Thursday, April 17, 2008

Buddhism on desire

Buddhist meditation launches an individual headlong into a curious yet rigorous examination of desire. Overly simplistic formulations of Buddhist philosophy make many folks think that desire is a bad thing, plain and simple. But the true Buddhist perspective on the all-too-human experience called desire--whether it's hunger for a slice of pepperoni pizza, longing for world peace, or just some good old-fashioned lust--is much more nuanced. Ultimately speaking, Buddhism takes the perspective that desire is 100 percent natural and incredibly positive. The problem, however, is that unchecked fear and unexamined habit can pervert desire into addictive tendencies--habits which are destructive for an individual, harmful for a community, and disastrous for our planet. What Buddhist meditation necessarily reveals to us, moment by moment, is the problematic nature of our impulse for instant gratification.

(Ethan Nichtern)


Matt Gerlach said...

I find this little blurb highly fascinating. Being a devotee of Freya, and familiar with the Goddess as "that which is obtained at the end of desire," the buddhist relationship between desire and suffering is something I ponder a lot. I've always been bothered by the "desire is bad because it leads to suffering" concept. And a deeper interpretation of this is something I've been looking for. Is there a link somewhere to a more complete discussion of this?

Inanna said...

Hi Matt,

I'm worried by the same thing. I don't know of any further discussion on this, though there must be somewhere in Buddhist exposition. I took this excerpt from an article that appeared in--I think--the Kripalu catalog, but it was the only part of the article that spoke of desire. I was writing a series of posts about desire at the time (uh, a series that probably isn't finished), so the passage really leaped out at me. Feel free to post more of your thoughts.


Becky said...

Thanks for posting this - It's exactly the sort of concise, yet deep, explanation I was looking for.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the insightful explanation.

Another wise explanation I heard in my training is, "Desire, itself, is not the issue, it is our attachment to it that causes suffering." There is nothing wrong with desiring, purchasing and enjoying a Ferrari. If it is stolen, the question is, how much attachment (and resulting suffering) do you experience?