Different philosophies and religions give us different
answers to the question why we are subject to suffering.
Some say that it comes through mere chance, or by fate
or destiny, some attribute it to the will of an Almighty
God. Buddha rejects these answers which, he says, either
encourage a passive acceptance of suffering or else
get us involved in treating the symptoms.
You can only eliminate dukkha by eradicating the cause.
lf we deal only with the symptoms, with forms of dukkha,
leaving the causes intact, then beneath the surface, beneath
our comforts and pleasures, the volcano of suffering
will gather force and in time it’s bound to erupt.
In the second noble truth Buddha points out that the origin
of Dukkha is craving, tanha.
The word tanha literally means thirst. It is
commonly translated as craving. You may also see it referred
to as desire, but this can be misleading, as it might be
interpreted as suggesting that Buddhism insists on
eliminating all desire.
The Buddha recognizes that desire is ambivalent — there
can be wholesome desire, for example the desire to practice
the dharma, the desire to give, the desire to observe the
precepts, the desire to relieve the suffering. There are
also neutral desires, such as the desire to take a walk,
the desire to sleep when tired, to eat when hungry.
And there are unwholesome desires — cravings. Tanha
refers to unwholesome desire, craving grounded in
ignorance and delusion, the drive for personal gratification.
This will become clear in the Lesson
6, the teaching on dependent arising.
Forms of craving
The Buddha says craving takes three forms.
Sensual craving - kama tanha The craving for sense pleasures. Craving
for pleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch
sensations, and for enjoyable ideas, images and so on
based on those sense impressions….
Craving for existence - bhava tanha The craving for continued survival – the
life urge. The drive to go on existing,
to become prominent, famous and wealthy, to become this,
to become that. When joined with the belief in a permanent
self, the craving for existence issues in the desire
issues in for personal immortality.
Craving for annihilation - vibhava tanha Craving for non-existence. The wish for
self-annihilation arises when the pain of life becomes
so unbearable one wishes to escape by annihilitating
oneself. While the most evident manifestation is suicide,
annihilation includes other self-destructive behavior.
Craving - the cause of suffering
The causal role of craving can be seen at two levels
— a psychological level and a universal or
We find that craving — the
desire for personal gratification — is the underlying root
of unhappiness, sorrow, grief, fear, worry, and disappointment.
Craving gives rise to sorrow when we are separated from
the persons or things we are attached to, when are hopes
are disappointed, when we meet with rejection, when we
fail to get the things we want. Craving gives rise to fear
when we become afraid of losing what we have obtained,
we are afraid that people might reject us or that circumstances
might separate us.
There are several stages in the psychological process
by which craving leads to Dukkha:
Dukkha of striving and seeking
moment craving arises it brings along with it a feeling
of dissatisfaction. This arises due to the contrast between
one's present state of lack-of
oneself without the object-and the possibility of fulfilling
oneself by possession of the object. This is
the suffering of lack.
Dukkha of protection In the enjoyment
of the object is the suffering of protection. Once we
get an object we have to protect it.
Dukkha of loss With the break up
of an object or loss of a loved one there is suffering
If we examine our mind carefully we find that simply yielding
to desire doesn’t bring deep satisfaction. Bringing
only temporary satisfaction, it actually fuels the force
of craving, so that craving arises.
Cosmic level At a deeper level, craving is the force which fuels the
round of rebirth, samsara. Craving uses the body as a means
of finding delight. At death the body can no longer support
consciousness, but the craving remains. Therefore, It latches
onto a new body as the physical form and brings about rebirth,
and the new existence provides the base of craving.
In this way it originates Dukkha over and over again.
Four Noble Truths The
Second Noble Truth — the origin of dukkha