Concepts of 'Desire' and 'Demand' - Vedanta goes beyond Economics


As against the goal of Economics to satisfy the unlimited appetite of Demand-Power the goal of Vedanta is to transform the Desire-Power, to give it a new direction and orientation. Vedanta says that while desire for objects of enjoyment causes bondage, ‘the desire to not desire’ liberates us. It is the same desire power turned inward, transformed to become an inner search light to find the Source of Life, moksha.

Desire, kama, is one of the four legs for purushartha, the goal of life. Hence Vedanta does not condemn desire, as such, but advocates that it should be fulfilled within the parameters of dharma (bhutesu, among creatures; I am that kamah, desire - such desires as for eating, drinking, etc. which are for the mere maintenance of the body and so on; which is dharma aviruddhah, not contrary to righteousness, not opposed to scriptural injunctions; B.G.7.11) Fulfilling desire which is not contrary to righteousness is easier said than done. Vedanta therefore elaborately deals with the question as to why desire is to be controlled from its unbridled nature. We should bear in mind that Vedanta does not advocate suppression of desire but promotes its proper management. It analyzes uncontrolled desire from its origin till its end result. The Bhagavad Gita says -

dhyaayato vishayaan pumsah sangas teshoopajaayatesangaat sanjaayate kaamah kaamaat krodho'bhijaayate// 2.62 //

krodhaad bhavati sammohah sammohaat smriti vibhramahsmritibhramshaad buddhinaasho buddhinaashaat pranashyati // 2.63 //


Sri Krishna explains the theory of fall of man on account of sense-entanglements. The source of all evils is wrong thinking and false perceptions. When a man constantly thinks upon the alluring features of the sense objects the consistency of such thought creates an attachment in him for the objects of his thought. When similar thoughts come to play on his mind continuously they become strong desire for possessing and enjoying the objects of attachment. He tries his level best to obtain them. When this motive energy encounters with forces creating obstacles in the way of fulfillment of his desires it is called anger. He starts hating the people who come in the way of satisfying his wants, fights with them and develops hostility towards them. When a person is afflicted with anger, his mind gets confused casting a shadow on the lessons of wisdom learnt by him through past experience.  Not only anger, but other forces of our lower self such as lust, greed and jealousy follow the same trajectory of development and leads to ruination of human life. Thus deprived of the moral strength, he loses his power of discrimination between right and wrong which is called destruction of intelligence.

Failing in discrimination, he acts irrationally on the impulse of passions and emotions and thereby he is unable to attain the spiritual goal. He then paves the way for his own destruction; he perishes.

The movement from desire to destruction can be illustrated as under:Brooding on the objects of senses ►attachment ►desire ►anger ►delusion ►loss of memory ►loss of reason ►utter ruin.

What is called for is not a forced isolation from the world or destruction of sense life but an inward withdrawal. To hate the senses is as wrong as to love them. The horses of the senses are not to be unyoked from the chariot but controlled by the reins of the mind.

If attachment is what keeps us bound, how to break this? There are two ways: one is the path of Knowledge or Jnana, and the other is the Path of Devotion.

Explains Swami Vivekananda, Here are the two ways of giving up all attachment. The one is for those who do not believe in God, or in any outside help. They are left to their own devices; they have simply to work with their own will, with the powers of their mind and discrimination, saying, ‘I must be non-attached’. For those who believe in God there is another way, which is much less difficult. They give up the fruits of work unto the Lord; they work and are never attached to the results. Whatever they see, feel, hear, or do, is for Him. For whatever good work we may do, let us not claim any praise or benefit. It is the Lord’s; give up the fruits unto Him. Let us stand aside and think that we are only servants obeying the Lord, our Master, and that every impulse for action comes from Him every moment. Thus, rising above all attachments and worries, anxieties and disappointments that accompany them, a man becomes established in his real nature and becomes truly peaceful and joyous. This is the true meaning of renunciation as the following parable of Sri Ramakrishna illustrates.

A kite with a fish in its beak was chased by a large number of crows and screaming kites, pecking at it and trying to snatch away the fish. In whichever direction it went the flock of kites and crows also followed it. Tired of this annoyance, the kite threw away the fish which was instantly caught by another kite. At once the flock of kites and crows turned to the new possessor of the fish. The first kite was left unmolested; it calmly sat upon the branch of a tree. ‘Fish’ is the desire, and dropping it, the going ‘beyond’ - going above the world of cravings and problems. Spiritualization of life is the only way to it.


It would be observed from the foregoing analysis of ‘demand’ in Economics and ‘desire’ in Vedanta that while the former is limited to the ‘how’ of satisfying the human demands the latter goes a step beyond Economics and suggests ways of reorienting the ‘desire’ as a means to liberation, moksha sadhana.

Also read by same Author
1. Bhagavad Gita chapter-wise commentary in PDF
2. Yoga Vasishtha – a Treasure House of Philosophy
3. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
4. Mundaka Upanishad

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