There is a story from Vajrayana Buddhism about the poisonous plant.
A Theravada monk will see it and turn back afraid, unwilling to pass it.
A Mahayana monk will see it, but being careful will step past it.
A Vajrayana monk will pick the plant and use it as a medicine.
This is supposed to show how the monk (or any practitioner) sees desire.
One is afraid, one allows it to be there, and the last transforms it into something beneficial.
As usual, this Vajrayana teaching picks on Theravada (or Hinayana) as the buffoon … and makes itself the champion. Yet as with practically all the Vajrayana teachings, they come from the original Buddhism, as recorded in the Pali texts; the Pali texts being the most accurately recorded word of the actual Buddha himself.
Theravada Buddhism is the ‘Way of the Elders’. This line of Buddhism maintained the original teachings of the historical Buddha in the Pali texts – a fact not disputed by either Mahayana or Vajrayana. This is the basis of Buddhism in Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. It is also the basis of ‘Vipassana’ or Insight meditation as taught around the world. Note that the term ‘Vipassana’ is also used by other schools of Buddhism.
The image of a yogi fearing and running from Desire is wrong. In the Pali ‘desire’ is not considered as an entity in itself, but in relation to the object of the desire. It is not like you have a pot of desire in you, that you can change one way or another – but you can develop desire based on a suitable or an unsuitalbe object. Thus unwholesome desire is to be abandoned, and wholesome desire to be cultivated. Basically, you can say this is a ‘transformation’ of desire if you wish.
Here is one typical instance of Theravada on this subject:
here the Ariyan disciple dwells resolute in energy, every striving to abandon bad qualities, to bring about good qualities, strenuously exerting himself, not throwing off the burden in good qualities.
He starts desire, strives, sets going energy, lays hold of thought and exerts effort to prevent the arising of bad qualities.
He starts desire, sets going energy and lays hold of thought and exerts effort for the persistence of good qualities, for their more-becoming, for their increase, development, for their perfecting
S Vol V p134 (eng version)