What is the difference between free will and desire?

by Chaitanya Charan dasAugust 5, 2013

From: Muralidhara Das

What is the difference between desire and free will?
The capacity to desire is a property of the soul; Desire (iccha sakti) is an energy of the soul which gets transformed to lust (kama) when it comes in contact with the mode of passion.

The nature of this lust depends on the dominant mode of the subtle body.
Is free will a distinct property of the soul different from desire or is free will a focused desire directed by the intelligence?

Answer Podcast

Transcription By: Rahul Kambhampati P

Edited By: Priyanka Amit Kumar Mataji

Question: What is the difference between desire and free will?

The elaboration of the question
The capacity to desire is a property of the soul; Desire (iccha sakti) is energy of the soul which gets transformed to lust (kama) when it comes in contact with the mode of passion.

The nature of this lust depends on the dominant mode of the subtle body.
Is free will a distinct property of the soul, different from desire or is free will a focused desire, directed by the intelligence?

Answer: Free will is the capacity to choose our desire. Often the soul is compared to a source of light and the light getting emitted from the source is compared to the consciousness.  It can also refer to sun and sunlight, however, this reference is used primarily in Bhagavad Gita‘s shlok 13.33 and 13.34, to elucidate that not only soul is distinct from the body, but simultaneously acts on the body.

Further it is also clarified in the same chapter that soul is not all pervading as the sun is all over the universe, on the contrary it pervades only at one specific body .In order to further understand this finite reach of the consciousness of the soul, one may consider the fact that one is   conscious of one’s own body and not anybody else’s body, at least, not internally. Externally one knows about the happenings around, and so our consciousness is spread finitely.

For further understanding, we can use the example of the flash light. The flash light can be focused upwards, straight or downwards, similarly the capacity to desire can be directed upwards, towards higher modes, can be directed towards passion, or downwards if one is in the mode of ignorance.

The capacity to desire can stay at the same level as is mentioned by Krishna in the 14.18.  of Bhagavad Gita, madhye tisthanti rajasah tone is in the rajo guna, and adho gachanti tamasah that is one goes downwards, if one lives in the mode of ignorance. The capacity to direct our desires is our free will. Desire is like light emitted by the flash light and free will is the capacity to direct the light as per our liking.

Simultaneously, because these concepts are subtle, the relationship is not so simple Gradually; our free will also gets conditioned, by the manner in which we use our desires. This can be further substantiated by taking an e.g. of a computer. If a computer user chooses something repeatedly it becomes default preference of the user and often without prompting and selecting that becomes user’s choice. Similarly, if a person uses the free will to direct the power of desire towards tamo guna say drinking, smoking or drugs, it becomes the habit.

Although the capacity of the free will is never lost entirely, but is covered over substantially, that is the person starts feeling that he cannot live without it. Our capacity to direct our desire is affected by the manner in which we direct our desires, and when we direct our desires towards Krishna gradually will become freed from the pull of the lower desires.

Another question is, if freewill, a distinct property of the soul, different from desire? Yes.The soul’s capacity is to be conscious. The soul’s intrinsic defining characteristic is consciousness, and consciousness has both free will and desire.  Free will is the capacity to choose our desire and desire is what we think about, long for or wish to do. Although, they are inherently   related, still we can say that they are distinct, for we cannot have unit wise analysis because consciousness itself is subtle.

Is free will a focused desire directed by intelligence? No, not necessarily. in all cases, as free will is directed by the intelligence.

Hence, we can say that free will is the capacity to focus our desire. Sometimes that capacity to desire can be used intelligently and unintelligently at other times. that will vary depending on how a person uses his desire.

Thank you

Hare Krishna

 

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das

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