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Thread: Desire...

  1. #1


    What is desire in your opinion?

    (any kind of an answer is welcome...)

    Gassho, Mujo

  2. #2

    Re: Desire...

    What is desire?

    Hmm ...

    Wanting something you don't currently have.




  3. #3

    Re: Desire...

    Thanks for the reply, and
    I agree with you.

    But, what do you really currently have?

    When the first time you was born, did you carry it?

    And when you died, will you still have it?

    So, do we really "have" something?

    Gassho, Mujo

  4. #4

    Re: Desire...

    Not sure this is the answer to your question but it's a concept I found helpful with regards to the Buddhist view of desire.
    The Pali canon refers to two kinds of desire: tanha and chanda.
    Chanda is wholesome desire (desire for taking refuge, desire to uphold the precepts, desire to practice zen, etc.) and tanha is the thirsting desire of clinging attachment.
    The latter is to be avoided because it leads to suffering.

    I've also come across a formula that I thought was pretty nifty:
    Unwholesome desires > wholesome desires = suffering
    Unwholesome desires < or = to wholesome desires = cessation of suffering.

    This isn't exactly scientific nor even very Buddhist but it helps illustrate that complete lack of desire is impossible and undesirable for a living, sentient being.
    (No desires means you are an insensate/dead mass. For even an unconscious person will attempt to breathe!)
    Buddhism seeks the middle way which is to say that zero desires is to be avoided as much as infinite desires. (Asceticism versus hedonism)
    Consequently, as human beings have no shortage of desires on the horizon, Buddhist practitioners throughout the ages have worked hard to live lives of self-restraint, simplicity and morality (countering the wellspring of desire)
    I assume if the opposite were true we'd all be desperately trying to stimulate some sort of interest in wanting something!

    Finally, while it's true that there's nothing to have and nothing to take, it's also true that I'd like to win the lottery and I wouldn't want anyone to steal "my" money! :wink:


  5. #5

    Re: Desire...

    Quote Originally Posted by kliffkapus
    Not sure this is the answer to your question but it's a concept I found helpful with regards to the Buddhist view of desire.
    The Pali canon refers to two kinds of desire: tanha and chanda.
    Chanda is wholesome desire (desire for taking refuge, desire to uphold the precepts, desire to practice zen, etc.) and tanha is the thirsting desire of clinging attachment.
    The latter is to be avoided because it leads to suffering.
    I find this quite helpful. Thank you.


  6. #6

    Re: Desire...

    Hellos to those desirous of dialogue!

    Words are fascinating things, I am going to freely associate with this word desire:

    want is sometimes linked with desire (as in desire for something/someone you want)

    want itself has interesting overlay of being a desire (hoping for something perhaps superfluous, an 'extra', not a need);
    but want in the negative (I want for nothing, there was nothing wanting) means there is nothing lacking, nothing needed:

    example of the 23rd Psalm "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." which means I will not lack for anything, all my needs will be met...and the psalm goes on to describe the green pastures and the still waters provided by the Shepherd.

    desire and wish similar, yet coming from different places, desire seems to come from places in the body from
    the heart on down whereas wishes seem to come from places from the heart on up.

    desire seems to have appetite, hunger to it.
    but is this really hunger? or craving for sensation? something to take over this mind always seeking distractions and give this drive driven apparatus something else to drive toward

    maybe it is really as simple as patiently unpacking all the distractions, and finding out that right now, this moment, nothing is lacking, nothing has ever been lacking.

    A quote from the end of Hakuin Zenji's Song of Zazen,(from the translation chanted by One Drop Zendo in LA now known as the Tanden Sangha):
    At this moment what more need we seek? As the eternal tranquility of Truth reveals itself to us, this
    very place is the Land of Lotuses and this very body is the body of the Buddha.

  7. #7

    Re: Desire...


    On the topic of "desire", and why it is so central in Buddhism through its role in "Suffering" (Dukkha"),

    From time to time the subject comes up on why "Just Sitting" Shikantaza is such a powerful practice ... as accepting life and this world (not two, by the way) "just-as-they-are" ... dropping "likes" "dislikes, thoughts of "good" and "bad", all resistance ... allowing all to be, like the stone Buddha in the garden ...


    So, I want to repost this (for beginners especially, but we all can use a reminder from time to time). This is my explanation of the Buddha's "First Noble Truth", often phrased as "Life is Suffering" ... and a little explanation of why Shikantaza is a very powerful medicine for the dis-ease (notice the hyphen in "dis - ease")


    Here is my simple, yet totally effective and fulproof, teaching on "Dukkha" ...

    No one English word captures the full depth and range of the Pali term Dukkha. It is sometimes rendered as 'suffering', as in 'life is suffering'. But perhaps it's better expressed as 'dissatisfaction', 'anxiety', 'disappointment' 'unease at imperfection' or 'frustration', terms that wonderfully convey a subtlety of meaning.

    Your 'self' wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. The mental state that may result to the 'self' from this disparity is Dukkha.

    Shakyamuni Buddha gave many examples ... sickness (when we do not wish to be sick), old age (when we long for youth), death (if we cling to life),loss of a loved one (as we cannot let go), violated expectations, the failure of happy moments to last (though we wish them to last). Even joyous moments ... such as happiness and good news, treasure or pleasant times ... can be a source of suffering if we cling to them, are attached to those things. Wishing and clinging to X when life will become Y.

    In ancient stories, Dukkha is often compared to a chariot's or potter's wheel that will not turn smoothly as it revolves. The opposite, Sukkha, is a wheel that spins smoothly and noiselessly, without resistance as it goes.

    In life, there's sickness, old age, death and loss ... other very hard times ...

    But that's not why 'Life is Suffering'. Not at all, said the Buddha.

    Instead, it's sickness, but only when we refuse the condition ...
    ...old age, if we long for youth ...
    ... death, because we cling to life ...

    ... loss , when we cannot let go ...
    ... violated expectations, because we wished otherwise ...

    In other words, when your "self" wants and clings to X, but life hands you Y.

    So, for example, we might imagine this world and our lives as a garden of flowers and weeds. "Suffering" arises when we cannot close the gap between the world "as-it-is" and the world we dream "should be" or "we wish to be" in order for us to be happy and content. Our Buddhist practice allows us to be at one with this garden, both its flowers and weeds just as they are ... no gap, no resistance (accepting and "merging with" the weeds even as we do not accept the weeds ... we can still go ahead and nurture the flowers, and pull the weeds. We can do both at once, it is not an either/or proposition). ... 826#p24826

    Our 'dissatisfaction', 'disappointment', 'unease' and 'frustration' ... Dukkha ... arises as a state of mind, as our demands and wishes for how things 'should be' or 'if only would be for life to be happy' differ from 'the way things are'. The gap is the source of Dukkha. Our Practice closes the gap

    What's more, even happiness can be a source of Dukkha if we cling to the happy state, demand that it stay, are attached to good news, material successes, pleasures and the like ... refusing the way life may otherwise go.

    Our Zen practice closes the gap between how things go and how we would wish them to go ...

    And how do we do that, in our Shikanataza practice? How do we weaken the grip of the "self" which is that source of the gap of judgments and views between "how things are" and "how the self selfishly wishes they would be" ?

    Why, "Just Sit", dropping all thought of "good" and "bad" , "right" , "wrong" , "just" and "unjust" , experiencing a world that just is-what-it-is without gap or separation. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle" , "ugly" and "kind" , we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all ... even the most terrible.

    Then the "self" loses its fuel, is put out of a job ... Dukkha is extinguished in a flash.

    Gassho, Jundo

    I also gave some talks on this explanation of "Dukkha" (from the series of talks on the Heart Sutra) ... ... su-26.html ... nob-2.html ... nob-1.html ... r-nob.html

    I really hope that folks will take a look at those, even old hands who have heard it 100 times, as the subject is so central to the Buddhist Path. Sometimes it can also be a very mysterious or unclear subject, and I do not think it needs to be.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: Desire...

    Hi Mujo and sangha,

    I have synaesthesia, and to me sounds, words, letters, music all become colours, so (if I'm breaking it down into letters rather than sounds), for me 'desire' is:

    a blue-black 'd'; red 'e'; orange 's'; black 'i'; brown 'r' and another red 'e'.

    It looks like a bonfire and it rhymes with 'pyre', 'fire' and 'ire' (as well as lots of other words without those inflamed characteristics of course). But with that set of associations it turns into something that can either warm you and keep you alive or burn you up if you get too close.

    Well, that's one kind of answer - it's a personal one, but thanks for asking the question as it means I can now check out all the references in Jundo's post!


    (or, to me), M i c h a e l

  9. #9

    Re: Desire...

    Not that I am going to cling to it, but this discussion just flashed me back to my youth for a moment as I thought about "desire" and "just-sitting". First an old Beatles tune ran around in my head : "Let It Be"....." times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom 'Let It Be'". As that was floating around, as is wont, memories of those times floated up and one in particular surfaced that make me chuckle. Back in my hippie days, yes folks I was one!, before I found the straight and narrow!!!...back in my hippie days there was a wonderful book that everyone seemed to have (I may even still have it somewhere in my library) called "Be Here Now". It was a creative jumble of all sorts of things, but the main purpose of this book was to remind folks to pay attention to the present moment. Wow, just think if I had paid attention then, I would not have suffered so much since then and where would I be now????? Well I think I'd be right where I now, letting it be and just sitting. Really sounds too easy doesn't it? Well try it and that's when we discover about desire and where it leads us, and where it leads us away from.



  10. #10

    Re: Desire...

    Hi Michael,

    That is something. What a colorful condition with which to be gifted/burdened. I have seen some documentaries on synaesthesia.

    I would also add this about desire, although really common sense.

    In Buddhism, and especially the Mahayana, "desire" itself is not necessarily "all bad" ... provided we (1) learn to distinguish the wholesome from the harmful (the Precepts are a helpful guide), (2) learn moderation and balance in even our wholesome desires (lest they become harmful by excess), and (3) learn "non-attachment" to outcomes should our desires be unfulfilled.

    As well, our Zen practice teaches us that we can live by seemingly contradictory "modes" and viewpoints at once, simultaneously, without conflict (similar to how I sometimes speak about "acceptance without acceptance", thus we might speak of "desire without desire" or "preferences without preferences"). So, for example, we can have a desire for event X, and even feel some moderate sadness or disappointment should X not occur (for example, if "X" were to represent the desire that someone we love not die or leave us, and the person does die or leave us. Some grief might be natural and not to be pushed away). But, at the same time as feeling that moderate, natural, human sadness, grief or disappointment at loss ... we could also know simultaneously another state, completely without resistance and with total acceptance, in which we fully accept, embrace and are at one with whatever occurs X, Y or Z, no preferences.

    Got my point? All at once, not two.

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11

    Re: Desire...

    Hi Jundo,

    I was trying to find a story you told on this earlier (maybe it was in one of the 'Jundo tackles the BIG questions' threads?), about someone who you were studying with early on and who was teaching non-attachment. As I remember it, at the time you were taken aback to find him very sniffly and teary-eyed after the death of his wife and you risked asking him how this could be given the nature of what he was teaching. To which he just looked at you and replied, "Yes, but my wife is dead!".

    I thought that was such a piercing but tender teaching - (sorry if I have the details wrong!), if you have better luck finding the link could you re-post it?


    (PS I'm not really aware of the synaesthesia thing adding or detracting from life, it's just the way the world arrives. Although having said that, if someone offered a 'treatment' for it, I'd run a mile from them!)

  12. #12

    Re: Desire...

    Hi Michael,

    I believe it is this ... I still miss mom, dad too. But, I called Azuma Roshi just a couple of weeks ago. He is doing well, down at his temple on the other side of Japan. Thank you for reminding me that I promised to write him a letter.

    We can also be "happy" "sad" "grieving" and "peaceful" all at the same time. When faced with a dangerous situation, we can even learn to be "worried" and "calm", "accepting" and "not accepting" simultaneously (trust me, we can!). So, for example, my first teacher, Ikuo Azuma Roshi of Sojiji, lost his wife after I had known him a few years. For many weeks, he was not himself and was easily a bit teary eyed. I was SHOCKED because, of course, Zen Masters are supposed to have surpassed life and death and all such petty human emotions. So, as I had known him so long and we talked about anything and everything, I asked him about this, "If life and death are states of mind, why are you upset?" He said to me, "Life and Death are nothing; I am sad because wife die."

    That shut me up. He looked at me like it was the most obvious thing!

    When my own mother died a couple of years ago, I was sad, I missed her ... I was also amazingly happy. In fact, I threw a funeral for her that was more of a "birthday party", saying to my relatives that "I am just as happy about ending the show of life as I am about celebrating the start". They thought I was a bit crazy (maybe so ... they are used to me by now), but that is how I really felt.

  13. #13

    Re: Desire...

    Hi Jundo,

    that's the one.


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