© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Will and desire

24 November 1954

Sweet Mother, what is the difference between willing and desiring?

They are not at all the same thing. When you see that something ought to be done, for instance, that it is good to do it--take your reason: say your reason decides that this ought to be done--then your will starts working and makes you do the things required for this thing to be done. Your will is an executing power, which ought to be at the disposal, the service of what was decided by the reason or a higher force. It is something coordinated, organised, which acts in accordance with a plan, precisely in a fully controlled way.

Desire is an impulse. It takes hold of you... it doesn't necessarily hold you with any conscious thought. It is an impulse which pushes you to get possession of something. You can put your will at the service of your desire, but desire is not will. Desire is an impulse. There are people who are full of desires and who have no will. So they simply are eaten up, as we say, by their desires; but this leads to nothing, because they don't even have the will to realise them. Most people always put the little bit of will that's at their disposal at the service of their desires. But will is a force with a power of organisation and it can be put at the service of any purpose whatever. It is something that, when one has will-power, one has [. . .] [Note: Words missing in transcript.] to a definite purpose. This is will. [new p. 411][old p. 411]

You must not mistake desire for will. Desire is an impulse: it seizes you, you know, it clings to you, holds you. And then, if you let desire do what it likes, well, it makes you do anything at all, and it makes use of your will. But usually, a desire is something violent, passionate and transient. Rarely is it very sustained; it does not have the stuff, the organisation of a sustained effort. When a desire seizes you, it can make you do anything whatever--but impulsively, not methodically.


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