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Craving for Awakening, and the poisoned arrow
April 24th, 2018 (May 2nd, 2018)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Craving for Awakening, and the poisoned arrow

It is a staple criticism of Buddhism that craving for Awakening is still craving, and since Buddhism teaches that craving ought to be abandoned, craving for Awakening is inconsistent with the Dhamma.
This, of course, is missing the point of a path, of a process: if one craving (for Awakening) allows to abandon many cravings, it might make sense as a useful step on the way to abandoning all cravings. And sure, Awakening will require abandoning the craving for Awakening, in due time… and as a matter of fact, the Dhamma confirms so. It remains that, as an expedient means, one craving is temporarily a worthy goal, if one start from a position of many cravings.

Interestingly, though, one might also suggest re-reading the Sunakkhatta sutta (MN 105).
In it, the Buddha discusses monks with the thought « Craving is said by the Contemplative to be an arrow. The poison of ignorance spreads its toxin through desire, passion, & ill will. I have abandoned the arrow. I have expelled the poison of ignorance. I am rightly intent on Unbinding. »
In it, craving / intent is not necessarily the issue! The ignorance, biasing the craving towards unskillful objects, is the issue.
Similarly, the twelve-fold chain of Dependent Origination (dvādasanidānāni) start from 'ignorance'. Craving (taṇhā) is in the chain leading to "ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, sadness and distress", yet it's in 8th position; it denotes an ignorant way to relate to experiences (later leading to a particular appropriation / identity). Without ignorance, unskillful craving doesn't arise; the craving leading to dukkha doesn't arise.

And if one has some sense of humour, even tainted and ignorant craving is great! Because it leads to suffering… thus indirectly is a supporting condition for faith [in the Dhamma ] (upon recognising that the Dhamma describes how dukkha comes to be), which in turn will support joy, rapture, tranquillity, happiness, concentration, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disenchantment, dispassion, emancipation, and the knowledge of the destruction (of the cankers)… according to the upanisā sutta (SN 12.23).
So yes, craving for Awakening commonly is tainted by ignorance (suffice to say that, prior to Awakening, people are making a lot of erroneous assumptions about what Awakening is and what the experience of it is) but that's OK. It is one craving that still allows to abandon many, and is skilful / useful along the way.
Just be clear that replacing one craving by one another isn't constructive; the trade-off is only wholesome if at least 2 cravings are given up ;-) Choose them wisely: if you can abandon greed and aversion (w.r.t. many phenomena), or abandon the craving for existence and for non-existence, you're close to the goal!

#Buddhism #Dharma
image: monk at the Thiksey Archery Festival (source unknown)
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: