Buddhists/Desire

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Question
Dear Stuart,

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,

Nik

Answer
Buddha taught that desire is the cause of suffering. In simple language: if you want something, you have a problem. There may be some benefit in understanding Buddha's words about this cause-and-effect connection. But it's 10,000 times better to look into the matter directly, and see for yourself.

To do so, try putting aside for the moment any attempt to extinguish anything. Instead, just perceive clearly. A mirror reflects exactly what's in front of it. When red appears, the mirror is red. White appears, only white. With this type of mind, pay attention to your experience moment-to-moment, just as it is, without holding or rejecting, without judging good or bad.

When "I want ..." appears, pay attention to that thought appearing, lasting for a while, and then disappearing. When "I'm suffering" appears, watch closely how that thought appears, what it feels like, how it disappears. Just reflect each moment. In this way, you'll see for yourself how wanting and suffering are connected. And that insight will be your own... then it won't matter what Buddha or anyone else says about it.

Buddhists

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Stuart Resnick

Expertise

I'm a long-time practitioner in a Korean-style Zen school. I can answer questions regarding Zen, formal sitting meditation, self-inquiry, the practice of "koan" transmission, and offer the particular perspective of this school on the great life questions.

Experience

18 years of formal practice with the Kwan Um School of Zen, currently with the Empty Gate Zen Center of Berkeley, currently a "Senior Dharma Teacher" at this center, I give periodic talks and informally answer questions of students interested in Zen practice and teaching style

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