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Seeing a delusion induced by craving
February 28th, 2014
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illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Seeing a delusion induced by craving

The second ennobling task (or second noble truth, if we accept the conclusion a priori) of Buddhism is to enquire into how 'craving' causes 'suffering'.

Most of us have realised that craving doesn't stop when its object is reached: once we get what we wanted, we just start craving for something else (maybe 'more' of the same, maybe a nuance of the same, maybe something completely different… but in any case, the resolution of the 'previous' craving proves impermanent, 'something' is 'missing').

Most of us have realised how craving leads to envy, jealousy, hatred… which neither are pleasant feelings in and of themselves, nor lead to pleasant responses by other sentient beings.

Most of us have seen people who "enjoy the chase" more than the catch, without necessarily enquiring much about what it means in terms of their happiness (are they really 'enjoying' the chase? or are they fighting a lost battle against an existential anguish, which is so bad it doesn't even get temporary  rest?).


But today, I propose to look at another aspect which highlights the delusional nature (or 'ignorant' nature) of craving.
Nirvāṇa is said to be "freedom from lust, aversion and ignorance"; but it is also said that this is the same as saying "freedom from ignorance", because lust and aversion only arise from ignorant views…


Fair and unfair

When we crave for something, we tend to experience the craving as an example of how unfair the world is.
It is unfair that others were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, for no merit of their own. It is unfair others were lucky. It is unfair that others got what we want in spite of working less than we did. It is unfair that events happened to us and / or that we had to choose between necessities and dreams…

But, in the moment we obtain what we craved for, suddenly, the world becomes fair.
We get what we fairly 'deserve' in relation to our commitment, our dedication and our efforts. We get what we wanted because we "wanted it more" than others (as if this itself 'meant' anything!). It is fair that it's "our turn, given what we've been through"…

It is pretty easy to see how craving not only is based on ignorance (about the lack of inherent  happiness-value in the object of craving), but also induces  more ignorance about the whole world… and about the 'situation' of our supposed 'self' in this world!


Fair, unfair, both fair and unfair, neither fair nor unfair

That the world would (even temporarily) switch from 'unfair' to 'fair' solely based on the transient satisfaction of a particular grain of sand irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, highlights how we magnify the 'self', how we project an inflated importance on the objects of its attention, etc.

It also highlights how our judgements are caricatural, and how craving participates in perpetuating the caricatures not only about ourselves and the objects of craving… but also about the whole world (even what's outside of our attention, of our awareness)!

Is it surprising then that the first 'Perfection' to cultivate is generosity?

How else will you cease craving, the root-cause of suffering? How else will you stop thinking that your wish for the latest gadget might even compare  to (let alone be more important than) saving a life from hunger and thirst, or from the corollaries of a lack of education? How else will you cease craving, the root-cause of ignorance about the world?

How do you even believe you could cease your ever-renewed dissatisfaction, without  understanding the world you live in? Even from a materialistic egotistical perspective, this wouldn't make sense! And to see the world as it is, you need to cease craving… Is it surprising then that the first 'Perfection' to cultivate is generosity?


This is not about labelling the world as fair, unfair, both or neither. The world is the four at the same time, and also neither of the four. The label is just a caricature, it doesn't help to see, it is the very veil that hinders wisdom!

The koan of life is about engagement: if a situation at hand is unfair, what will you do to cultivate antidotes? if a situation at hand is fair, what will  you do to cultivate its wholesome aspects? If a situation at hand is both fair and unfair, or neither fair nor unfair, what will you do?
How do you engage with anything, without  creating unfairness (other causes deserved your attention just as much… but you had to pick only a limited number to work on)? This is not about fair, unfair, both or neither; it is about what you do to cultivate wholesome tendencies, here, now.


If it is to make sense, our life is about "seeing reality as it is", without bias, distortion, prejudices or even preferences… and about "engaging appropriately", doing what the situation requires (instead of fighting against the obvious and then building grand justifications to cover the latent guilt created).

"Engaging appropriately" starts with generosity, with putting resources together for the benefit of all, with the wise having the bravery to do the first step! "Engaging appropriately" starts with caring about others.
"Engaging appropriately" does not stop with generosity… but I won't list the other aspects now, because there's little point in looking to short-cut Awakening, in wanting to cultivate aspect 2 without cultivating aspect 1: that's just another craving, the hope for a maximum 'return' on a minimum 'investment'!


#Buddhism #cravings #generosity
Photo from www.dhammabrothers.com [Ending up in prison, from craving, is only a causal consequence of the mental prison of  craving… To avoid the effect, cultivate restraint from the cause!]