Following Desire

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(Archive #119)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained that following desire always results in dissatisfaction, at the 14th Kopan Course in 1981. This is an edited excerpt from Lecture 15, Section Four of the course. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching in Geneva, Switzerland, 1983. Photo: Ueli Minder.

Following desire, expecting to fulfill it, and working for that, results in dissatisfaction. We follow desire and cling to samsaric perfections, and work with effort to get what we want; but even if we get it, we are not satisfied and again we work to fulfill desire. If we don’t get what we want, of course we are dissatisfied, but even if we do get it, we are still not satisfied. So it goes on and on and on, like this.

We work in order to fulfill desire and get satisfaction, for example, by actions such as stealing. Even if we are able to make profit in business and we earn a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars, we think, “This is not enough, I should get more.” A thousand dollars is still not enough, and even if we do get a thousand dollars, we want more than that—we want a million dollars. Even if we get that, there’s something missing in our mind—there is something not completely happy, not full.

We work in order to fulfill desire, but by following desire the result is always dissatisfaction. The purpose of our work is to fulfill our desire, but it doesn’t happen. Instead of that, there is dissatisfaction, so our work is repeated over and over and over, for our whole life. In this life, our work doesn’t have an end, and without choice, our life ends in impermanence and death. We still wander in samsara and the continuity of these aggregates joins the next life without a break. We are caught in samsara and no matter what samsaric aggregates are taken, again it is the same thing—we work for desire, and again the result is dissatisfaction. So it goes on and on and on, like this.

This work and our dissatisfaction has no beginning, and as long as we work for desire, our suffering and dissatisfaction has no end. They always continue. So, the nature of working for desire is that you get dissatisfaction.

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said in the sutra teachings that as long as we follow desire, we will not be satisfied. Until we renounce desire, we will never be satisfied. I don’t remember the words exactly, but what Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said was that the person who follows desire is always suffering, and the person who is satisfied by Dharma wisdom is always happy.

The practice of Dharma brings satisfaction. This does not mean just shaving our hair, wearing robes or changing our clothes. It doesn’t mean living in a monastery or center, or in a hermitage, or just reciting prayers or circumambulating stupas and temples. It doesn’t mean just meditation. Practicing Dharma doesn’t mean just this.

So how does practicing the holy Dharma bring satisfaction and peace to our mind? Taking care of desire is a problem that brings fundamental confusion to our life. All the problems that we hear about all the time in the West—in the newspapers or on television, with the family or the single person, whatever—all these problems are the shortcomings of following desire and seeking samsaric happiness and perfections. We seek comfort and the pleasures of this life, but our mind is unsubdued, uncontrolled. Whenever we start to practice the holy Dharma, right in that minute, right at that time, the result in our mind is peace, relaxation and calmness.

If we have a lot of worry and fear about not having better quality material possessions, we are kept busy worrying about not getting more things. If we have an apartment, we think, “I need this, I need that.” We think about what the house needs, and when we think about our comfort, we make so many lists of things. If we have this fear and worry, and we suddenly think, “This is enough for me,” we can renounce our desire and dissatisfaction. Even if our mind was very disturbed before, and we were filled with the worry and fear of not receiving material things, when we suddenly make the decision, “Oh, this is enough for me, I’m also not sure how long I will live my life,” those fears and worry are stopped. Immediately, there is peace and calmness, and our mind is relaxed.

If we are dissatisfied with our possessions and we suddenly feel content, thinking, “This is enough, this is okay,” that is the real holy Dharma. When we renounce desire, there is suddenly great peace in our mind. The immediate effect on our mind is great peace, calmness and relaxation.