Desires are a necessary part of life because to desire is to recognise life. It is through desires that you can get to know your personality and your situation in life. There are some people who cannot desire and there are others who desire all day long.
If you analyse this properly, you will come to know that desire is an innocent force in the mind. In childhood we desire toys. When we grow up we desire friends, then a job and money, then family life and children. Later, we start to desire political position, name and fame, and then mental calmness, peace, relaxation, meditation, God, Yoga and so on. Now, which of these desires can be satisfied and which cannot be satisfied? What is the ultimate form of desire?
Vedic philosophy believes that life is based on four things: dharma (duty), artha (motivation or purpose), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation). Desire is one of the basic elements of a good life. Without it you cannot evolve. In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita it is written that desire is born out of one's association with the objects of life. If you do not desire, it means there is something wrong somewhere. A person who is not able to desire is either a liberated sage or abnormal.
If you want to attain something in life, you must have one aim all the time, no second aim. I will give you an example. If you want to earn money, think only of that. You must not allow attachments to interfere. No attachments to children, to husband or wife, nothing. Develop detachment and one-pointedness. Personal relationships and involvements should not divert you. Detachment does not mean you should not have relationships with anyone. You can live with people and love them, but by keeping your one desire in mind, you can remain detached.
Rather than talking about good and bad desires, you can say that instead of having negative or destructive desires, it is better to have desires which are beneficial and fruitful. A positive desire is unselfish; you are more concerned about the welfare of others than of yourself. A negative desire is selfish; you are only concerned with your own welfare and do not consider anyone else. It is very simple. If desire is selfish, it is negative; if there is no selfishness, it is positive.
What causes people to run after pleasures? It seems that somewhere far within the depths of our being a person is crying. We have never seen this inner person; we only know the outer one. We have seen the person who presents himself during sleep, and in our dreams, but we have not discovered that person who is beyond sleep.
The awareness of man extends over these three bodies, but beyond them you also exist. You have not established the communication between this awareness and this mind. If you had, you would have seen a sad little soul sitting in a corner crying. Why? Because his promise has been unfulfilled, and what we have been doing up to now has not brought him any satisfaction. However, once you withdraw your mind and go deep into the depths of your life and see the beautiful things there, then that little soul becomes very happy. Life comes to it. It is because of inner unhappiness that we have been constantly running after external pleasures. By indulging in them, we try to cover up this inner sadness.
Many great thinkers have spoken about this subject. Ramana Maharshi always used to say, "Think it out well. Who am I?" But people do not understand; they do not know what self-realisation is. Self-realisation means that you know the depths of your mind, of your being. You should know your complexes, your inhibitions and your ulterior purposes, and you should understand why you are weeping.
Now, should one fulfil the desires or eliminate them? The first principle is that one should fulfil one's desires. The second law is that desire cannot be satisfied. Therefore, the third principle is that one must practise both. If possible, one should aim for fulfilment of desires and for desireless-ness at the same time.
Desire is an expression of one's own personality. If you keep a dirty rag in your room, you cannot kill the foul smell by spraying it with perfume, because the source of the smell is still there. You have to remove the dirty substance. In the same manner, you should not try from your side to reduce the desires. Instead you should try to transform your consciousness, the very frame of your mind, in such a way that it is automatically desireless. Desire is a manifestation of a particular state of mind. When the mind is sick, insecure or hungry, there will be more desires. When the mind is satisfied, healthy and secure, the desires will be less.
So, instead of trying to eliminate or avoid desires, it is better to change the quality of desire. Desires are relative; they keep changing according to your situation, your development, age and experience. When you grow tired of one, you automatically go to another. However, there should be one desire which holds you permanently, and that is the desire for self-realisation.