Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

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Space_0pera
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Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Space_0pera » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:52 pm

Hi,

First of all, sorry if this a very intellectual question. Although I'm a beginner, I love Buddhist teachings and they have a profound impact in my life. These days I find myself struggling trying to understand what "desire" means in Theravada tradition. I understand that "desire" is one of the roots of suffering. That makes a lot of sense to me. But, on the other hand, is difficult for me to imagine a life without desire. I'll try to explain myself: I can understand that desire for material things, relations, power, fame, etc. is harmful for your mind. But you can also have "a desire of meditating tonight", "a desire of becoming a better person", "a desire of helping your family", “a desire of meeting your friends after work”, “a desire of having a peaceful life”, etc. So, my conclusion is that there might be "good" and "bad" desires. Some desires bring you peace and some of them, just the opposite. Am I correct? If so, how can you differentiate between "good" and "bad" desires? Some of them can be easy to categorize, some of them might be more difficult. Is something that you learn through meditation?

To sum up, it the purpose of a Buddhist to remove all types of desire, or just some of them? If you only need to remove some of them, why is this not specified? (instead of just saying: “desire is the root of all suffering”)

Is there something that I’m missing about the concept of “desire”?

Thanks for your help,

Peace.
:namaste:

santa100
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by santa100 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:21 pm

You probably already answered it yourself. The wholesomeness of the objects/targets of your desire would differentiate the good from the bad one. So using your example, the objects/targets of your desires: a better person, a more happy family, a peaceful life would certainly be a more preferrable than more material possessions and stuff. Also check out Ven. Ananda's excellent "going to the park" analogy in SN 51.15

Dan74
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Dan74 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:28 pm

Hello Space_0pera :hello:

Like a lot of beginner questions, yours cuts to the bone.

My take is that not all action is motivated by desire. At least not in the sense of a self-seeking desire. As we become less confused and self-focused, our actions become more motivated by helping others free themselves like we have done. It's not so much a desire, as a natural action, like flowers reaching for the sun. There is no concept of self or self-seeking involved. And when there is no more use to continuing, there is no more striving to persist.
_/|\_

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Ceisiwr
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Ceisiwr » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:19 pm

The desire to practice the Noble Eight Fold Path is a good desire as it leads to the ending of all desire. This sutta addresses your question:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

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one_awakening
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by one_awakening » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:54 pm

The main type of desire you want to concentrate on is desire of the senses. These almost always lead to suffering.
“You only lose what you cling to”

SarathW
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by SarathW » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:56 am

To sum up, it the purpose of a Buddhist to remove all types of desire, or just some of them? If you only need to remove some of them, why is this not specified? (instead of just saying: “desire is the root of all suffering”)
Yes the ultimate object is to eliminate all desire. wholesome or unwholesome.
However eliminating all desire is a gradual training.
Ultimate desire for Dhamma (the raft) is discarded in attaining Arahnatship.
Lay people are expected only to observe five precepts and occasional eight precepts and follow the Noble Eightfold Path as required by a lay person.
It is important to note that Noble Eightfold Path is practiced from Lay person to the Arahant in a different level.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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DooDoot
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:21 am

Space_0pera wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:52 pm
Is there something that I’m missing about the concept of “desire”?
Hello there

In the 2nd noble truth, which is about the arising of suffering, the type of desire included there is called "tanha", which means "thirst" and is translated as "craving". This "tanha" is the bad or ignorant desire leading to suffering.

There are also wise or good desires in Buddhism, with technical names such as "Chanda Iddhipada" and "Samma Sankappa".

Kind regards :smile:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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JohnK
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by JohnK » Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:37 am

This thread might be hekpful.
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=33194&p=494446#p494446
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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cappuccino
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by cappuccino » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:22 am

you want something in this world

hence you're here

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Mkoll
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Mkoll » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:48 am

Space_0pera wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:52 pm
Hi,

First of all, sorry if this a very intellectual question. Although I'm a beginner, I love Buddhist teachings and they have a profound impact in my life. These days I find myself struggling trying to understand what "desire" means in Theravada tradition. I understand that "desire" is one of the roots of suffering. That makes a lot of sense to me. But, on the other hand, is difficult for me to imagine a life without desire. I'll try to explain myself: I can understand that desire for material things, relations, power, fame, etc. is harmful for your mind. But you can also have "a desire of meditating tonight", "a desire of becoming a better person", "a desire of helping your family", “a desire of meeting your friends after work”, “a desire of having a peaceful life”, etc. So, my conclusion is that there might be "good" and "bad" desires. Some desires bring you peace and some of them, just the opposite. Am I correct? If so, how can you differentiate between "good" and "bad" desires? Some of them can be easy to categorize, some of them might be more difficult. Is something that you learn through meditation?

To sum up, it the purpose of a Buddhist to remove all types of desire, or just some of them? If you only need to remove some of them, why is this not specified? (instead of just saying: “desire is the root of all suffering”)

Is there something that I’m missing about the concept of “desire”?

Thanks for your help,

Peace.
:namaste:
You are correct in that some desires are wholesome and others unwholeoms. The differenceis to be learned through meditation, investigation, reflection, keeping the precepts...basically through practicing Dhamma. The Buddhist path is definitely more holistic than discrete. To differentiate wholesome vs unwholesome desires, MN 61 is a good foundational teaching. And in addition, versing yourself in the basic teachings is important---I recommend In the Buddha's Words by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi as the best starting point.

The purpose of Buddhist practice is to abandon unwholesome desires and to cultivate wholesome ones. Only at the very end of the path, arahantship, are desires abandoned in a more complete way. Arahants' actions are classified as kriya which is translated as "functional." It's hard to imagine this from where we are so IMO, it's best not to think too hard on it. Better to keep your gaze on the path right in front of you.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

pegembara
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by pegembara » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:59 am

All desires carry seeds of dukkha/unsatisfactoriness. That even include the desire to save the world, help one's friends and family, desire to have peaceful life etc. The only desire that can help end dukkha is the desire to end dukkha! That is the Noble 8FP.
"'This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.' The thought occurs to him, 'I hope that I, too, will — through the ending of the fermentations — enter & remain in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for myself in the here & now.' Then he eventually abandons craving, having relied on craving. 'This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Last edited by pegembara on Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

budo
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by budo » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 am

Space_0pera wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:52 pm

To sum up, it the purpose of a Buddhist to remove all types of desire, or just some of them? If you only need to remove some of them, why is this not specified? (instead of just saying: “desire is the root of all suffering”)

Is there something that I’m missing about the concept of “desire”?

Thanks for your help,

Peace.
:namaste:
Only sensual desire is the issue. One can have either sensual desire or sublime desire. You cannot have both at the same time as they are mutually exclusive.
There is pleasure

And there is bliss.

Forgo the first to possess the second.
- The Dhammapada

There is nothing wrong with having desire to take care of your family or meet responsibilities in lay life.

Dinsdale
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:16 am

According to the Second Truth, the problem is craving (tanha), which I've seen translated as "attachment to desire".
Buddha save me from new-agers!

pegembara
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by pegembara » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:31 am

Then why is desirelessness described as a goal?
"He has cut off the whirlpool
And reached desirelessness,
The stream dried up now no longer flows.
The whirlpool cut off whirls no more.
This, even this, is suffering's end."

Cūḷavagga of the Udāna
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Hello, I need help understanding "desire"

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:02 am

pegembara wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:31 am
Then why is desirelessness described as a goal?
"He has cut off the whirlpool
And reached desirelessness,
The stream dried up now no longer flows.
The whirlpool cut off whirls no more.
This, even this, is suffering's end."

Cūḷavagga of the Udāna
You may be right in your general point, but in this udana the term used for desire is āsā; sensual desire or expectation. There is nothing about cutting off wholesome desire like Chanda.

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