We should first understand what is desire and what is bad about our desires. What is bad about our desires is that they control us and our intellect.
Desire—or to be more precise, the desire to receive—is our entire essence, and it wants to be filled with pleasure all the time.
What pleasure does it want to be filled with? It does not care, as long as it gets satiated, and so killing and stealing, and the exploitation, manipulation and abuse of others, could easily be what gives it its fulfillment. Positive altruistic actions could also fill our desires, but that is usually not the case.
In the wisdom of Kabbalah, this desire that enjoys at the expense of others and nature is called the “evil inclination.” It is evil in that it cannot take others into consideration.
This desire constantly bosses us around, making us cater to its demands, unaware that it is not actually us. It is a desire that exists in us like a virus or a germ, and it controls us.
We relate to it as if it were us, but it is not us. It controls us from within to our detriment because it makes us follow its demands when we ourselves would wish to develop differently. Instead, it leads us into all kinds of negative situations. For instance, even at the level of our basic health, our bodies wish to simply be healthy yet due to our desire for pleasure, many of us fill our bodies with all kinds of drugs, chemicals, alcohol and smoke in the name of pleasure that our desire constantly directs us to. It does not ask our permission, but it dictates to us what we seemingly want.
Eventually, via the accumulation of life experiences as well as various indirect supporting systems in the environments we encounter, a siren goes off in our intellect: “Wait a minute! What your desire is leading you to is not at all to your benefit!” It discerns that simply following the dictates of our desires has led us to all kinds of suffering and blows. In other words, the intellect emerges in order to balance out the desire to receive’s demands.
The desire belongs more to the animate level within us, whereas the intellect belongs more to our human level. The intellect is cold. It tells us what is right and wrong, but then it becomes difficult to activate in order to control our desires.
We can understand the difficulty of controlling our desire with our intellect from our childhood where our parents told us to be good kids and to study, but we only wanted to play and mess around. Later in life, we can say that our parents were right, but it does not help us at the time when we could have benefited from following their advice.
How can we, throughout our lives, the moment we have detrimental desires, control them with the intellect and balance them out?
Instead of having to live our lives in ways where we run after desires that constantly surface—which we end up paying for and regretting—the wisdom of Kabbalah offers an alternative: a method of reaching an experience of life where we realize our desires beneficially: balancing them out with our intellect in ways that lead to our optimal state.
Based on the video “What Is Bad about Our Desires?” with Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman and Oren Levi. Written/edited by students of Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman.