In Honor of Gautama Buddha: Desire vs. Craving

Gautama Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated this week. We've all heard that desire is the root cause of all evil. Most of us attribute this famous adage to Gautama Buddha. But what did Buddha really mean when he said that desires cause dukkha or suffering?

Are all desires bad?

Human life is riddled with desire. In fact, it is impossible to live a completely desire-free existence. Even great avatars like Jesus and Rama experienced physiological desires such as hunger, thirst, and sleep. When Buddha spoke of desire, he was not condemning these basic needs for survival.

There are also dharmic desires. These include the desire to grow spiritually, to uplift society, to nurture Mother Earth, and to donate in charity. Dharmic desires are necessary for human progress, and when satisfied they can tremendously benefit humanity and allow for rapid spiritual evolution as well. Buddha was not opposed to such desires either. What Buddha was referring to was obsessive craving.

Craving = Tunnel-Vision

Craving is a persistent, unhealthy attachment to something we think will make us happy. When we crave something, be it an object, person, or life event, we fixate on it to the point that we are unwilling to accept a blessing in any other form. Say you wish to get married. You believe that you have found the love of your life with person A, but the universe wishes to bless you with person B or a marriage at a later date, with whom you will certainly be happier. Even so, you insist on marrying person A and only person A. With cravings, we place limitations on ourselves and others, and deny ourselves our good fortune. Cravings also take us out of the present and even when attained only provide a temporary sense of satisfaction, not fulfillment.

Rethinking desire

With a healthy desire, you remain receptive to receiving your wish in any shape or form it may take. To suppress a healthy desire would be a disservice to yourself and the planet. So embrace and honor your heartfelt wishes! When the body's needs are met, and wholesome worldly ambitions are fulfilled, it is much easier to turn one's attention towards the ultimate human quest - the pursuit of enlightenment!

~ Nitya Naidu, Social Media Coordinator

*Image by tambattru from Pixabay