Questioner: In The Fountainhead it is said, “I take the only desire one can really permit oneself. Freedom, Alvah, freedom. To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
In the above lines, Ayn Rand has said that freedom is to not expect and depend on the desired outcome. Kindly explain what is meant by freedom from desire according to the writer.
Acharya Prashant: Freedom from desire is freedom from desire. Desire grips us, controls us, takes possession of us. We allow ourselves to work according to the desire. And the problem is, what you call as your desire is not your desire at all. How intelligent does it sound to chase somebody else’s desire? In the normal course of things, if your neighbor is thirsty and you start gulping water, it would be obviously stupid because you are chasing somebody else’s desire. In such a case it is obvious, but that’s what most of us keep doing throughout our lives, and the fact never really becomes obvious.
What we call as our desire is an implanted desire. It is a desire that either the body or the world is giving to us, implanting in us, arousing within us. But we do not have the discretion to see that the desire is not really original, it is not really native; it is not yours at all. And what is the proof that it is not yours at all? The fulfillment of that desire gives you very little salvation. If your neighbor is thirsty, what will you get by drinking a lot of water? Your actual need might be for food. Your need is for food and the neighbor is thirsty, and you confuse the neighbor’s desire for your desire, and you keep drinking water. How much and how long will that help you?
That’s the kind of lives we lead. If you can know your one right desire and dedicate yourselves to it, wonderful. But in absence of self-knowledge, we know very little about ourselves. We do not know what our real desire is, so we keep chasing miscellaneous desires. And that’s such a waste.
The real desire, the one central desire is this: to ask nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing. This is what is called as liberation. This is absolutely non-dual, advaitic liberation—to ask nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing; in other words, to be nothing. This is what is liberation. This is straight out of Adi Shankaracharya’s books and the Buddha’s mouth. What is liberation? To ask nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing.
Brings me to the beautiful word from the Upanishads: anavalamba , nirālamba . There is an Upanishad by the name Niralamba Upanishad . Do you know what the word nirālamba means? Not dependent on anything; that which is not avalambhita on anything. Avalamba is support. *Niralamba Upanishad*—not dependent, not dependent. That’s what it is saying here.
And some of our luminaries are wondering whether Ayn Rand is against spirituality!