Life lives itself

Volume 14 No. 14

Text satsang

An Advaita talk with Douwe Tiemersma Gouda, April 27, 2005

Life lives itself

Is life possible without desire?


But if I hear tomorrow that I have esophageal cancer, then don’t I have a problem?

Yes, that’s clear. But your question is whether there’s life without desire.

My desire is that I could be healthy again.

Is there life without desire?



Life just exists.

Of course. If you look beyond the human world then you see that the whole natural world flourishes in the spring. Is there any desire in that? No, it’s just a living of life. Take a look at yourself: in the beating of your heart is there any desire for the next beat?

Lives life itself.

Great. So it’s the same with human beings. And then suddenly an ‘I’ pops up that wants to continue living and so you have this structure of a limited identity, an ‘I’ who separates himself and says: I want to keep living in time.

But isn’t that logical?

When you say “it usually happens that way”, then yes, it’s logical.

But I imagine that if you went to the doctor tomorrow and he tells you that you are in an advanced stage of esophageal cancer, you’d still have a problem.

Death has already given me notice. It already began at birth.

Yes, I can say that too.

No, but seriously. Of course, organisms are mortal. There is a beginning, blossoming, decay and death. A plant has no desire to keep living and with a human being that always comes up. What’s that about? What‘s the most important aspect of man? Isn’t that consciousness? But you have to take a look at the significance it receives, namely as a very limited ‘I’-consciousness, an ‘I’-think, and then these sorts of things come up. When that consciousness comes free then once again it’s complete and infinite. When that aware being – which has nothing to do with birth and death – identifies itself with the body then it says: I’m in this body so I want to physically hold onto this infinity.

For the time being, yes.

Yes, but you see the absurdity. When you identify yourself with something, for example, with this candle and you say: “I have a sense of my self-being as unlimited-being, as whole-being, but damn, as a candle I’m getting smaller and I don’t want to burn out.” Isn’t that a mixing up of different things? That a candle can be lit and then burn out is quite obvious. When an organism lives, then there is also an end to that organism. Not of the life but of the organism. This sense of infinity and this notion of the organism shouldn’t be confused. That is absurd.

But doesn’t desire also come from life?

No, we have just said: life lives itself.

Then isn’t what I said strange?

No unfortunately, it’s very common. But you have to see how much suffering it creates. Some people really get into a panic. Now you see its cause, which is the coupling of things that can’t be coupled. That’s the absurdity. You see it in so many ways, not only with the problem of dying but also when, for example, a human being suddenly says: “I am immortal and I can do anything.” All the great dictators have said that and that’s dangerous. You see the absurdity. Because a bodily ‘I’-person isn’t eternal and can’t do everything. Why not? Because fundamentally he’s limited. The point is: when you return to that source of self-being, self-consciousness, you notice that there are no limits to be found and then you say: people have a sense of infinity, of immortality, and that’s not crazy, so it doesn’t have to disappear. But you should be careful and not apply it to something that is inherently transient. You will have to accept that impermanence. The problem comes when you link them. Of course then there’s a lot suffering and fighting a losing battle with increasingly higher costs for a month’s more extension of life. But fundamentally it doesn’t solve anything.


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