Tuesday, October 25, 2016

desire according to buddhism

art by sam yong

Buddha based his entire teaching on the fact of human suffering.*

1- Existence is painful.

The conditions that make an individual are precisely those that also give rise to suffering.

Individuality implies limitation; limitation gives rise to desire; and desire (tanha) causes suffering because what is desired is transitory, changing, and perishing.

It is the impermanence of the object of craving that causes disappointment and sorrow (cause/effect: one suffers because one desires). I'd like to spin this idea of desire with the idea of EROS as an embodied striving for well-being that connects us with things, animals and people, which situates us in the world with others.

EROS is the fundamental energy by which we relate to all that is. SIN might be seen as human desire gone astray, a corruption of the basic potency for relation. SIN is a "desire" in the form of a will-to-control that aspires to secure itself by mastering all around it. Ridden with anxiety about its own lack of control, it reduces what is other to the self, placing a stranglehold on all that is not-I in order to guarantee absolutely its own self-perpetuation.

By effectively closing itself off from the other, a genuine relation is negated in a posture of solipsism. Augustine referred to this selfish attachment "cupiditas," a need-based form of desire that seeks its own satisfaction above all else and therein refuses its genuine relation to creation and the Creator. 

2- By following the "path" taught by the Buddha, the individual can dispel the "ignorance" that perpetuates this suffering.

3- Reality, whether of external things or the psycho-physical totality of human individuals, consists in a succession and concatenation of microseconds called dhammas.

4- Moreover, contrary to the theories of the Upanishads, the Buddha did not want to assume the existence of the soul as a metaphysical substance. Life is a stream of becoming, a series of manifestations and extinctions. The individual ego is a delusion; the objects with which people identify themselves -fortune, social position, family, body, and even mind-are not their true selves. Nothing is permanent.
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*Suffering in this context is equivalent to disquietude. The mind is in a state of restless anxiety. Tahna (as mental state) is a vicious cycle (if one's desires are fulfilled it will, of itself, lead to one's lasting happiness or well-being). Such beliefs normally result in further craving/desire and the repeated enactment of activities to bring about the desired results.