When we speak of dreams coming true, we are talking about some form of desire. Beyond the basic necessities for food, water, and shelter, which are enough to satisfy the desire to survive, human beings invent countless other desires.
What we all experience is that some of our desires come true while others don't. That seems clear enough, but in fact people approach this simple fact from very different angles. If asked, "How do you get what you want?” or an even bigger issue, “How do you make a dream come true?" people will offer answers that aren't at all compatible.
Think of the mixed messages we've been getting all our lives:
- Desires are fulfilled and dreams come true if you work hard enough and never stop fighting for what you want.
- Dreams come true only if they are meant to. It hardly matters what you do; destiny or karma plays the major role.
- It's pure luck which desires come true and which ones don't.
- Making your dreams come true is a spiritual journey. Prayer, meditation, and good karma are critical.
- Dreams come true by the grace of God. To make your dream come true, you must surrender to divine will.
- Desire is self-fulfilling. Every intention includes a path to fulfillment within its structure, however remote fulfillment may seem to be.
- Getting what you want is inevitable, but you have to look deep enough. Fulfillment can occur on the level of fantasy, dream, or imagination. It doesn't have to be physical.
Our tendency is to pick and choose among these explanations, and as a result, the picture of desire gets more confusing than ever. Fulfilling a desire could require hard work or the opposite—total surrender. If something wonderful falls into your lap, does it matter if God or random chance caused it? These appear to be exact opposites, yet in India’s wisdom tradition, the Bhagavad-Gita fuses opposites when Lord Krishna says, "Perform action without attachment to the fruits of action." In other words, use focus, determination, and hard work all you want, but stay detached about the outcome. In that dictum, a commitment to action and surrender to the outcome are fused.
Mechanics of Desire
But why is this a wise strategy? In everyday life, we’re all attached to the outcome of desire. We want the paycheck, the girl, the raise, the nice house. Focusing on those desires without caring about the outcome doesn’t seem like wisdom. It seems self-defeating. We need to go back to the common experience of having a desire.
Let's say three people want a piece of chocolate cake. Person A goes to work and earns enough money to buy a chocolate cake. Person B comes home to discover that by coincidence, his wife just that day baked a chocolate cake for him. Person C orders chocolate cake at a restaurant only to be told that the last piece was already sold—sorry.
The unlikely truth is that all three desires operated by the same mechanism in consciousness. This mechanism is intention working to a conclusion. Despite the fact that an actual piece of cake appears—or doesn't—the entire mechanics of desire takes place in consciousness.
Why don't people see this automatically and accept it as a fact? Why don't we expect our desires to come true without hindrance or struggle, letting fulfillment unfold through consciousness alone? The inner path of desire is masked because a person’s consciousness varies enormously according to many factors:
- To be effortlessly fulfilled, an intention must be clear. Mixed messages bring mixed results.
- We send out mixed messages because of hidden beliefs and self-assumptions that muddy the waters (such as, "I don't deserve to get what I want" or "It’s sinful to want too much" or "God wants me to be pure and without desire.")
- Some intentions come from a shallow level that has no way to fulfillment. The deeper the desire, the stronger the intention.
- Intentions can take a direct path but also many indirect ones.
Intention will reach a conclusion unless blocked or thwarted, but we can't control the conclusion or predict what path it will take—this is ultimately why detachment is necessary. There are so many variables in even the simplest desire that the mind cannot calculate them.
For example, wanting a piece of chocolate cake, persons A, B, and C followed the same mechanics of desire but got three different results, and now we see why. Their intention was the same, but their inner world wasn’t. Your awareness is like a filter through which a desire must pass, or better said, awareness is a maze of twisted turns that intentions must negotiate. Therefore, the Gita’s advice to remain detached isn’t just a snippet of ancient wisdom; it’s practical advice, which can be literally stated as “Let the mechanics of desire bring your fulfillment without interference. The more you interfere, the less likely you will get what you want.”
Follow your dream but remember this: desire is the Universe's evolutionary tool. This is a clear-eyed statement, reflecting what we all experience. The Self unfolds over a lifespan through growing desires, moving from infancy to adulthood. Detachment occurs naturally as childish things no longer possess any charm and the desires of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood make new claims. Finally one arrives at the mature adult who can formulate a vision of life and aspire to spiritual understanding. Then the path of desire and the path of consciousness both come to fruition.