The Difference between Will,
Wish and Desire
Will is the development of the wish. When one says, "It was the divine will", it means that it was a command, a wish that developed into action. When the wish becomes action it becomes will, it becomes a command. One may think it is only one's wish, but it is a wish as long as it is still. It is there, it has not sprung up, it is inactive, just like a seed in the ground: it is wish. But the moment the seed is coming out of the ground as a seedling and is in the process of becoming a plant, then it is a will. Therefore these two different names, wish and will, are names of one and the same thing: in its undeveloped state and in its process of development.
Desire is a weaker or primitive stage of the wish. When an idea, a thought, is not yet made clear in one's own mind and one's own mind has not taken a decision: "It must be so, I would like it to be so" - then it is a desire, it is a fancy. It comes and it goes, and one does not care. But when that desire is a little more developed then it is a wish. Then it stays there, it does not fade away like clouds, it is tangible, it is there. Yet it is not fulfilled, because for fulfilment it must develop.
There are some people in this world who say, "All my life I had bad luck. The bad luck was that never in my life my wish was granted". They can very easily imagine that a spirit was against them, or God was against them, or the stars, or that something was keeping back their wish. But it is not always so. In the first place God wishes the same that we wish; if God wished differently from our wish we could not worship that God who was always against us. It is not so! Besides, there is no benefit in opposing the wish of man; to God there is no advantage in doing so. No doubt there are planetary reasons, reasons of the universe at work, reasons of the cosmos that oppose the wish. As it is said, "Man proposes, God disposes". The name "God" is put in the place of the cosmic forces, but God with His mercy and compassion never has a desire to oppose anyone's wish. God apart, a good-hearted man would never like to oppose anybody's wish; he would do everything possible to make anybody's wish complete, to make a person's wish come true. A kindly person would do it.
But what mostly happens is that man proves to be the worst enemy of his own desire-for many reasons. One reason is that he is never sure what he desires. Out of a hundred persons you will find one who knows what he desires, but ninety-nine say, "Do I desire, or do I not desire - I don't know. I think I desire, but I do not know if it is so". Ninety-nine percent among men is in this condition; they really do not know if they desire. One day they say, "Yes, I do", another day they say, "No, I don't think I desire". Therefore their desire is decomposed in the unclearness of the mind.
Then there are others who analyse their desire, and they analyse it till they have broken it to pieces. There are many analytical people who have all through life destroyed their desires by analysing them.
There is a third kind of people: those who have adopted a passive attitude. They say it is a sin to desire. Yet they cannot be without desire, and in this passive attitude they say, "Well, I will not desire". They have crossed the desire that was there.
And there is a fourth kind of person who desires something, but by lack of concentration cannot turn his desire into a wish. Therefore the desire stays in its primitive stage all the time.
A fifth kind of person develops desire into a wish; he goes so far and no further. But the wish must be developed into will. So the desire is not carried through, so to speak, and never comes to its culmination.
Now this is a subject which is of the greatest importance in the life of every person in the world. No one can exist in the world without wishing for something, and if there is a person who has no wish he need not stay in the world. He must go somewhere out of the crowd; he cannot exist there. He must go out in the mountains and even there he should turn into a tree or into a rock in order to exist, because to be a living being without a wish is not possible.
The difference between persons – high and low - is according to the wish they have. One wishes for the earth, the other wishes for heaven. The desire of one takes him to the heights of spiritual progress, the desire of the other takes him to the depth of the earth. Man is great or small, man is wise or foolish, man is on the right road or on the wrong road according to the desire he has.
Now coming to the question of the opposing forces: according to the Sufis there are Qadha and Qadr. Qadha is the universal will, universal power; Qadr is the individual will and the individual power. No doubt the individual power in comparison with the universal power is like a drop compared with the sea. It cannot stand against the sweeping waves of the sea that come and destroy it. Nevertheless, the drop, being from the same source as the sea, has also a certain amount of strength, and the individual will also has a certain strength if it wills to hold against opposing forces.
If we want to make the individual will and the universal will more clear, it is in small things that we can do so. When a person is walking in the street and says, "I feel hungry, I should like to go to a restaurant and have a meal", that is individual will. Another person goes in the street and sees a poor man, and says, "Ah, this man -he seems to be poor, he must have something; can I not do something for him? I want to see him looking happier". As soon as he thinks of the good of another person, at once his will becomes the universal will. The reason is that the boundary that limits the will of an individual is the thought of the self. As soon as one has forgotten the thought of self, as soon as one thinks of another, that boundary breaks down and the will becomes stronger. The masters of humanity, those who have been able to do great things in the world, where did they get their will from? It was their own will which was extended by the breaking down of the boundaries of the thought of self. It does not mean that one should give up the thought of self, that one must never think of oneself, never think of one's lunch and dinner. The self is there, one has to think about it. But at the same time in order to expand, in order to let the will grow, the more one forgets oneself the more one is helped.
There are some who take the path of resignation, neither doing good to themselves nor to another. It is a kind-of attitude they have taken to say, "it will come from somewhere. Somebody will do it. If I am hungry somebody will come and feed me" -or, "If another person is in need, somebody will come and help him". Their wish is inactive, they do not let their wish become a will, they remain where they are, they are passive. No doubt, an intelligent passiveness and resignation can also bring about a wonderful result, but many of these people do it unintelligently. The quality of the saints is to be resigned to all that comes - but then they do not even form a wish. They take all that comes, flowers or thorns; everything that comes, they take it. They look into thorns and see that they are flowers. With praise and with blame they are contented. They are contented with rise and fall; they take all that comes, they take life as it is. That is the intelligent way of doing it. The unintelligent way is to say of anything that is difficult, "Somebody will come and do it". This is a kind of laziness. They may think it is passiveness, but it is laziness to think, if one has to do something, "Somebody will come who will do it".
In India it is told that a man was lying under a cherry tree and some ripe cherries were falling near him. But he was just lying there. A man came from a distance to whom he called out, "Please come here, will you please put this cherry in my mouth?" There are many to be found like this who out of a feeling of helplessness, of laziness, give in, who have no enthusiasm, no courage. In this way their willpower is broken down and in the end they are helpless. There is no comparison between the saintly spirit and the spirit of the helpless. Although both become resigned, the latter is not truly resigned: he would like to have the cherry in his mouth, but another person must give it to him. The saint does not care if he eats it or if he does not eat it; it is just the same to him. In that case it is allowable.
Then there are others who are over-anxious for their wish to come true; it destroys their wish because the strength, the pressure they put upon their wish is too great. It is just like guarding a plant against the sun and against water; if one guards the plant against the very things that should help it to grow, then it cannot grow. It is the same with the wish; if a person says, "This is my wish and it must come true, no one must think about it, no one must look at it", he is always afraid that perhaps this wish will not come true. He is eager, he is thinking with doubt, fear and suspicion and therefore he will destroy his own wish.
Again there is a person who is willing to sacrifice anything, or to persevere as much as it requires for even a small wish which he does not value very much when it comes to value. Yet he gives it every thought and he does everything in his power to make that wish come true. That person is taking the same path as the path of the masters. He must have success, and it is success which brings success. If once a person is successful, his success attracts success. Once a person fails then this failure attracts failure; for the same reason that, if a person is on the path of accomplishment, each accomplishment gives him a greater power to go forward, and when he is on the path that goes downward then every step leads him downward.
Now arises the question which desire and wish one must give up and which one must rear. One must have discrimination. If here is no discrimination one will take a wrong way; it may lead to success, but it will be a success in a wrong way. If one rears every desire and wish, and thinks, "This must be accomplished", then sometimes it may be right and sometimes wrong. Discrimination must first be developed in order to understand what leads one to happiness, a lasting happiness, a greater peace, a higher attainment. But once a person has discrimination and has chosen a wish, then he should not analyse it too much. Many have formed a habit of analysing everything every day. If a person holds a wish for ten years and every day analyses it in his mind he acts against it. Every day he looks at it from a new point of view, he tries to find the wrong points of his own wish and so he tries to crush it in every way possible. In ten years' time his wish would have come true, and instead it is broken to pieces. There are many intellectual people, many people who doubt, many analytical persons who are the greatest enemies of their wish.
And now comes the question whether it is wrong if a person expresses his wish in prayer, for many people say, "God knows everything, so why should we tell God that such and such a thing should be done. God knows the secret of every heart. Besides, is it not selfish to bring our wish before God? If it is a good wish, it must come true of itself." The answer is that prayer is a reminder to God, prayer is a song sung before God who enjoys it, who hears it, who is reminded about something. But one thinks, "How can our prayer, our little voice reach God?" It reaches God through our ears. God is within us. If our soul can hear our voice, God can hear it too. Prayer is the best way, because the wish is beautifully expressed, which harmonizes us with God, which brings about a greater relationship between man and God.
Then one may ask whether it is good to think about the wish one has. One can never think too many times of the wish one has. Dream about it, think about it and imagine it, keep it in mind, retain it in mind: and do everything possible towards its fulfilment -but with poise, with tranquility, with patience, with confidence, with ease, and not by thinking hard about it. The one who thinks hard about his wish destroys it, for it is just like overheating, or giving too much water to a plant: the very thing that should help it, destroys it. If a person worries about his wish he certainly either has no patience, or he has some fear or some doubt; all these things destroy the wish. The wish must be cherished easily, with comfort, with hope, with confidence and with patience. Doubt is like rust, it eats into it; fear is still worse, it destroys it.
When a person has no discrimination and he is not sure whether it is a right wish or a wrong one, whether it should come true or not, one day he says, "I should so much like it to come true"; another day he says, "I do not care if it comes true"; after a week he says anew, "I so much wish it to come true", and after a month, "Oh, I do not care now". It is just like making a fire and then putting it out, then making the fire again and again putting it out. Every, time he extinguishes the fire it is gone, he will have to make it anew. And so, if a person has formed a wish and cherished it for ten years, each time it is broken he has to make it anew.
And now comes the question what wish is the most desirable. This depends upon one's own stage of evolution. A person who is only so much evolved that he can make no greater, wish than for the need of his daily life, let him do it. He must not think, "Because it is only the need of daily life it is nothing, I must wish for something higher". He must not think that. If his heart is inclined to the need of daily life, he must think of it first. But if his heart thinks, "No. I cannot wish for this, I can think of something much higher ", then he must take the consequences. The consequences will be that he will have to go through tests and trials - and if he does not mind this, so much the better.
There are many things in this world which we want and which we need, and yet we do not necessarily think about them. If they come it is all right, and if they do not come we feel uncomfortable for a time, but that feeling passes. We cannot put our mind and thought upon them if we are evolved, because then we think of something else, of something higher; our thought is involved in something much higher and greater than what we need in everyday life. We do not pay attention to what we need and that slips from our grasp. It is therefore that great poets, thinkers and sages were very often hard up for things that one could get in everyday life. With all their power they could command gold to come to their house - and the gold would come, they only had to command it. If they commanded that an army was to come into their power it would come - the army and anything they would command. Yet they could not give their mind to it, they could only wish for something which was equal to their particular evolution.
So each person can only wish for something equal to his evolution, he cannot properly wish for something which is beneath his evolution, even if he was told to do so. Very often in order to help a person in a certain situation I have said to him, "Now think of this particular object". But being much more evolved than that he thought with his brain, his heart was somewhere else, and so it never came true. One can give one's heart and mind and whole being to something which is equal to one's evolution. If it is not equal one cannot give one's whole being to it. Maybe a person gives his thought to it, but what is thought? Thought without feeling is no power. If the soul and the spirit are not at the back of it, there is no power.
So this must be understood: that our wish must be different from what we need in everyday life. Never mix it! Always think that what we need in everyday life is one thing: something practical. Though if that be our wish, then it is all right. And then we are to cherish, to maintain our wish as something sacred, something given to us by God to cherish, to bring to fulfilment, for it is in the fulfilment of one's highest and best and deepest wish that lies the purpose of life.
Question: Is there any way of finding out beforehand if a wish will be good for us?
Answer: That is the most difficult thing to say. It can only be done by training oneself, and that training is: always to have a good thought for everyone, a kind thought for everybody, to develop a consciousness of justice within oneself, to have sympathy, to have goodwill for everyone in the world. If a person keeps this as a principle in his everyday life then every wish that will come to him will be productive of good results.
Question: Can we feel the accomplishment of a wish beforehand?
Answer: If one can feel the accomplishment of a wish beforehand it means that the wish is secure, that the wish is surely to be fulfilled. If with the wish you have got a feeling that this wish will come true, then it must come true. There is no doubt about it, because when you have that feeling it shows that you have no doubt, that there is nothing opposing it. Therefore that wish of yours is a promise at the same time.
Question: When Buddha said that we should have no desire, did he mean that we should have the attitude of a saint?
Answer: The Buddha never said that you should have no desire. The Buddha spoke of "the man who has no desire". It never was the principle of Buddha that you must not have a desire; Buddha was too wise to commit himself like this. What is meant is that we must develop so that one day we may reach to that stage where naturally we shall have no desires. But if we have a desire and say, "Because Buddha has said that we must have no desire, therefore we must throw it away", it is working against ourselves. It is just like a man who, having heard that a saint had lived without food for a very, very long time and had experienced exaltation, would say, "Well, I shall give up my lunch every day if I can become spiritual by it". He may just as well have his lunch because he feels hungry. The one who went without food was not hungry, he had risen above it. We must have principles according to our stage of evolution, and never take principles higher than our stage of evolution, forcing ourselves to abide by them.
Question: Does it matter if one has several wishes at the same time?
Answer: Suppose one did salt and sweet and savoury and pepper all together in the mouth, how would the taste be? It would come to nothing. And so each wish destroys the other. You may have five best wishes at the same time, but one wish will destroy the other; therefore there is not one wish that you will enjoy. Besides, it is only to one wish that you can give your greatest power.
Question: The other day you said, "The one who turns his back to the world - the whole world runs after him". How is this to be understood?
Answer: This can be understood by seeing two persons bargaining. For instance a peddler at the dock of Alexandria comes with an object, and you say, "How beautiful. I like it. How much will you take for it?" As soon as you have said this he wants you to give as high a price as he wishes to get from you. As soon as you turn your back and say, "I do not care for it", he comes after you and says, "Will you take it for half the price?". If you go still further and still turn your back, he will give it to you for the quarter of it. Exactly the same is the nature of this world; it is a greedy world. You follow it, it runs from you; you turn your back to it, it comes after you.