Gil Fronsdal, a Buddhist teacher explains that the Buddha never said desire causes suffering. Buddha said craving causes suffering. I’ll put it this way: Craving is desire on steroids. Fronsdal tells us to investigate the difference between the two. So I will.
Craving is chocolate covered toffee–in any form, ice cream cookies, Heath Bars, etc.. Just thinking about it makes me salivate. It’s a sensual pleasure with the promise of instant gratification. Sex is sensual but cannot promise gratification and isn’t very gratifying when it is instant any way… Craving money, power, control and fame is common, but takes a lot of effort as well. but chocolate covered toffee is just waiting for us at the local store, doesn’t cost much,and takes only a few seconds to go from wrapper to mouth. This physicality similar to sex, of course, and in our culture what is of the body counts the most, is pursued the most.
Craving bypasses contemplation with the speed of a just shot bullet. It starts with barely a thought, and immediately transforms it into a picture of an object: the bottle of whiskey, the cake, the needle in the arm. For some, a person becomes the object, a thing to be consumed.
Craving burns red in the belly.
It’s a fire.
Craving demands obedience.
It’s a dictator
Craving swallows us whole and mindless.
We move like zombies in its thrall.
Craving is cavernous.
We get lost in its chambers, where it echos: more more more.
Nothing is allowed to get in its way. Craving won’t even let you breathe; it prefers your breath be kept knotted tightly in your throat. And there will be No Waiting. If you wait to satisfy it, if you attempt to turn from it, it only burns hotter, shouts orders louder, promises more and more outrageous lies of final satisfaction. It masquerades as the means to peace, joy, love and even your god. Craving is like a child having a tantrum, screaming to be dealt even after the cause of the pain can no longer be remembered. Craving calmed with compassion becomes a hope, a wish, a desire.
We don’t refer to the wish for love, peace and joy as a craving, but as a desire.
Like a wish, this type of desire can be carried lightly, like a feather on a breeze. This form of desire is like the graceful grape vines growing on my balcony, reaching toward the metal trellis imperceptibly with a gentle, natural yearning.
Desire grows, or it can stay still.
It calls, but does not demand.
It will let you breathe.
It is not like fire, but like water that flows within its banks
This desire circles the planet, pulling us like the moon pulls the tides over and over; there is no demand it be quenched, no demand, but a wish. This light bright desire, so full of hope, brings tears to my eyes.
May you be happy. A desire that eases my mind.
May you be loved. A desire that fills my heart.
May we crave nothing and desire only the peace born of moderation, the energy of mindfulness, the fulfillment of true compassionate fellowship.