As human beings, we are naturally drawn to nature. A beautiful vista evokes in us a sense of wonder and awe. Earth's splendor captivates us; its oceans, mountains, deserts, plains and forests bring a fresh understanding of how the world is interconnected. Its beauty provokes us to transcend our mundane concerns, shortcomings and conflicts and we find within its quiet places a guiding force, a unity and oneness with Creation.
When we observe nature, we see that all living creatures are built to follow the principle of caring for others or altruism. The animal kingdom presents some spectacular examples where each element works to benefit the whole. For instance, we have learned many lessons from the annual migration of geese each winter. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the birds following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent more flying range than if each flew alone. Researchers have also learned that the flock will not follow until all are headed in the right direction and the geese at the back of the formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it immediately feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds ahead.
Studies also found that when a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow their fellow member, to help and provide protection. They stay with this member of the flock until it is able to fly again. Other animals act very similarly. Dolphins support their wounded companions and keep them close to the top of the water to keep them from drowning. Elephants have joined to help one of their own that was dying on the sand. They tried their hardest to pick the dying elephant up by pushing their tusks under its body. Some even broke their tusks in the process.
When we observe our surrounding Nature, we discover that the inanimate, vegetative and animate levels of Nature all carry out Nature's principle of bestowal, or altruism. However, if we observe man's nature, we will find that it is essentially different from the rest of Nature. Man is the only creature that takes pleasure in being unique, apart from, and superior to others. Thus, man's egoism breaches Nature's balance.
Kabbalah explains that man differs from the other levels of nature by the fact that his desires evolve over time. First man had simple desires, such as wanting to eat, reproduce, and to experience family. The appearance of more advanced desires, such as craving wealth, honor and knowledge prompted the evolution of human society and the social structures of education, culture, science and technology. As humanity evolved, we thought that these progresses would satisfy us and make us happier. However, today we are beginning to realize that this is not so.
And that's because none of our desires remain satisfied for long. Though experience, we have learned that once we receive what we yearn for, the pleasure fades and the emptiness returns. This emptiness leads us on a wild goose chase of pleasures and desires in search of satisfaction. Now that we have accumulated experience for thousands of years, we realize that we don't know how to reach sustainable happiness, or even basic inner security.
The Correct Use of "The Desire to Receive"
In Kabbalistic terms, Nature has instilled in us a desire to receive or enjoy. Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, known as Baal HaSulam, explains our desire to receive from the perspective of Kabbalah.
"The desire to receive is all the substance of Creation, from beginning to its end. Thus, all the numerous creations, their multitude incidents, and the ways by which they are conducted, that have appeared and that will appear, are only measures and changes in the values of the desire to receive." (Baal Hasulam, "Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah," Item 1.)
Kabbalah teaches us that to attain sustainable happiness, we must change the way we use our desire to enjoy, moving from an egoistic approach to an altruistic one. And in this regard, we have much to learn from the rest of nature. By looking at the numerous examples of altruistic behavior in nature, we can find the best and wisest way to use the will to receive and to progress toward bonding with others.
Kabbalah does not require that we suppress our natural egoistic desires. On the contrary, it acknowledges their existence and explains how we can best and most effectively use them to reach perfection. Our desire to receive pushes us forward through life, and without it, we would not have evolved as a human society.
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