Dear Anandapanyo,

Just had a question in regards to desire in Buddhism in general.

Is it correct that its the attachment and craving of desire that we look to extinguish or is it the desire itself?

For example we desire to be happy which is fine. However is it the attachement and craving to happiness that causes us the suffering or is it just the desire to be happy in general?

Kind Regards,


Dear Nik,

Thanks for the opportunity to answer your question.

"Is it correct that its the attachment and craving of desire that we look to extinguish or is it the desire itself?"

This question in itself is very difficult to answer. Because it deals with how defines each portion of it. For example, what is understood by attachment and craving of desire? What is desire itself?

In truth, the Buddha said all things cause suffering, therefore, desire, attachment to desire and craving of desire are all the same thing in that they all cause suffering.

Desire: all desires cause suffering. Just like the saying, "Nothing in life is free," pursuing desires is not all happiness. Even if you achieve your desire, the rewards for future achievement of said desires are thereby lessened and now you having higher needs and must pursue them.

Desires, both positive and negative are similar to the reaction we have to addictive drugs. When we first try them, we think they are not a big deal, so we can try them again. At first we start small. But eventually we have a higher need to fulfill. The more we fulfill, the more we cannot live without it. We are forever changed.

The craving and the attachment to the desire/happiness/sadness are the results of our belief and faith in the positive outcome of our desire. We believe that fulfilling our desire will lead to happiness, that is why we continue to pursue our desires.

So, to answer your question:

Desires, attachments to them, craving for them, all must be extinguished.

However, the most important question is how?

My teacher, Acariya Thoon, once relayed a story to us.

Imagine a man reaching into a barrel full of apples submerged in water. As you reach into the barrel and pull out delicious apples, we are happy and confident (and heedless). Then, what would you do if you pulled out a long poisonous snake instead of an apple?

Would you have to train yourself? Would you have to practice letting go of the snake? The answer is no. No training is needed. You would throw the snake away immediately as far as you could. Why? Because you know how DANGEROUS and PERILOUS a poisonous snake could be to you.

Just so, extinguishing craving, desire and attachment does not deal with meditating it away, or ignoring it. The only way is to educate yourself to the Dangers, Perils, Risks and Harm that come from the object you are trying to "detach" from. Once your heart feels the fear and dread of having this feeling/thing/thought, it will immediately shed it on its on.

I hope I have answered your good question. If you have any others, please feel free to ask.


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Anandapanyo Bhikkhu


I can answer questions about Buddhist practice, Buddhist understanding and how to apply Buddhism to daily life. I can help analyze Buddhist sayings and teachings. In addition, I can help with questions Buddhism stories, fables and Vinaya(rules). I have meditated for over 10 years and can help you start with meditation. In addition, I can help provide insight into what to do when you feel that you have hit a wall with your meditation. My main area of expertise is how to think in accordance with Sammaditthi (the right view - and number 1 in the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. If I cannot answer your question, I have many able teachers with over 20 years experience to help me, so chances are I will be able to find an answer for you.


I have been practicing Buddhism since I was born, but as a serious practice since 2003. I started studying under various famous Thai Theravada masters. Finally, I met and studied under Phra Acariya Thoon Khippapanyo who has recently passed away on Nov 11, 2008 and is widely accepted as a great Arahant (fully enlightened) teacher of our time. In addition, I have personally read and studied much of the Buddhist scriptures and popular literature available. I have recently undertaken the ordination vows and have become a Buddhist monk in the theravada forest monk tradition. I reside at a temple with many dedicated practitioners and great teachers. I have been practicing training my mind to be aligned with right view (sammaditthi) for over 10 years. I have also been meditating for over 10 years. In my time spent with Acariya Thoon, I learned many things and was able to incorporate them into my life. In addition to practicing Buddhism within temples and my home, I used to own two restaurants and managed commercial real estate. I had to deal with many different and problems. I learned how to use Buddhism to fix my problems, both externally (my environment) and internally (within me).

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