightness as a part of its very existence.

What about the Mind’s Desires?

The mind is a magical / non-physical machine that amplifies, prismatizes, diversifies, and kelidescopes the fundamental desire of consciousness. By doing this, it enables consciousness to more full explore desire.

The mind has specific desires, created by specific circumstances. For example, a dog in heat desires sex, but a very hungry dog does not. He desires food. When mating season ends, so does the sexual desire. When the dog obtains a meal, its desire to eat subsides. These desires are specific, temporary implementations of non-sepecific, eternal desire. The relationship between the two is similar to objects/classes, or documents/templates. A computer programmer uses a non-specific “class” to create infinite specific “objects.” An office worker can use a form-template to create many different documents for many different people.

The fundamental non-specific desire inherent in consciousness causes the evolution of the non-specific potential for identity, intellect, mind, etc. The specific desires then magnified and focused in the mind cause the evolution of specificity in the identity, intellect, etc.

Why does Desire Move Outward, not Inward

It moves towards whatever it can perceive. This is why people become sexually stimulated by seeing pornography, or why they become hungry by seeing a picture of food, or smelling bread. Desire and perception are inseparable, because desire is, as we said earlier, an aspect of perception (the motivating aspect).

Consciousness perceives whatever it is oriented towards, and desire flows towards that. Consequently, ego becomes defined in relation to that, and then intellect and mind and senses evolve in order to more fully interact with and experience that.

Orientation of consciousness is a dharma of consciousness-as-ātma.

Ātma is an identifiable, discrete instance of consciousness. The basis of discretion between one ātma and another is simply their “orientation” – the “angle” by which they perceive. This angle is very broadly described as either “outward” or “inward.”

An outward-oriented ātma perceives the objective nature of reality, and thus becomes motivated to define its existence in relation to objects. An inward-oriented ātma perceives the subject generating objective nature, and is motivated to establish its existence in relation to that.

What makes an Ātma face outward or inward?

Orientation is an eternal property (dharma) of an eternal entity (ātma), so there is no conventional cause. Simply, since there are infinite possible points of view some must point away from the source.

If our Viewpoint is Intrinsic, Can it be Changed?

Finally, some people will ask, “If our outward orientation is an intrinsic part of our definition, can we ever change it?”

If the answer is no, then there is no such thing as mukti, “enlightenment” or “liberation.”

But if the answer is yes, does it not require an impossible thing: changing an intrinsic property of an unchanging eternal entity?

Change of a property is permitted. Destruction of a property is not.

Destroying orientation would destroy the entity defined by its orientation (the ātma) which is impossible. Changing the orientation, however, will not destroy the entity, it changes the entity. Specifically it changes the entity from having incomplete experience of only the objective reality, to having complete experience of the subject and object.


4 responses to “Why do we Desire External Things?”

  1. Vic DiCara Avatar

    Q: Can there be an outward oriented liberated being? All the stories we hear, tell us to go inwards

    A: No. The inward oriented consciousness sees the outward reality, because the inner being is the source of the outer reality. But the outward oriented consciousness only sees the outward reality. Thus the outward orientation is incomplete, and the inward orientation is complete. It includes all outward experiences, but without their flaw of not anchoring all the perceptions in one unified experience.

    Q: Inwards is superior to outwards?

    A: Yes. Inward consciousness is vidya and jñāna. Outward consciosuness is avidya and ajñāna.

    Q: Outwards seems to outnumber inwards significantly.

    A: If we attend a convention of lovers of Star Trek, then in that hotel it will seem like almost everyone in the world must love Star Trek. But actually this is only the condition at the Star Trek convention. It is not true outside the convention. In the Star Trek convention the percentage of Star Trek lovers far outnumbers the percentage of Star Trek haters or agnostics. But in the world overall, the number of hardcore Star Trek fans is somewhat of a minority.

    Similarly, because we only perceive the outward reality, we only percieve people with outward orientation. So, to us it seems that almost everyone has outward consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ari Avatar

    if you perceive yourself as a very inward person (a lot of time and efforts spent inward, with a big-ass inner world let’s say) that means you are somehow in transition to a change of orientation? or if you are in this world, even if your attention is mostly focus within, you are still trap in the “external priority “? maybe the difference with the really internal point of view is that is not at all reactive to any external circumstances?


    1. Vic DiCara Avatar
      Vic DiCara

      “Inward” is a little deceptive. It means “facing towards the center” I.e. facing bhagavan. I guess being introverted is somewhat of a step in that direction!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ari Avatar

    wonderful article by the way, thank you


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