Wisdom for the Soul Wisdom for the Soul Thoughts to live by


Related States & Conditions | Syntonic | Dystonic

Ever desireless,
One can see the mystery.
Ever desiring,
One can see the manifestations.
These two spring
From the same source
But differ in name.
570-490 BCE, Chinese Philosopher, Founder of Daoism

There is no satisfaction of desires, even by a shower of money. One is wise to know that desires are painful, bringing little enjoyment.
c. 563-483 BCE, Indian Prince, Mystic, Founder of Buddhism
Dhammapada: The Sayings of Buddha, Thomas Cleary, tr., 1994

We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.
c. 550 BCE, Khemetic (Egyptian) Fabulist

My belief is that to have no wants is divine.
469-399 BCE, Athenian Philosopher

Desires are only the lack of something: and those who have the greatest desires are in a worse condition than those who have none, or very slight ones.
c. 427-347 BCE, Greek Philosopher

A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.
Bhagavad Gita, II.70
400 BCE, Sanskrit Poem in Mahabharata, Sacred Hindu Text

As a fire is obscured by smoke,
as a mirror is covered by dust,
as a fetus is wrapped in its membrane,
so wisdom is obscured by desire.
Ibid., 3:38, Stephen Mitchell, tr., 2000

Desire dwells in the senses,
the mind, and the understanding;
in all these it obscures wisdom
and perplexes the embodied Self.
Ibid., 3:40

He who likes cherries soon learns to climb.
German Saying

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.
384-322 BCE, Greek Philosopher

Desires are insatiable.They keep growing as we try to satisfy them just as the fire becomes more inflamed when oil is poured into it.
Manu Smriti
c. 200 BCE, Hindu Law of the Dharma Shastra

Keep a tight rein on desire,
but do not give up desire altogether.
Vishnu Sharma
c. 200 BCE, Indian Sage, Royal Educator
Panchatantra, II.58, Chandra Rajan, tr., 1993

Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.
50-120, Greek Stoic Philosopher

All that we desire is sure to perish,
And afterwards we fall to hellish torment.
The constant, minor troubles we endure
Are all for what amounts to very little.
7th Century Indian Buddhist Scholar
The Way of the Boddhisattva, Padmakara, tr., 1997

True study of the Way
Does not rely on
Knowledge and genius
Or cleverness and brilliance.
It is an easy thing,
Just cultivate a
Keen and sincere desire
To seek the Way.
Eihei Dogen
1200-1253, Japanese Zen Master, Philosopher, Poet, Painter, Soto School Founder

People are distracted by objects of desire,
and afterwards repent of the lust they’ve indulged,
because they have indulged with a phantom
and are left even farther from Reality than before.
Your desire for the illusory is a wing,
by means of which a seeker might ascend to Reality.
When you have indulged a lust, your wing drops off;
you become lame and that fantasy flees.
Preserve the wing and don’t indulge such lust,
so that the wing of desire may bear you to Paradise.
People fancy they are enjoying themselves,
but they are really tearing out their wings
for the sake of an illusion.
Jalaluddin Rumi
1207-1273, Afghani-Turkish Sufi Mystic, Poet
“Wings of Desire,” Mathnawi III, 2133-38
The Pocket Rumi Reader, Kabir Helminski, ed., 2001

If you imagine that once you have accomplished your ambitions you will have time to turn to the Way, you will discover that your ambitions never come to an end.
Yoshida Kenko
1283-1350, Japanese Poet, Essayist, Buddhist Priest

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.
François de La Rochefoucauld
1613-1680, French Moralist, Epigrammatist

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.
William Blake
1757-1827, English Poet, Engraver, Painter, Mystic
“Proverbs of Hell,” The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1793

He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Beware what you set your heart upon, for it shall surely be yours.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882, American Poet, Essayist

The want of a thing is more than its worth.
Jamaican Saying

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.
George Eliot
1819-1880, English Writer, Poet

The delight that consumes the desire,
The desire that outruns the delight.
A. C. Swinburne
1837-1909, English Poet, Critic, Dramatist
Dolores, 1866

Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.
Henry George
1839-1897, American Economist, Editor, Lecturer

The central fire is desire, and all the powers of our being are given us to see, to fight for, and to win the object of our desire. Quench that fire and man turns to ashes.
Basil W. Maturin
1847-1915, Catholic Priest, Writer
Laws of the Spiritual Life

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
Oscar Wilde
1856-1900, Irish Poet, Dramatist, Critic, Wit

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.
George Bernard Shaw
1856-1950, Irish Writer, Dramatist, 1925 Nobel Laureate
Man and Superman, 1903

Have the courage of your desire.
George Gissing
1857-1903, English Writer
The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

So long as there is desire or want, it is a sure sign that there is imperfection. A perfect, free being cannot have any desire.
1863-1902, Indian Guru, Writer
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 1984-1987, 2:261, 1926

Plunge into the world, and then, after a time, when you have suffered and enjoyed all that is in it, will renunciation come; then will calmness come. So fulfill your desire for power and everything else, and after you have fulfilled the desire, will come the time when you will know that they are all very little things; but until you have fulfilled this desire, until you have passed through that activity, it is impossible for you to come to the state of calmness, serenity, and self-surrender.

I can tell you at any rate how to get what you want. You’ve just got to keep a thing in view and go for it and never let your eyes wander to right or left or up or down. And looking back is fatal – the truest thing in Scripture is about Lot’s wife.
William John Locke
1863-1930, English Writer
Septimus, 1909

Long only for what you have.
André Gide
1869-1951, French Writer, Critic, Dramatist, Poet, 1947 Nobel Laureate
The Fruits of the Earth, Dorothy Bussy, tr., 1949

Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade.
Marcel Proust
1871-1922, French Writer, Critic
Les Plaisirs et les Jours, 1896

The strongest of all psychic forces in the world is unsatisfied desire.
John Cowper Powys
1872-1963, British Writer, Critic
A Glastonbury Romance, 1932

Plant the seed of desire in your mind and it forms a nucleus with power to attract to itself everything needed for its fulfillment.
Robert J. Collier
1876-1918, American Writer, Publisher

Nothing is more human than for man to desire naturally things impossible to his nature. It is, indeed, the property of a nature which is not closed up in matter like the nature of physical things, but which is intellectual or infinitized by the spirit. It is the property of a metaphysical nature. Such desires reach for the infinite, because the intellect thirsts for being and being is infinite.
Jacques Maritain
1882-1973, French Philosopher
Approaches to God, 1954

The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.
Napoleon Hill
1883-1970, American Motivational Writer

To drink is a small matter. To be thirsty is everything.
Georges Duhamel
1884-1966, French Physician, Writer
The Heart’s Domain, Eleanor Stimson Brooks, tr., 1919

We can only know that from the unknown, profound desires enter in upon us, and that the fulfilling of those desires is the fulfilling of creation. We know that the rose comes to blossom. We know that we are incipient with blossom. It is our business to go as we are impelled, with faith and pure spontaneous morality, knowing that the rose blossoms, and taking that knowledge for sufficient.
D. H. Lawrence
1885-1930, English Writer, Poet, Critic
Selected Essays, 1950

For whereas the mind works in possibilities, the intuitions work in actualities, and what you intuitively desire, that is possible to you. Whereas what you mentally or “consciously” desire is nine times out of ten impossible: hitch your wagon to a star, and you’ll just stay where you are.

If men could regard the events of their lives with more open minds, they would frequently discover that they did not really desire the things they failed to obtain.
André Maurois
1885-1967, French Writer, Biographer, Essayist
The Art of Living, 1939

It’s rather nice to think of oneself as a sailor bending over the map of one’s mind and deciding where to go and how to go. The great thing to remember is we can do whatever we wish to do provided our wish is strong enough. But the tremendous effort needed – one doesn’t always want to make it – does one? And all that cutting down the jungle and bush clearing even after one has landed anywhere – it’s tiring. Yes I agree. But what else can be done? What’s the alternative? What do you want most to do? That’s what I have to keep asking myself, in face of difficulties.
Katherine Mansfield
1888-1923, New Zealander Writer
in Katherine Mansfield Memories of LM

The very urge to get rid of desire is still desire, is it not? … Recognizing that desire brings conflict, you ask, “How can I be free of desire?” So what you really want is not freedom from desire, but freedom from the worry, the anxiety, the pain which desire causes … As long as there is the desire to gain, to achieve, to become, at whatever level (including the urge to get rid of desire), there is inevitably anxiety, sorrow, fear.
Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895-1986, Indian Philosopher, Writer
Think on These Things, 1970

Your desire is your prayer. Picture the fulfillment of your desire now and feel its reality and you will experience the joy of the answered prayer.
Joseph Murphy
1898-1981, Irish/American Metaphysician, Writer

It is the thing that is most remote from the world in which we ourselves live that attracts us most. We are under the spell of what is distant from us. It is not in our nature to desire passionately what is near at hand.
Alec Waugh
1898-1981, English Writer
On Doing What One Likes

We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.
Eric Hoffer
1902-1983, American Writer, Philosopher, Longshoreman

If we go down into ourselves we find that we possess exactly what we desire.
Simone Weil
1909-1943, French Philosopher, Essayist, Mystic
Gravity and Grace, 1947

Man’s many desires are like the small metal coins he carries about in his pocket. The more he has the more they weight him down.
Satya Sai Baba
1926-, Indian Mystic

Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.
Bill Cosby
1937-, African-American Actor

It is important not to overlook longings or dismiss them for practical reasons, and not to rely exclusively in our decision-making on reason or common sense, thereby excluding the more mysterious turns of eros. An erotic life is not the same as a rational one. Living erotically, we understand that desires are central to the soul’s unfolding and should not be dismissed before giving them careful attention.
Thomas Moore
1940-, American Psychologist, Writer
Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship, 1994

Desire is what leads you through life until the time comes when you desire a higher life. So do not be ashamed that you want so much, yet at the same time do not fool yourself into thinking that what you want today will be enough tomorrow.
Deepak Chopra
1947-, Indian/American Physician, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Writer
The Way Of The Wizard, 1995

All cravings are the mind seeking salvation or fulfillment in external things and in the future as a substitute for the joy of Being. As long as I am my mind, I am those cravings, those needs, those wants, attachments, and aversions, and apart from them there is no “I” except as a mere possibility, an unfulfilled potential, a seed that has not yet sprouted. In that state, even my desire to become free or enlightened is just another craving for fulfillment or completion in the future. So don’t seek to become free of desire or “achieve” enlightenment. Become present.
Eckhard Tolle
1948-, German/Canadian Spiritual Teacher
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1999

To the extent that I want and desire, I am unlike God.
Larry Chang
1949-, Chinese-Jamaican Artist, Activist

To become fascinated, to feel allurement, is to step into a wild love affair on any level of life. Then we discover not only that we are interested, but that our interests are entirely our own. We awake to our own unique set of attractions … Each person discovers a field of allurements, the totality of which bears the unique stamp of that person's personality. Destiny unfolds in the pursuit of individual fascinations and interests … By pursuing your allurements, you help bind the universe together. The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion.
Brian Swimme
1950-, American Physicist, Cosmologist
The Universe Is A Green Dragon, 1984

Repression of your will and desire are the corner-stones of stress. When you believe, or are led to believe, you are unable to act upon the greatest desires of the soul, the result is mental and spiritual enslavement.
Iyanla Vanzant
1953-, African-American Attorney, Yoruba Priestess, Cleric, Writer
Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color, 1993

Again and again I have been shown that this is the essence of what we call magic: the paradoxical focus of desire or intent while at the same time letting go of the outcome. It isn't easy to desire and let go of the desire simultaneously, but when we achieve it, it works!
Elisabet Sahtouris
American/Greek Evolution Biologist
“Lessons in Learning How to Live in the Flow: A Personal Account”

Very much like people, desires need to be noticed. Under scrutiny, a lot of desires will just fizzle, whether it’s things … or people. When we actually pay attention to them, we begin to notice that so many of our cravings just don’t hold water.
Angel Kyodo Williams
African-American Zen Priest
Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace, 2000



















This cross-index may help identify and delineate more closely subjective realities often hard to pin down.
  • Related states elucidate shades of meaning and amplify nuances of feeling
  • Syntonic elements foster and enhance well-being
  • Dystonic factors are contraindicated and should be minimized.
Related States & Conditions Actualization/Fulfillment | Choice/Volition | Dreams/Dreaming, Enjoyment/Pleasure, Expectation/Hope, Feeling/Emotion, Goal/Ideal/Purpose, Happiness/Contentment, Having/Possessing, Indulgence/Temptation, Love-Eros, Passion, Seeking, Sex/Sexuality, Wealth/Prosperity, Zeal/Zest
Syntonic Autonomy/Control | Balance | Confidence | Daring/Challenge | Determination/Persistence/Resolve, Faith, Focus/Intention, Impermanence, Initiative, Moderation, Optimism/Positivism, Prudence, Sensibility/Sensuality, Release, Responsibility, Vision/Visualization, Wisdom, Wonder/Mystery
Dystonic Anger | Attachment | Avoidance/Denial/Refusal | Complacency | Conformity | Criticism/Judgment | Delusion | Dependence | Fault, Fear, Guilt, Habit, Jealousy/Envy, Limitation, Regret, Revenge, Suffering, War/Aggression/Violence, Worry


Pardon us for the Author links which do not work and incomplete Subject cross-references. This is a life-work-in-progress and, like Penelope's tapestry, proceeds bit by bit.
- Webmeister
Web wisdomforthesoul.org


Thoughts to live by
Wisdom for The Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing , © 2004