I once heard a talk by Ajahn Brahmavamso, and he said that even without having to learn the technique, we do the meditation of the second noble truth all the time. Why is that so?
THREE KINDS OF DESIRE
Throughout our waking hours, no matter if we are aware or not, we are constantly chasing after three kinds of desire: desire for sense pleasure, desire to become and desire to get rid of.
When it is hot, we turn on the air-conditioner or the fan. If the food is tasty, we want more. If the TV programme is lousy, we switch to another channel. These reactions have become almost automatic and they are due to our innate desire to bring pleasures to this body and our five senses.
When we are not seeking something delicious to eat or some beautiful music to listen to, we can be caught in a realm of ambition and attainment – the desire to become. We get caught in our striving to become happy, or wealthy, or to make our life feel important by endeavouring to make the world right. We get caught in forever seeking approval and praise by others. This is the desire to become something other than what you are right now.
When we get disillusioned with trying to become something, then the desire to get rid of things take over. All the self-improvement programmes point to our desire for change: “I want to conquer my anger. I want to get rid of my poverty. I want to overcome my jealousy, fear and anxiety…. then I’ll become….”
The practice of dhamma is not one of hating oneself for having desires, but rather, to recognise them and understand that they are conditioned in the mind. Desire is not what we are but it is simply the way we tend to react out of ignorance, not knowing that their intrinsic nature of impermanence eventually lead us to suffering.
GRASPING IS SUFFERING
Usually we equate suffering with feeling, but feeling is not suffering. It is the grasping of desire that is suffering. Desire does not cause suffering; the cause of suffering is the grasping of desire. Grasping means being deluded by desire, thinking it’s really “me” and “mine”. “I don’t like the way I am now. I have to become something else.” or “This is my house. These are my children. This is my money.”
Do not go to the extent of being too idealistic in thinking that even the need for food is some kind of desire we should not have. You need clarity in investigating desire. Food is a natural need of the body. Without food, the body will get weak and die. This is the nature of the body. You can still need food without it becoming a desire.
If we contemplate desires and listen to them, we are no longer attached to them for we are allowing them to be the way they are, without aversion. “Letting go” is not “getting rid of” or “throwing away”.
When you apply this insight into “letting go” to the desire for sense pleasures, simply recognize the desire without judging it. You can contemplate wanting to get rid of it – because you may feel guilty about having such a foolish desire – but just lay it aside and recognize that it’s just desire, it is not “you”, you don’t have to be attached to it.
So the way is always working with the moments of daily life. When you are feeling depressed and negative, just the moment that you refuse to indulge in that feeling is an enlightenment experience. When you see that, you need not sink into the sea of depression and despair and wallow in it. Similarly, when you let go of the desire for that one moment and you have done it in full conscious awareness, this is called insight knowledge or profound understanding.
It is important to know when you have let go of desire: when you no longer judge or try to get rid of it; when you recognize that it’s just the way it is. When you are really calm and peaceful, then you will find that there is no attachment to anything. You are not caught up, trying to get something or trying to get rid of something. Well-being is just knowing things as they are without feeling the necessity to pass judgement upon them.
Our suffering comes from our attachment to ideals and the complexities we create about the way things are. We can become very critical of ourselves and everything around us. Take time to listen to the complaining mind; bring it into consciousness.
In the coming four weeks, make a conscious attempt to set aside some time each day. Try to arouse all the hopes, desires and criticisms in our mind and bring them into consciousness. Look at them and let them be. Then you will know desire and be able to lay it aside. Through the practice and understanding of what letting go really is, we have the insight into the second noble truth, which is “Desire has been let go of”. It is not a theoretical letting go, but a direct insight. You know letting go has been accomplished. This is what practice is all about.