Francis Answers - 219 - What is impersonal desire?

Francis Lucille

Name: Jay

Dear Francis, I have a question for you regarding something you told a questioner during a satsang that has been made into a video under the title, “The Perfume of Peace.” In answering a question about whether it is possible to be aware of one’s true nature as consciousness during daily activities, you say, “all impersonal desires strangely manifest.” After much meditation and self enquiry, I began frequently experiencing states of enthusiasm where I saw my desires and yet remained minimally attached to them. I noticed how, because of the lack of attachment, I was able to act much more effectively in fulfilling them. Some even seemed to come effortlessly. BUT, bit by bit, I would become more and more attached to my desires. I would have thoughts like, “Wow, using this will really help me to become a great lawyer,” or “Now I’ll get all sorts of dates” etc, etc. I began feeling excited about how my spiritual learnings would bring me such success, and how enlightenment was simply becoming prosperous and famous effortlessly. Now, however, after an extremely deep experience of awareness and its true, impersonal nature, I have seen that these desires still seem to be personal. It seems as though the only desire that can be truly impersonal is one that is strictly, and I emphasize, strictly, made of pure love, without even a trace of desire for personal benefit. But such a desire isn’t even a desire at all, but rather the movement of Truth itself, the movement of reality overcoming ignorance. Therefore the sage is truly desireless. What exactly do you mean by “impersonal desires”? I still have some desires for worldly success. Are these harmful? Of course they should not be suppressed, but I now sense that true enlightenment never comes in the form of getting all of what you “want,” for the wanting itself comes from the ego. Is this correct? Or is enlightenment, in fact, a way to manifest one’s worldly desires? Surely not. (By “worldly,” I mean desires for things like success, pleasure, fame, etc.) I have often been motivated by a powerful, recurring desire for worldly success in all areas of life—attaining distinction in one’s career, finding an attractive and intelligent mate, etc. But now I sense that if I am to live completely and perfectly from Truth, I must be willing to completely give up even all of these sorts of aspirations. This does not mean jumping to some other extreme such world denying. But I feel that true non-attachment means that I must be truly indifferent to whether or not I get my worldly desires. I must be truly surrendered to whatever happens, which means giving up all preferences for the future and knowing only the present. Is this in keeping with Truth? Is true surrender having no (personal) preferences for the future? God bless and happy holidays, Jay

Dear Jay,

What an interesting set of questions!

  1. What exactly do you mean by “impersonal desires”?

An impersonal desire arises out of truth, love, beauty, fullness. It comes from happiness and stays in happiness. A personal desire arises out of lack, envy, greed, sense of separation. It comes from misery and stays in misery. The pure desire for peace and happiness, without any object or form attached to it, is the archetype of impersonal desire.

A personal desire originates from the belief to be a separate self, a human being, a body-mind structure. An impersonal desire is one which is free from this belief.

  1. I still have some desires for worldly success. Are these harmful?

It depends on whether they are personal or not. For instance, the desire to be successful in one’s business in order to provide for one’s children may be impersonal, if it comes from love.

  1. The wanting itself comes from the ego. Is this correct? Or is enlightenment, in fact, a way to manifest one’s worldly desires?

Ignorance is the problem, not the ego. Our wanting comes from ignorance when we believe that our happiness depends on its fulfillment.

Example of desire that comes from ignorance: I feel miserable. I don’t like it. I want to drink some champagne to get out of my predicament. The liquor store is closed, I feel even more miserable.

Example of desire that doesn’t come from ignorance: for no reason whatsoever, I feel happy and lighthearted. I have this friend visiting me later today. It would be nice to celebrate friendship with some champagne. The liquor store is closed. No problem, it was just a nice idea, my happiness is not affected. The door bell rings: my friend appears, holding a bottle of champagne to celebrate the reunion.

  1. Is true surrender having no (personal) preferences for the future?

Yes, among other things. I like Meister Eckhart’s formula, which would be my definition of surrender: to know nothing, to own nothing, to want nothing.