Enlightenment through Satisfaction of Desires

On the surface, the First Chapter of Canto Four of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam reads something like one of those books of the Old Testament, “Ruth begot So and So… So and So begot So and So.” But if we translate the names of the “So and Sos” in this chapter, amazing things happen.

I’ll show you one example in the first seven ślokas of the Chapter.

Hundred-beauty’d Śatarūpā gave Manu three daughters, who are famous by the names Desire (Ākūti), Invoker of Divinity (Devahūti) and Procreator (Prasūti). With his wife’s approval Manu wed his daughter, Desire (Ākūti), to the sage named Wish (Ruci) on the condition that Manu and his wife would raise the boy as their own son.

Ruci was a blessed progenitor with great spiritual realization. In an exalted trance, he produced twins with Ākūti: a boy named Effort (Yajña) who was Viṣṇu himself taking his own form, and a girl named Gift (Dakṣiṇā), an expansion of Goddess Bhū, Viṣṇu’s inseparable consort. [Thus wishes and desires can be fulfilled by ones efforts and by the kind gifts of others.]

Our wishes and desires are fulfilled by a combination of sādhana and kṛpā, effort and mercy. That is shown by Desire (Ākūti) and Wish (Ruci) producing Efforts (Yajña) and Gifts (Dakṣiṇā).

[A typical translation of Yajña is “sacrifice” but sacrifice is an effort to fulfill a wish (“I want a son or whatever, so I perform this or that Yajña”). Therefore I’m going straight to the bottom line and translating it as “effort.”]

Manu was delighted to bring his daughter’s extremely brilliant son into his own home. Ruci was delighted to keep the girl. Raised separately and bearing immutable, eternal love for each other, All-Attractive Yajña later married Dakṣiṇā. The two of them, Efforts and Gifts, were delighted to produce twelve children, collectively known as the Children of Delight, embodying the twelve effects of fulfilling ones desires and wishes through efforts and gifts: Satisfaction (Toṣa), Delight, (Pratoṣa), Content (Santoṣa), Generousity (Bhadra), Calm (Śānti), Refreshment (Iḍaspati), Inspiration (Idhma), Experience (Kavi), Mastery (Vibhu), Paradise (Svahna), Enlightening (Sudeva), and Luminous (Rocana).

We have desires and wishes, we fulfill them through effort and gifts, then what happens? Then we experience 12 states. Each state is successively more elevated, and comes by fulfilling ones desires and wishes with successively more exalted efforts and gifts.

The simplest result of fulfilling desire is (1) Satisfaction – its like scratching an itch, it stops bothering us for the time being.

A more exalted result is (2) Delight – its more than just filling a need or addressing a problem (scratching an itch), its a positive experience of pleasure. When this occurs, we may be able to rise to a higher level and become (3) Content. This means that the pleasure will be significant enough to eclipse the distractions we normally experience from the other competing desires and wishes in our minds. We experience Content when the pleasure is significant enough to absorb our whole concentration.

Then we can come to a still more exalted platform called (4) Generous (Bhadra). When we experience pleasure and cease to experience want, we attain this stage, where we feel generous. We experience a surplus of pleasure, so we attain the level of wanting to share it.

Directing our attention towards sharing pleasure, our own desires and wishes subside more permanently. This is called (5) Calm (Śānti). When we become truly Calm, then we begin to feel (6) Refreshed (Iḍaspati). We get energy naturally because we are not wasting it. By giving energy / happiness to others we are investing it into loops which cycle back to us. So we feel very easily refreshed.

After Refreshment comes (7) Inspiration (Idhma). We will want to continue to make the efforts and receive the gifts that lead us through Satisfaction, Delight, Contentment, Generosity Calm, and Refreshment.

The more we make such inspired efforts and receive such gifts, the more (8) Expert and Experienced we become in the arts of fulfilling Desires and Wishes. This expertise is the stage called Kavi. When this expertise advances still further it becomes (9) Mastery (Vibhu). Vibhu also means “pervasive” so the implication is that we learn to satisfy our desires more pervasively by finding their roots. When we are childish about it we simply try to fulfill whatever desire catches our attention, but as expertise becomes mastery we learn that there is a hierarchy of desire – some desires are built on others, leading down towards a single root desire, fulfilling which fulfills all those which stem from it.

When Mastery becomes significantly exalted it attains the state of (10) Paradise (Svahna) – it becomes like living in Paradise. Then, if we become still more expert, deep and pervasive in our efforts to recieve the gifts of fulfilled desires, we can finally come to understand the ultimate root of all desire: which is Sudeva,  the “happiness of consciousness” – directly implying bhakti/love (su-) for Bhagavān/ The divine beloved (deva). Realizing this we attain the stage of (11) Englightenment (Sudeva)

Attaining this stage, we become self-luminous and self-satisfying, for love itself becomes one with us. This is the ultimate stage, (12) Luminousity (Rocana).

Its very interesting that this sequence of 12 stages shows a Tantric path, in the sense that it demonstrates that enlightenment and self-realization is possible through fulfilling desires and wishes with efforts and gifts. The Veda does not at all propose renunciation as the only path to enlightenment, but the end results of all paths to enlightenment cause renunciation as a natural side effect (in other words one experiences satisfaction so deep that one stops looking for other sources of satisfaction). Thus renunciation is an effect of all spiritual paths, but not at all a requisite for most of them.

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