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I really don't see how desire causes suffering

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So one of the core tenets of buddhism is that desire causes suffering, but I really don't see how that's true.

For example, I desire to have a car. It's a lot faster than a bicycle and I'd be able to go places faster. Am I upset because I don't have a car? Definitely not, it'd just be nice to have.

I'd also like flasher clothes. I'm not bothered by the fact I don't have flash clothes, they'd just be nice to have.

And so on.

The idea of getting rid of desire sounds queer to me. Without desire I wouldn't get out of bed, I wouldn't do anything except stare at the wall all day.

The only desires that cause suffering are compulsive desires, eg drug addiction. But I'd say most desires are totally fine to have and in fact necessary to live an interesting life.


Am I misunderstanding something?

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 4:43 PM as a reply to Jake T Smith.
Jake T Smith:
So one of the core tenets of buddhism is that desire causes suffering, but I really don't see how that's true.

For example, I desire to have a car. It's a lot faster than a bicycle and I'd be able to go places faster. Am I upset because I don't have a car? Definitely not, it'd just be nice to have.

I'd also like flasher clothes. I'm not bothered by the fact I don't have flash clothes, they'd just be nice to have.

And so on.

The idea of getting rid of desire sounds queer to me. Without desire I wouldn't get out of bed, I wouldn't do anything except stare at the wall all day.

The only desires that cause suffering are compulsive desires, eg drug addiction. But I'd say most desires are totally fine to have and in fact necessary to live an interesting life.


Am I misunderstanding something?



"The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces -- suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature. The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering. The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one's mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance."
From:
http://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm

In my personal take on it, it's not so much that the wanting or the craving is inherently bad. The trouble is that we identify overly much with it. For example, imagine that you are hungry. If you do not eat, eventually you will starve to death. That is bad. Eating is good in this case as it allows you to continue living. However, if you obsess over food and constantly eat to satisfy your cravings, then that is also not good. That's why in Buddhism there is the concept of the Middle Way... which basically says that you don't need to deny yourself of the things that you desire or crave, but neither should you overly indulge yourself and be pleasure-seeking. Instead, you should seek to identify that which is necessary and that which is not.

Said another way, if we don't really care either way, we can be fine with either outcome. "The key to happiness is wanting what you have and not wanting what you don't have."

That said, a few words of caution- rather than trying to get rid of desires, what Buddhism seeks to do is to understand them on a deep level and to recognize them for what they are. What you do with that understanding is up to you.

But if you are still confused, consider reading the parts in MTCB on morality... that section helped put things in perspective for me. Mainly, we should seek a balance between concentration, insight, and morality. Learn to focus well, gain insights, and then use those abilities to make the world better for yourself and for others.

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 5:08 PM as a reply to Jake T Smith.
Hi Jake,

Yes, you're misunderstanding quite a lot here which seems to be based on your use and understanding of the word "desire".

First of all, in Buddhism the word "desire" is translated from the Pali word "tanha", literally "thirst" but also translated as "desire" or "craving". What would probably help your understanding straight away would be to change "desire" for "craving" as, in my experience so far, it's a much more accurate label for the sensate processes we're talking about here. It's got very little to do with simply "wanting" something, like a car, clothes or whatever you've got in mind; craving/desire/tanha refers to a subtle but discernible mental tension which lays the foundation for the arising of further craving and perpetuates the cycle of suffering. You'd also benefit from gaining a more thorough understanding of what "suffering", or "dukkha" in Buddhism, refers to as you seem to have some inaccurate beliefs regarding this too.

JTS:
The idea of getting rid of desire sounds queer to me. Without desire I wouldn't get out of bed, I wouldn't do anything except stare at the wall all day.

I'll level with you on this one: Based on your current understanding, you're highly unlikely to get to a point where desire no longer arises so you can let go of that concern. Also, desire has nothing to do with getting out of bed or actively participating in the real-world.

But I'd say most desires are totally fine to have and in fact necessary to live an interesting life.

There's nothing wrong with desiring a more comfortable or peaceful life, but desire, even using the word according to the way you're using it, isn't necessary to live an interesting life.

Hope that helps a bit.

P.S. Y'know that feeling of discomfort or of being slightly pissed off that just happened as you read this reply? That's part of what constitutes "desire"...

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 5:26 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Thanks guys. Yeah, craving causing suffering makes far more sense.

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 5:29 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
I like what thanissaro has to say. Get curious as to how far the notion of ''happiness' can go. What would the absence of desire be like? Would it trump the arising of desire? If it does, how would this change one's ongoing experience? One will never know if one simply settles and rest laurels where one may currently find themselves.

If desire springs from a sense of lack or limitation, what happens to desire when it produces a happiness with no lack or limitation at all? What's it like not to need desire? What would happen to your inner dialogue, your sense of self? And if desire is how you take your place in space and time, what happens to space and time when desire is absent?Thanissaro Bhikkhu


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/pushinglimits.html

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 7:22 PM as a reply to Jake T Smith.
I think the vice like grip of addictive desire is the problem. What if you desire this car so much that you steal one or you buy one you can't afford? If you want a car for practical reasons then it isn't addictive or a problem. What's wrong with desire depends on what we want. Sometimes we want things that aren't good for us.

Secondly all things are impermanent so even if you get what you desire, what you get is something that doesn't last forever and will not satisfy forever. The challenge is to enjoy things without overlaying an addictive clinging of thoughts to make pleasant sensations last forever and to make unpleasant sensations go away. Dukkha = mental stress. Unless everything is going well with your life and you have no obstacles you must experience some stress when there is frustration with not getting your objects of desire. Anger is a sign of helplessness. Have you ever felt helpless at an obstacle to your desires? Have you ever felt loss when objects of desire perish? They don't have to be large dramatic emotions but can include stubbing your toe.emoticon

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/18/13 8:26 PM as a reply to Jake T Smith.
Jake T Smith:


For example, I desire to have a car. It's a lot faster than a bicycle and I'd be able to go places faster. Am I upset because I don't have a car? Definitely not, it'd just be nice to have.



We don't realize the pain we are in because we have been swimming in it our whole lives and are conditioned to endure it. It is I believe, after experiencing a taste of transcendent peace and bliss that we become aware of how our desires and aversions create a sense of separation, tension and therefore pain in our lives.

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/19/13 10:23 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

JTS:
The idea of getting rid of desire sounds queer to me. Without desire I wouldn't get out of bed, I wouldn't do anything except stare at the wall all day.

I'll level with you on this one: Based on your current understanding, you're highly unlikely to get to a point where desire no longer arises so you can let go of that concern.

..


Highly unlikely implies its all random numbers. But I think that's misleading, because someone who hasn't taken the first steps may still breeze through parts of the path based on latent aspects... if they finally did get going.

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
2/20/13 7:37 AM as a reply to The Xzanth.
I like Nikolai's and Xzanth's posts above. If you have an itchy rash, then you think scratching is happiness. It makes you happy, and you wouldn't want to give it up. You would really hate it if the doctor told you to stop scratching it. Once you're cured, though, would you want the itch back, just so you can enjoy scratching it again?

The Four Noble truths are not some trivial statement of the obvious. The point is this: The Buddha experienced cessation (the 3rd Noble Truth). After experiencing it, he then understood that even what we normally think is happiness (such as scratching an itch or eating good food) is still not as pleasant as cessation. If the cessation of all sense impressions is preferable to any sense impression, then that means that all sense impressions are inherently suffering (dukkha), which is the 1st Noble Truth. The only reason why they cause suffering is that we want our experience to be different from what it is (2nd Noble Truth). This wanting/desire/tanha can be as strong as crying out in pain when your wife dies or as subtle as thinking you're bored and should go for a swim instead of continuing to sit on the beach. Cessation is still better than any of those. Finally, because all this is not usually something that you just read about, accept, and instantly/magically become free from suffering, there is the 4th Noble Truth, which lays out the path that we can walk to arrive at the cessation of suffering the Buddha discovered. That's what Buddhism is: A method that a human being can use to get to that Unconditioned/Uncreate/Cessation/Nirvana/Nibbana.

RE: I really don't see how desire causes suffering
Answer
3/10/13 11:59 AM as a reply to Dauphin Supple Chirp.
The problem is in wanting something and then suffering because you don't have it. It is not just in wanting something.

Some say desire/tanha implies a grasping or clinging (suffering if you don't have it). But, there is a distinction between desire/tanha and grasping/attachment/upadana. The Cycle of Dependent Origination says tanha creates a proclivity toward upadana but upadana doesn't have to follow. One can have tanha without it leading to suffering. The best translation of upadana to me is entrapment. The Visud. says tanha is reaching for a glass of water. Upadana is holding the glass tightly.

Jack