Responsibility is the Child of Desire

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In my article, ‘Siddhis: a Common Obstacle among Spiritual Seekers’, a friend sent me a comment in the form of questions. Within those questions, are wonderful lessons as you will see below:

What is self-realisation? Can someone tell me? It must be something more than realising that the self is deathless and is a spark of the divine. It is something we realise not only intellectually but also experience. During meditation, we sometimes lose the feeling of the ‘I’. Does self-realisation mean that at all times, we should be in that state? If so, why are we given responsibilities and trapped by Maya? Or are we supposed to carry on living balancing our worldly responsibilities with the realisation that everything is temporary? Is that self-realisation? I am confused. I am not interested in siddhis. Can anyone out there let me experience what great yogis and gurus experienced, please?

Why are we given responsibilities and trapped by Maya?

Our responsibilities are the karmic effects of getting what we desire. We are born in this physical realm because we are attracted to the mental and physical pleasures which our body provides. Our physical body is necessary for us to work out all the desires we have in connection with this realm and once we are done, we begin to work out our desires relating to higher realms[1]. In order to maintain this body, we need to eat and protect it from harm. Within our society, we have an agreement that we are each given certain responsibilities. If everyone carries out his/her responsibilities, the world will work fine. However, if more people than not, choose to ignore their responsibilities, the world will fall into chaos.

Therefore, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna taught Arjuna, “Work and meditation are one. Nothing is ever gained from mere renouncement. He who sits suppressing all his senses, yet in his idle heart thinking on them, plays the inept and guilty hypocrite: But he who, with strong body serving mind, gives up his mortal powers to worthy work, not seeking gain, Arjuna! Such a person is honorable. Do your allotted task!”

Which is better for spiritual evolution – becoming a householder practitioner or to escape into seclusion and carry out a solitary practice?  This is addressed directly in the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna obviously favours the life of the householder yogi for those who has not transcended their desires. He said, “If  knowing thy duty and thy tasks, thou do not carry out the task, that will be sin!” However, Lord Krishna is at the same time not advocating a life that is totally absorbed in materialism. He is advocating a balance between carrying out one’s duty and putting time into one’s practice.

If we analyse our responsibilities, we can trace them back to our desires. When we desire a close knit family, we need to carry certain responsibilities in respect of our family. If we neglect those responsibilities, we will also forsake the experience of a close and happy family.

Similarly, our desire for power and a high-paying position in our occupation will entail greater responsibilities. We will need to deal with problems everyday. We will need to guide and motivate our staff and keep them happy. We will have no one to motivate and keep us happy! Such is the karmic effect of fulfilling our desire for power and wealth. We chose to fulfil that desire and as such, we need to accept the responsibilities that come with it.

That is the nature of this world. Everything comes with a price. We pay the price to fulfil our desires. There is nothing wrong with that. This is what spiritual evolution is about. Eventually, we will realise one important truth: Our desires are often distorted mental pictures of a future happiness.

Kriya Yoga - IllusionWe often have a distorted picture of the happiness the desired object will bring us because at the height of our desire, we are only able to see the positive aspects of the object and we are blind to the negative aspects. We also erroneously believe that the perceived joy that we will gain from the object will never diminish. When we desire a big house we picture the comfort we can get from the bigger space, the new things we can fit into the house etc. It is only after we own the house that we start to complain about the additional cost and work that comes with maintaining the house. We begin to suffer the financial burden that comes with the big house. Had we only use our wisdom before we purchase the house, we would not have been driven so strongly by our desire. We must make the same mistake over and over again until the day when we finally transcend all our desires.

The life of a renunciate or sannyasi is only for those who have transcended all desires. They do not suppress any desire. If they do, they will need to come back again and work out that desire. They truly understand that nothing of this world can bring them the happiness that can match the bliss of god-realisation. They have experience everything that the world has to offer and desire nothing more. They have a bigger responsibility of serving humanity as a whole but they do not see it as a responsibility because they can see through the veil of Maya and see the oneness of all beings. They see that the ego is merely thoughts, beliefs, habits and concepts[2].

Similarly, to understand what self-realisation is, we just need to observe and understand what the ego is.

Those who live the life that closely resembles that of a renunciate are those who lead a simple and happy life. They own very little but yet are able to live in the world happily because they have worked out most of their desires in their previous lives. They truly understand that happiness comes from within and not from the external objects. They see that all negative emotions arise from desire and true happiness is achieved when their desires are few.

See List of Articles

[1] See the article ‘Desire; the substance of the Three Bodies that Encage the Soul’

[2] See the article ‘the computer’ in the e-book ‘Candles of Celebration’ which can be downloaded from

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