nissargadattaOne of the things I like about You Tube is that I can see old archival footage of now-dead lecturers and teachers. For instance, I happened upon an old film of Nisargadatta Maharaj, an enlightened master from India who died in the 1980’s and was part of the Advaita Vedanta tradition.

He said something which has stuck with me for several days, something which I have struggled with, turned upside down and inside out, my mind trying to rationalize another, more comfortable interpretation. At the same time, from the moment I heard it, I knew that what he said was true, and no matter how I twisted and turned could not make it a more comforting (to the ego) statement.

He said “If people would only want what they have, and not want what they don’t have, they would be at peace. It is so simple.”

There are a lot of things that we may have that we don’t want such as sickness, poverty, poor relationships, etc. And, there are a lot of things we don’t have that we may want such as recognition, companionship, wealth, peace of mind.

I considered a friend of mine who is always complaining that she does not want the home she currently has and she will not let go of wanting the home she does not have. She is one of the most anxious, unhappy people I know right now. It is easy for me to say that if she could only accept her current circumstances and stopping wanting a home she could not afford, she would be more content. But what about the beam in my own eye?

I continued to contemplate Nisargadatta’s statement. What did ‘wanting what you have’ really mean? Was it tolerance, acceptance, resignation to the present? What did ‘not wanting’ really mean? Was it indifference, neglect, repugnance to what was not?

The other day a well-meaning friend sent me an article about how someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis undertook a radical new treatment and eventually went into remission.

Before reading the article I had been thinking about RA in a non-personal way and coping with the footprints it leaves in my life.  After reading it I felt doubt about my current approach and pondered whether I should try this treatment, what might be the results, etc. Before I knew it my mind was filled with unhappy thoughts- reviewing the history of my own experience with the disease and projecting possible futures.

I wrote back and thanked her but said that I was more interested in learning how to accept and cope with my situation than I was in changing it. I don’t know if that was the right response or not but I do know that I immediately felt more peaceful in not wanting something I did not have now. In addition, I had to acknowledge the many insights and benefits I have received as a result of experiencing this disease so it hasn’t been all bad.

I realized that wanting is closely associated with thinking. When you want something there is a lot of energy put into thinking about it, envisioning the desired object or condition are constantly in the mind like a carrot in front of the donkey. On the other hand, when there is no-wanting, there is no thinking and no energy spent– it is non-present.

I caught myself the other night lying and bed and thinking how I wish I had a better relationship with a family member. This went on for several hours and then I remembered Nisargadatta’s statement. I was wanting what I didn’t have. If I stopped wanting it what would happen? I was instantly more peaceful.

Illness, a death in the family, financial hardship – all the catastrophes that life can bring, all those events which cannot be changed no matter how much we pray, cry, implore, sacrifice; all those events which remind the thinking mind and ego that there is a greater power that cannot be bribed, coerced, blackmailed or brought into line; all of those hard things in life strip away the nonessential.

Hardship shows us we do not have the power to bend life into a convenient or comfortable form if it is going in a different direction. If we want what we have, and don’t want what we don’t have, there is extraordinary energy available because it is not being burned up in futile thinking and desiring. This energy exists in a great spaciousness that some call peace.


12 thoughts on “WANTING

  1. We have started an attitude of gratitude discussion at the dinner table where we think about how much we already have. I think sometimes even when it’s not material possessions, we can let the pursuit of something overshadow everything.


  2. Auntie Heather

    Nearly every day after I get up, I thank my higher power that I don’t have to go to work for an abusive boss anymore as I had to for 15 1/2 years. I try to focus on things to be very thankful for, like this, *especially when I hear myself whining about something. Sure, financially things are very difficult but the peace of mind I have is well worth it. And I owe you, my dear friend, a great deal of gratitude for being so instrumental in helping me to walk away from that place. 🙂


  3. Thank you for this delightful and enriching post. Do you think that Nisargadatta would be happy if we turned our wanting to wanting what is well for others? I think that this too is part of the content of peace: turning my self-wants into well-wishes for others.


  4. There has been a similar philosophy within Christianity for a long time – being content with one’s lot. The trouble with that, and with any such philosophies, is that it has always been manipulated by the wealthy and powerful, to the detriment of the poor. I feel strongly that an ‘idiotikos’ of personal satisfaction is only of any practical use to others if it is supported by a ‘politikos’ of social justice for others. My own living without ‘wants’ does not, in itself, stop the inevitability that wealth concentrates. ‘Para nosotros nada’ can only be balanced by ‘Para todos todo’; together they make a principle I can really get behind.



  5. Fantastic philosophy to carry through life. I wonder if you ever read Kahlil Gibran , The Prophet? It is only 90 pages and one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is the book I go to for insight into dealing with life. Whether it be love , hate ,power or poverty and life and death.It is worth the read. I promise.


    1. Yes, The Prophet is one of my favorite books and have a copy that I got back in college. It always goes with me. An author you may enjoy reading is Antoine St. Exupery. He is the same one who wrote the classic, The Little Prince, but also authored several books about being one of the early fliers. He delivered mail throughout the Mediterranean in the 1920’s+, and was finally lost at sea in WWII. His love was the sky, and he had the heart of a poet/mystic as did Gibran. I can recommend Wisdom of the Sands, among others. I very much enjoy our exchanges. Marie


      1. Thank you so much for the recommendations.I will certainly read Exupery. Being of Lebanese descent I may be a little biased. I was given an album this Christmas of THE PROPHET narrated by Richard Harris and recorded in 1972. The album was useless but I have the album cover framed and hanging on my wall. FYI. Gibrans artwork is about four hours down the road in a museum in Savannah. I haven’t been yet but it is one of the more attainable items on my bucket list.


      2. Wow. Some of it is so basic you would probably laugh. I would like to see the Grand Canyon. I would like to ride up the east coast , turn left in Canada and drive to Alaska. I would like to come back down the west coast , stop and visit my son in California , a state I have never seen and visit New Orleans on my way back home to Georgia. I would like to jump out of an airplane one more time and go white water rafting again. Oh, I would LOVE to see the cedars of Lebanon! Have you ever googled them?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s