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Deboche Rivendell Lodge

The Fundamental Human Problem

The Desire To Be Different


This problem of the changing mind, a mind in constant conflict, is not a problem of modern man alone; it is an ancient problem, a fundamental human problem.

The problem of the mind is not solved by satisfying all wants. Even if all wants could be fulfilled one would still have conflicts, wondering what to do next. 

The mind has extraordinary powers, and its suffering also is extraordinary. Beset by inner conflicts, when a man standing in the street sees a buffalo oblivious to the blowing horns he thinks. "Perhaps this buffalo is more blessed than I!" A buffalo is "happy" because it does not seem to be conscious of itself to be able to judge if it is happy or not. It lives according to its natural instincts without conflicts. It does not try to be diffrent from what it is, since it does not have a self-consciousness in which it perceives itself as unhappy.

Wishing to be different is peculiar to human beings. Blessed with buddhi, the faculty of the intellect, a human being is not only conscious of the world, but also of himself. This is what distinguishes him from animals. It is the glory of man that he is conscious of himself. However the self he is aware of is not a complete, adequate self; it is. Unfortunately, a wanting, inadequate self.

"I want...I want....I want,..." This "I want" is a fundamental want, and it finds articulation in various specific wants, each an expression of the conclusion that one is an inadequate being.

This is the source of all conflict. In its desire to be complete, the mind, which is the platform for all undertakings, becomes a battlefield of conflicting ideas. There is always conflict, demanding solution. The human mind desires to be free from conflict.


Two Pursuits

When a person wants something, it is not an object that he or she really wants. Rather, by obtaining the object he hopes to be different. I am uneasy because I am not satisfied with myself as I am. Owing to the feeling that all is not well with me.

I have to do something to set things right. A woman with a small pebble in her shoe, in whatever hurry she may be, has to stop and remove it in order to be comfortable. Similarly, there seems to be in the mind of each one of us an irritating bug that makes us strive to gain a sense of ease. To achieve this, one does exactly what others do with small variations; one acquires certain desirable objects in order to be comfortable with oneself, or one gets rid of something undesirable, hoping that one will be happier in its absence.


On reflection, all the pursuits undertaken in one's life fall under two categories,

striving for something, and getting rid  of certain other things.


In Sanskrit, these are called pravrtti  and nivrtti respectively. Both types of pursuit are for the sake of one's comfort.

What one does to achieve comfort varies from individual to individual. One may want to get rid of a car which someone else is all too eager to buy. What one wants to acquire or get rid of is determined by one's values.  What is common is that everyone wants to acquire or get rid of something. A person's  desires keep on changing — a thing that was once desirable may no longer be so — yet what never changes is "I want ...I want...I want...” .

A wise man just sit under a tree with the sky as his roof and the foliage of the tree as his ceiling. He does not want or need anything and is ready to give away what little he has, ready to give a passing dog the food that was given to him. And yet he seems very happy.

Looking at him, another may think, “Let me give up everything and also be happy”. He may walk out of society, leaving behind the securities of the family, home, and job. By such nivrtti he does not necessarily become a happy man. Instead he may become a miserable beggar. Whereas previously he was mentally impoverished as well. His position is worse than before.

There is another type of person who thinks. "If I have more, I will be happy. “More” is a comparative term. There can always be more of whatever one has. A man living on the street thinks he will be happy if he has two good meals a day. If he gets them, he will say, "Mere eating is not all that is to life." He wants to achieve something more to make him  happy - a hut, then a flat, a house with a garden; a bicycle, a scooter, a car and finally a limousine. What next? He still remains the same inadequate self. He will have to roll up his sleeves and discover something else to become adequate. He may go places where he has not been before, but this will not I satisfy him. Wherever he goes he will find onlv a rearrangement of what he has already seen - trees rivers, birds, snow, people, sky, stars.

Therefore, he will think "I have already seen this. What else is there?" This pravrtti is endless. Whatever one does, the droning "I want" remains.

This is the fundamental human problem. I long to feel at home, and to feel at peace with myself. Nowhere do I find that peace, because I am conscious of myself as an inadequate being and I cannot be at home with inadequacy.

Not knowing how to solve the problem. I run away from it. At times, I listen to music in order to escape from sorrow. I may go to a movie to escape from the reality of my mind, hoping to gain solace. Nobody has ever solved a problem by escape. The problem of being conscious of a wanting self is not going to be solved by either pravrtti or nivrtti


The Purpose of Life 

Life is lived in the tension of want and inadequacy. You may think someone else is happy because he has comfort. This is because you have set a value for what he has.

 Nobody is really happy. The only difference between the “haves” and “have nots”is that the "haves" are unhappy with comforts and the “have nots” without comforts. Everyone wants to be different from what he or she is. This is a problem common to every human being.

Solving this problem is the purpose of life. One cannot be indifferent to it. The experiences of life make one think.

"What I want is not all these things.

I want to be at ease with myself.

How can I discover that?"

When the problem is thus identified, one knows exactly what one should look for, and life becomes purposeful.

Then alone it is worth living…




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