Dancing with desire

by Azly Rahman

“The self-controlled soul, who moves amongst sense objects, free from either attachment or repulsion, he wins eternal Peace.”
– Bhagavad Gita

In the Golden Age, Rulers were unknown. In the following age Rulers were loved and praised. Next came the age when rulers were feared. Finally the age when rulers are hated.
– Lao Tzu

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
~ Voltaire

Wealth and power are temptations that erode our character. We should enslave these and put them to good use with the help of the inner self.

Many will fail and suffer when wealth and power become master to one’s destiny. The self will be destroyed, families will break down, communities will be in chaos, nations will become violent and turn against each other, countries will go to war and destroy countless millions.

American is one nation that is being destroyed. Malaysia will be following suit if we do not amputate our desire and stop dancing to its tune.

Inner peace, like what Kung Fu’Tze, Lao Tze, the Buddha, etc taught us begins with the inner self, inner conscience.

In Islam it is called “fitrah” or the “the gift” that has to be known, named, taken care of, nurtured, developed, and fed with good and healthy food of the soul so that this inner self may become larger than the universe outside and will have the energy to conquer evil.

This inner self will be the dictator to inner desire that wants to dominate, plunder, and possess others.

The nurturance of desire

The disease that is destroying us is the inability for the powerful to tame desire. If the plague is merely destroying the selfhood of the corrupt politicians, it is bearable – it is one’s righteous self-destruction.

But the problem is powerful and wealthy individuals, knowingly or otherwise design policies, strategies, and schemes to destroy the lives of many people who are helpless and who do not know what is happening to their world.

All they know is that they are happy in this system of bread and circus, of instant gratification, of the here and now, and of shackled existentialism – a world that is constantly being sped up by enabling technologies.

Media, machinery, materialism, mind control — these are instruments of desire that intrude into the inner self, turning it into a temple of madness constructed out of flesh, blood, and bones.

The soul is lost — forever sold into slavery into the media/machinery/material/mind matrix of power and wealth.

The idea that one needs lots of money to be in power is the most dangerous idea in modern politics.

Billions of Ringgit are raised to put desire into power, through undesirable elected representatives. Billions are drawn out of the blood, sweat and tears of those whose lives are constantly transformed by those who owns the means of transforming individuals and institutions.

The curse of general elections

Every four years there is a general election. Between one to another, time is spent to maintain power and hegemony through means that are desirable and undesirable.

It is as if the nation is only interested in who is gearing up for elections and the rest of the time be made to bow down to the Neon Gods or the media that produced 24/7 entertainment, infotainment, or edutainment to forget the daily suffering as a consequence of “hypermodernity”.

At every elections come, the promise of a prosperous kingdom comes. Pay raise comes even to the ones undeserving, so that they will continue to pledge allegiance to systems of thought control that shuts both eyes to the practice of massive graft, political-criminal protective system, the closing of the Malaysian mind, and a range of other designs of human behavior that cage the soul; a soul that is “born good and born free”, as Jean Jacques Rousseau might say.

What is happening in the mind of the “bribe taker” and in those that do not have commitment to higher goals and inner ideals? What is happening in the mind of those tempted to leave the ideals and join a system that will turn them into pleasure-seeking, ego-building, power-abusing individuals who will continue to want more and more money to buy more and more power?

These are difficult questions for the self. These require us to go back to the drawing board of everything – self, family, schools, communities, formal and informal institutions, the media, etc. – to ask ourselves how we got into this abyss of political mess?

The technologies of dominance

Major projects – from the transformation of society through the Felda scheme, modernisation of the public sector, technologisation of services, multimedia-isation of Malaysia’s super corridors, bio-technologisation of this country, and a range of items in developmentalist agenda – all these have been allowed to come to pass unchecked, unmediated, unexamined.

All these have taken their toll on the lives of the individuals and of the different ethnic groups. With these successive mode of production of the different stages of capitalist expansion as it collaborates with the international imperialist agenda comes newer form of addictive suffering and newer form of grand scale psychosomatic illness that impact different ethnic groups in different ways.

These have created alienation of the man/woman and labour. Unlike the padi cultivator whose life traditionally revolves around producing based on the “moral economy of the peasant society” and one in which the human being is close to nature, knows nature well, understands the signs of nature, communicates with it, respects it, and in turn nature does not easily get angry at him/her – the modern Malaysian man in the Age of Biotech Malaysia is alienated by the technologies and “expert knowledge” that alienates him/her in more sophisticated ways.

But all is lost for the farmer and for those close to nature.

Man’s “natural self” too is lost in the process, eroded and corroded by the systems of alienation forced by other men who own specialised knowledge and shrewd political means.

All is now decided for the farmer, for the teacher, and for those who once have ownership of their lives.

In a country in which fear has become institutionalised in almost all spheres of life and pleasure-seeking and the distaste for critical sensibility are now the pillars of economic development, the natural self has become the fragmented self.

We have become sick to the soul.

Lao Tzu was right when he said that we ” should not have carved the stone…” for the act of carving it spells the beginning of “destruction”. The act of creating has in it the act of destroying. It is akin to the Shiva-Vishnu dance in the court of Brahma.

Let us have a hand in orchestrating the dance. For, we must dissolve the line that separates the dancer and the dance.

Man/Woman must become the choreographer of the dance of life.

  1. #1 by Ghost on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 2:31 pm

    Beautiful statements!!!!! How we wish every human being able to comprehand all this meaning in a short period. Our earth won’t have much time left. Face the music, ebery second we are killing it, consciously or sub-consciously.

  2. #2 by Ghost on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 2:48 pm

    Tao teaches the mystical side of life, the truth, the unconventional, the solitude path. However, at that time, they didn’t face such calamity as now. We need to push! we need to voice out! we need wake eveyone!
    We can’t wait no more, we can’t wait for enlightenment although that’s the way, we need to create future, create ways.
    This world belongs to everyone, not someone, not anyone!

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 3:00 pm

    “America is one nation that is being destroyed. Malaysia will be following suit if we do not amputate our desire and stop dancing to its tune” – Dr Azly Rahman.

    How is America already destroyed that Malaysia should not follow suit?

    Which country should Malaysia follow suit? Or should other countries follow us?

  4. #4 by sotong on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 3:27 pm

    Dr Azly, if only more could fully comprehend what destruction human being is doing to themselves, there is still hope for mankind on earth.

  5. #5 by dawsheng on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 5:00 pm

    Rakyat Malaysia irregradless of race deserves much better than this, blessed with so much natural resources and with the most strategic location in the world but look what we have got. There are no logical explanations for all the things that happened in Malaysia since Abdullah Badawi took over, if you try to explain it you will look ridiiculous.

  6. #6 by karlmarx8 on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 5:08 pm

    There is a non-political higher consciousness movement in the West and Europe since early 70s and more prominent in the 2000s. The Middle East is moving into more sectarian and “stoneage” or Taliban-type of society, the clash of civilisation is even more prominent in the next 50-100 years. Brace for yourself!

  7. #7 by lkt-56 on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 5:26 pm

    This is a confusing article. Am afraid cannot comment… :)

  8. #8 by Fort on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 6:33 pm

    How much wealth and power does a person need to live well?
    What is the point of having so much of power/wealth if it is not used to make this planet earth a better place for all? After all how long can we live however powerful and rich we are?
    We need to give everyone a fair share of living. The world definitely have enough for all we need but not enough for all our greed!

    There is a saying that- A tiger leave its fur behind when it die.
    A man will leave his name.

  9. #9 by Godamn Singh on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 7:06 pm

    Every time I get to read the Adjunk Professor’s ramblings I am full of desire – a desire to run for cover.

  10. #10 by k1980 on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 7:16 pm


    From the views of a commentator in the above website. Just replace “Thaksin” with “you-know-who” and caramba! viola!

    …On the surface, Thaksin’s first government looked magnificent, but at the same time the curruption scheme started on a scale unimagineable. Petty corruption common in the past was obsolete in the Thaksin’s administration. A new and much more clever way to cheat was created. Public services managers were replaced with Thaksin’s men, police commanders were replaced with Thaksin’s men, important public positions were all replaced with Thaksin’s men. The army commander in chief was replaced by Thaksin’s cousin, and the permanent secretary of Justice was Thaksin’s brother-in-law. The Senate was dominated by Thaksin’s men in disguise as independant candidates. The independant offices watching corruption and crime were run by Thaksin’s men…

  11. #11 by undergrad2 on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 7:16 pm

    The self-controlled soul, who moves amongst sense objects, free from either attachment or repulsion, he wins eternal Peace.”
    – Bhagavad Gita

    In the Golden Age, Rulers were unknown. In the following age Rulers were loved and praised. Next came the age when rulers were feared. Finally the age when rulers are hated.
    – Lao Tzu

    It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
    ~ Voltaire

    It is wrong to be right when right is what is left – Undergrad2

    I am sorry I don’t understand!

  12. #12 by k1980 on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 7:19 pm

    In the Stone Age, were the rulers stoned?

  13. #13 by Godamn Singh on Monday, 4 June 2007 - 8:34 pm

    They have yet to discover the coca plant, cocaine and the poppy plant etc. If they had they’d be stoned too.

  14. #14 by dawsheng on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 1:49 am

    Until one day the lightning striked Mary Jane and the rest is history.

  15. #15 by karlmarx8 on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 - 6:46 pm

    The self-controlled soul, who moves amongst sense objects, free from either attachment or repulsion, he wins eternal Peace.”
    – Bhagavad Gita

    Self control – means dedicated training ones mind by various ancient method. Some are secretive since 5000 years ago until now.

    Soul=mind, but I don’t know what’s your definition?

    Therefore, is someone who is able to see the “realistic” view from our daily conventional view of phenomenon. These people are able to discriminate between sense objects which purports to give sensation and nothing else in the consumption of material needs.

    These biological sensation is of impermanence in nature, therefore, it does not gives a “permanent” nature of phenomenon. Its creates only a craving effect viz crave for sex, money, foods, comfort, glory, sadness, happiness,etc etc. These are refered to as sufferings. But, our materialistic world refer to as permanent in nature and a “must have” to satisfy to our fullest temptation and our superficial functional knowledge. As a result of such chasing for these cravings for fulfilment, also aka, attachment (where these “must have” got attached so much so ones is recognised with it)without it, we are depressed.

    Then, a well trained soul is someone who is well regulated in the indulgence of such senses to direct it towards it ultimate goal of the needs of the higher consciousness only. Therefore, he can drained/required such indulgence for practices only, but do not take it as permanent in nature and neither to enjoy such impermanence phenomenon as per se. The result of which he will be able to detach himself from attachment/craving for materialistic needs and achieve an eternal peace…of mind.

    You do more, more sufferings.
    You do less, less sufferings,
    You do nothing, no suffering.

  16. #16 by Ghost on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 10:54 am

    Why you don’t understand? Trust me, many more don’t including our appointed leaders who claim to guide and lead with all dignity and fairness.
    Look deep into our education system, we aren’t learning much from it apart from memorizing occur events which is it really so important? What is history when all we have is the incident not the lesson. What Jesus, buddha, Lao Tzu, Moses, Muhammad, and all great teachers teaches? Did we comprehand their point or we just neglect and assume that truth will reveal itself without even trying to understand the pattern of Life? Life is vast, bigger that any philosophy, any religion, any science. Life is what we live for not man made things (money, house, career, etc.)

  17. #17 by lkt-56 on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 - 1:55 pm

    I re-read what Dr. Azly wrote again and decided that he was advocating using our ‘inner self’ to solve our ills – basically a spiritual approach wherein each individual is the master of his/her own destiny.

    This would require a fundamental shift from the realm of ‘object consciousness’ to the realm of ‘wisdom’. I had been advocating this many times on Kit’s blog but I think basically visitors here are not in tune with this kind of approach. ;)

    Dr. Azly himself is somewhat confused. He had tried to link the spiritual realm with the objective realm… far example:

    All is now decided for the farmer, for the teacher, and for those who once have ownership of their lives.

    In the spiritual realm or the realm of wisdom, there is absolutely no sense of separation for we naturally feel a part of the greater whole, TAO. Therefore it is incorrect to say that anyone has ownership of one’s self for in the spiritual realm, there can be no ‘self’.

  18. #18 by private_undergrad on Thursday, 7 June 2007 - 6:20 pm

    I think there is no absolute answer to the problems that we are facing now, whatever it is. We have our own destiny and purposes in our lives. Like what karlmarx8 has said, to achieve the eternal peace of mind/soul or TAO/Enlightenment, we must forgo all attachments in this physical world, which is extremely extremely hard. Some are destined to comprehend this. But many are not. For instance, who can forgo his/her career and urge to earn more money to survive in this highly materialistic world? Forgo it means doom before we even know it. :D

  19. #19 by lkt-56 on Friday, 8 June 2007 - 1:28 am

    Ah! I am so glad that someone still visits this thread. ;) I had thought that it will be lost forever….

    The doctrine of ‘wu-wei’ or non-action has always been misunderstood. Many like yourself, private-undergrad are under the impression that to walk the spiritual path towards enlightenment means to become a hermit of sorts wherein you shut yourself away from the world. On the contrary… the opposite is true:

    When Siddharta Gautama Buddha was enlightened, he did not shut himself away from the world. He became instead so attached to the objective world and so full of compassion for the peoples that he could only devote the rest of his life to helping them understand what he has realized after years of tortuous self contemplation. Jesus Christ is another enlightened being who reached out to the world to help them understand the true meaning of love.

    In Lao Tzu’s teaching, when we are in a state of ‘wu-wei’ we have found our true SELF (enlightened according to Buddhist teaching). What this means is that we are able to observe the objective world in ‘stillness’. I will use the case of Lina Joy (a very popular issue of the day) to illustrate what I mean by ‘observing the world in stillness’

    Given the belief of followers of TAO that everything is relative in the objective world, for every event that happen, it is not enough to take note of the ‘event’ itself we must also see the event from the frame of reference of the ‘observer’.


    1) From the perspective of a good Muslims, Lina Joy is a lost sheep and she must be led back to the correct path.
    2) From the perspective of a civil rights activist, Lina Joy’s basic human right of freedom of religion has been violated.
    3) From the perspective of a lawyer, the ruling by the civil court in favour of the NRD means that the supremacy of the constitution has been violated.
    4) From the perspective of a politician like Kit, the merdeka social contract has been violated.

    The list goes on and on… and it comes as no surprise that we can never find agreement among all these people who operate in the realm of interllectual consciousness. However, for an individual who has attained the state of ‘wu-wei’, there is only one truth:


    No emptions attached. The rest are all subjective truths based on the interllect and this interllect acting in concert with the ‘self’ (notice it is spelled with small letters?) it will lead to conflict when this small self decides that it has more right over the others. This self is our EGO.

    Being able to observe the world in stillness just means being able to master your self, master your emotions…. You mentioned about earn more money. Yes we need money and we work to sustain ourselves and our loved ones. Nothing wrong with that for we cannot isolate ourselves from the objective world. But when we are operating in the realm of ‘wisdom’ or ‘wu-wei’, we naturally know how to moderate ourselves. If we fail to get that promotion we badly wanted, we do not fall into depression, quit the job or even take our own lives. Being grounded in ‘stillness’ we just know that we did not get the promotion, period. Accept it and wait for the next opportunity. :D

    I hope private-undergrad will return to read this. :)

  20. #20 by private_undergrad on Friday, 8 June 2007 - 3:40 pm

    I like your response lkt-56. In essence I concur with what you have said. Like Yin and Yang in Tao everything must be in moderation to maintain order in this world and beyond. But I think there is a misconception in my statement above that we must let go of attachments to achieve spiritual enlightenment. By saying forgo attachments, what I mean is that we shouldn’t get too impulsive and compulsive about anything that concerns us, like craving for something (money, fame, etc) or emotions that we tend to display out of desperations or excitements. Living like hermits only facilitates the whole experience to attain enlightenment by distancing ourselves from all kinds of distractions, but definitely not the other way round. On the issue on ‘stillness’, I have a contradicting view (hopefully not a subjective/intellectual one :D). Even though we observe the world from the ‘stillness’ within us, we know that everything is in motion. Everything is changing without us knowing it consciously or unconsiously. For example, thought. When we are thinking, the brain cells are in motion. The physicists can detect the moving frequencies in our brains during the process of thinking. The energy is moving. In another example, our body skins are also in motion. Despite of what we can see with our naked eyes that our skin do not ‘move’ and are in ‘stillness’, deep within we know that our skin cells are consuming energy and in constant motion of self-replications (mitosis).

    One thing that I think I should share with everyone here on the issue of eating meats and being a vegetarians. Some see it as a personal preference but for Buddhists (monks for instance), they will avoid eating meats and made it a rule for every practising Buddhist. First question we will ask is why are Buddhists avoid consuming meats? Is it stated on the rules of Buddhism that Buddhist cannot eat meat? What about the monks 2500 years ago that had to starve? How did they sustain themselves from being starved to death in order to attain enlightenment at last? Could they choose not to consume food that contain meat? To tell you the truth, Buddha advises Buddhist against eating meat as eating meat (Personally I prefer black pepper grilled chicken :D) will cause a form of attachment besides other side effects. Some will feel uncomfortable when his meal does not have meat in it. Gradually, this practice become a rule for the every future practicing Buddhist like what we practice nowadays.

  21. #21 by lkt-56 on Friday, 8 June 2007 - 8:06 pm

    So glad to see you back…. Sorry for getting you wrong on the bit about being a hermit! ;) This is just another manifestation that no two minds think alike. Back to the subject of ‘observing the world in stillness’….

    Literally, stillness pertains to motion but in the context of observing the world in stillness, we are actually talking about a higher SELF observing the objective world which is in a constant state of motion (or flux). This SELF (notice the caps used?) transcend the duality of the objective world and hence is able to see all events with detached objectivity.

    In the realm of ‘wisdom’, or spiritual realm if you like, there is no ‘self’ but a ‘SELF’. This SELF operates at the level of TAO, the law that governs everything in the entire universe.

    There are techniques developed to help us reach this higher level of consciousness: meditation, qi gong… even not eating meat in the believe that eating meat will cause or result in attachment ;)

    I do not delve too deeply into Buddhism and therefore cannot comment on causation of attachment due to meat consumption. But I do believe that it is linked to the law of ‘karma’.

    TAO embraces all… TAO is totally non-discriminating. Therefore as a follower of TAO, I have no problem eating ‘black pepper grilled chicken’ (not those from Sungei Buloh, though… bird flu-lah). Personally I find the practice of qi gong the best way to help me focus inward. Inner contemplation brings us closer to the dimension of ‘wisdom’ (or ‘space consciousness’ accorsing to another awakened spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle). Incidentally we are largely empty space although we look solid due to the high speed of the electrons twirling around its nucleus. That is another motion you mentioned about earlier (life processes basically) taking place at atomic level. If you are interested, “The TAO of Physics” is a recommended read.

  22. #22 by private_undergrad on Saturday, 9 June 2007 - 7:20 pm

    Wow I can’t believe we have already transcended the topic beyond this physical world with its objective targets as originally expounded by Dr. Azly himself. I think I still cannot get rid of my attachment of reading this thread new extraordinary reply by you, lkt-56. :) Once again I have to agree with what you have said. By observing the objective environment which is in constant motion or flux as you’ve aforementioned with the ‘stillness’, we get closer to the higher SELF, specifically by, yes, Qi Gong. Most if not all still regard Qi Gong as a self-healing method for aging people like Tai Ji instead of a form of cultivation to attain enlightenment. I hope I don’t sound occult to you. :-)
    Anyway it’s good to see someone is here with a common interest. Will delve further in the TAO of Physics after this. ;-)

  23. #23 by lkt-56 on Sunday, 10 June 2007 - 1:13 pm

    I am glad too that finally I found some one who understands that life is not all about this objective world and its materialism… Far from thinking that you are being ‘occult’, I think you are one of those who are not too caught up (or lost) in this world of ‘object consciousness’. Good for you. :)

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