What is Lust ?
From Spiritual Warrior II
Transforming Lust into Love by HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Krishnapada
(Part 2 of 4) Submitted by Manoj
We Are Accountable:
The choice of God or mammon is always up to us. Although we may blame external forces for our addictive, manipulative or selfish activities, we cannot escape our own ultimate responsibility. Even in extreme cases where people actually become possessed, hear voices or fall into a trance as the body moves uncontrollably, these apparent victims of demonic energies are accountable for their situation. Although they may explain, truthfully, that their behavior was beyond their control, they forget that they did make prior choices that led to this condition in the first place. Negative forces are attracted wherever there is a receptive lower consciousness.
Even in less dramatic situations we make excuses, saying that "something came over" us, that we were subjected to demonic influences, or that we fell under the spell of maya, another name for illusion. But despite appearances, we are always responsible for our actions. Would we try to rationalize our behavior in a court of law by explaining, "Judge, it wasn't my fault. The devil made me do it"? Of course not. The judge never says, "Well, that's all right. I'll just put the devil in jail instead of you."
What causes one person to act immorally while another does not? Both individuals may face the same temptations, yet one succumbs while the other resists, or one gives in occasionally while the other yields on a regular basis. The difference can be found in each person's level of commitment to spiritual life, which increases the level of resistance to the negative influences.
If we open ourselves to the Lord, we are acting spiritually. When we elevate our consciousness, our love and spirituality act as a block to keep negativity away. But if we open the door to sin, then we become possessed by a sinful consciousness. Sin can never be considered greater that righteousness. If we say that the "devil" made us behave badly, we are implying that the devil is more powerful than God. This is never true, and only seems to be so at times because of the impure state of our consciousness.
The Gradual Path at Degradation
How did we become so impure? As the Lord explains in the Bhagavad-gita (Bg. 3.37): "It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of the world." Because lust causes us to lose our sanity, we often behave in ways beneath our original nature, and then our lust becomes compounded with anger. Let us see how this works.
If we do not give and receive love in a natural way that is in alignment with our spiritual birthright, our love turns into lust, which forces us to act in ways that we would not normally accept. Because we feel forced, we become depressed, demoralized and unfulfilled and, consequently, we become angry. Deep down, we know that lust can never fulfill us, but we become addicted. It is a vicious cycle: the more we give in to lust, the more we grow accustomed to it and the greater become its demands.
It is similar to taking a drug. At first we may yield to temptation just to see what will happen. We may even have to force ourselves to tolerate such a damaging substance, but after we become habituated we begin to enjoy it. Eventually, we find that we need more of the drug to get the same level of stimulation as before. Lust is like that. The more we succumb to it, the more it takes control, until finally we no longer engage in sinful actions for the pleasure, but just to avoid the pain.
For example, someone who smokes a cigarette for the first time may feel sick, and a person taking a first drink often does not like the taste. Do you remember trying these substances? When you took your first cigarette, you probably huffed, puffed, coughed, choked or lost your breath. Most likely your first drink tasted terrible or made you feel nauseated. However, if you kept smoking or drinking, you may have started liking the taste and enjoying the side effects. We become quickly conditioned to these habits because they are socially acceptable, even "cool," and because we experience a state of altered consciousness that makes us feel more relaxed than usual. Eventually our lust takes control of us to the point that we become addicted to the experience and cannot easily give these substances up.
We do not realize that lust has seduced us into a dependency that will ultimately destroy our health and well-being. In the beginning, we may simply be struggling to cope with life or to create a sense of belonging, taking a drink or ingesting a drug in order to numb ourselves, to feel better or to gain acceptance in a group. But the power of lust is so great that eventually we lose control and our addiction takes over. Indeed, lust has destroyed many people who thought they "had it together," causing them to lose their businesses, their political positions, their families, their sanity and even their lives.
People naturally want access to higher levels of consciousness and intense experiences beyond the normal or the mundane. In contemporary society, where genuine love is a rarity, is it any wonder that so many of us seek artificial stimulation to fill the void? Genuine love can be intoxicating.
A person in love is single-minded, determined and sometimes a bit giddy. For example, immediately after talking to our beloved on the phone, we may find ourselves skipping and dancing, and if someone we care about does us a favor or pays us a compliment, our spirits are high. But when love is absent, we may seek intoxication by other means, such as alcohol, drugs or sex.
Other Ways Lust Tricks Us
It is easy to become addicted to substances, such as cigarettes or alcohol, even if they are initially unpleasant. In other circumstances, sinful activity may appear extremely attractive right from the outset, and we may succumb without thinking of the consequences. For example, if we see a beautiful diamond ring that we want to own but cannot afford, our desire may become so strong that we forget about anything else. We think only, "Wouldn't it be nice to have that ring? How wonderful it will look on my finger! How envious people will be!"
The mind has convinced us that owning the ring will bring great pleasure, and so we steal it without thinking of the consequences. However, circumstances change quickly. Once we have left the store with the ring, feeling entranced by our new possession, a police car suddenly pulls up beside us on the street. The jeweler has sounded the alarm, and we are unceremoniously arrested and thrown in jail. As we sit in our cell, we have plenty of time to wonder, "Mind, how did you get me into this mess?" We are left in an even more painful situation than when we started.
Although we may have been unhappy without the ring, we are far more miserable for having stolen it and suffered the consequences. The end result is similar to the one encountered by alcoholics. A person who becomes accustomed to the taste of alcohol may drink to enjoy an altered state of consciousness and forget life's troubles. Although the experience is initially pleasurable, eventually it becomes a painful addiction. Then the alcoholic drinks to maintain a precarious sense of balance, to keep from feeling sick, to numb the pain or to stop the shaking. Whether we steal, drink or indulge in other forms of sense gratification, the ultimate outcome is often far worse than the original condition we were trying to escape.
This is how lust keeps us trapped. Once we give in, the mind tricks us again and again. It knows our weaknesses and whispers to us seductively, "Here is your chance.... You know you want to.... Go for it!" If our mind does not have access to our intelligence-the faculty of discemment-we will repeatedly fall prey to these temptations. Some people have been trying to stop drinking for years, resolving every morning not to take another drink. Yet before the day is over, they have reverted to their old habits. Others have spent most of their lives in jail, because every time they are released, their passion and lust cause them to commit crimes again despite all resolutions to the contrary.