tanhã, craving

Wheel.of.Life-largeOLD NOTEBOOKS: Craving perpetuates the fever of unsatisfied longing, this is the state of tanhã. The opposite of a sense of well-being, tanhã is not a happy bunny. It constantly feeds the hunger of desire but the action of feeding it only sharpens the edge of appetite. Too much is never enough. It explains very well the reason why some people are committed to ‘wrong view’ with an intensity that takes your breath away. Tanhã is this deep craving for the ‘self’ we construct in fear of ‘no self’, a result of tanhã. I am ‘me’, in this world, due to tanhã, the reason for rebirth.

In the story of King Assaka and Queen Upari, Queen Upari died and became a cow dung beetle in the next life. But she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle, because of tanhã which is delighting in whatever sense object presents itself and wherever it finds rebirth. Reborn as a dog, it takes delight in a dog’s existence; reborn as a pig, as a chicken, there is always delight in each existence. [‘Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective’ by Mark Epstein].

In the causality sequence that forms the 12 step cycle of the wheel of existence (paticcasamuppada), tanhã is step 8. The way to stop tanhã arising, is to cut off the conditions that lead to its beginning; interrupt the sequence before tanhã happens, and bring the whole thing to an end. The entry point in the cycle is just before tanhã: step 7 feeling (vedana). At the vedana stage, there are three possibilities: pleasure, pain or neutral feelings. If feelings of pleasure or pain arise, then craving or aversion will take place and tanha will be the result. If, by an act of will, only the neutral feeling is allowed to arise, the 7th link will be neutralized, de-activated. That being so, tanhã cannot arise, and the next link (upadana) will fail to arise and so on. [See “Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism”, p214-215, Eric Cheetham]

For me, the discovery that interrupting the sequence at vedana changed the momentum of everything was awesome, to say the least. This is how I quit the tobacco habit and my whole attitude changed. By allowing the neutral response at vedana to be present for a moment, I noticed an easing in the craving, a cessation, just enough to trigger my curiosity. The cessation took place when I noticed it was the way out of the cycle of repetition, and I understood then how to be free of it. The neutral feeling didn’t register as anything, just the awareness that there’s a space, a gap that wasn’t there before; a vantage point where I could see how to change the cycle of events. It’s in the nature of tanhã (as with everything else) to be transient like this, it’s something that comes and goes. Knowing it leads to Suffering, we can stay distant from tanhã for a moment, and allow it  to start the process of cessation by itself. Trying to confront or defeat tanhã will not work because willed action only causes it to arise again.

Situations that used to completely overwhelm and demolish me disappeared; other habitual behaviour began to fall away. I began to notice the wonderful emptiness, the wholeness, a peace of mind that comes about when you understand there is a way out of Suffering; everything that arises, ceases.

…there is a noble truth about the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving [tanha]; its abandonment and relinquishment; getting free from and being independent of it. [Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta]

————————-

Source for header image
this is a summarized form of an earlier post titled, ‘too much is never enough

created fragrances

nose_sinuses_smellOLD NOTEBOOKS: Switzerland: Industrial Zone: Waiting for the bus home. There’s that slightly odd fragrant smell in the air again. Somebody told me about it; there’s a laboratory here that creates commercial smells: odorants, aromas. The air is always full of fragrances. It’s the smell of fruity jam today. Another day, it’ll be a different smell, a more subtle thing you can’t identify, a component of a popular smell – not unpleasant, just odd. The fragrance of fruity jam, which strikes the nose when I open a new jar, is  a ‘replacement aroma’ created under laboratory conditions by chemists.

The manufactured smell is a chemical compound designed to trigger an olfactory experience. I’ll react in the same way even though the smell/aroma/fragrance is completely artificial. I fall into the ready-to-purchase mode – mind is saying, yes, yes, yes, get it, own it, have it… the familiarity of the smell is all that it takes. A perfect example of the Buddha’s Paticcasamuppada, the chain reaction of consciousness (dependent origination). The wonderful smell of bread from the bakery section in the supermarket. I’m drawn to it because of the aroma even though there’s no baker’s oven in a supermarket. I know it’s an illusion, but still respond to it as if it were real.

The artificial smell starts a sequence of mini events in the mind instantly when it makes contact (phassa) with the memory/ recognition/ acceptance, and there’s feeling (vedana). As soon that point is reached there’s the craving for it (tanha). I experience a state of wanting, a kind of greed, (upadana) and it’s very likely that I’ll go into the ‘bakery’ just to take a look, caught by the nose… it’s not real, it’s a chemical compound pumped into the air or sprayed somehow inside the bakery section.

Airline food served at 600 mph, and an altitude 38,000 feet; an exotic olfactory experience of roast potatoes, beef, onions, cheeses, French cognac, a hint of cigar smoke, ground coffee, crème caramel, port, liqueur. And we are served sad-looking pre-heated food… a bit disappointing. Do they really expect us to not see through this? But I think that’s part of it; somehow we’re satisfied with the illusion, a puff or a spray that releases the manufactured odorant in the air we inhale. There’s a knowing acceptance of it: “well isn’t it interesting how they can create artificial fragrances these days?” It’s okay to do this. Not only food, there’s the smell of leather upholstery in a new car, that distinctive odor created by chemical processes sneaks into our consciousness and we allow it to happen. All kinds of products, the smell of a new carpet triggers something in the brain, a physiological change and in the mind there’s recognition and the familiarity about it. An acknowledgment of the illusion being part of the whole panorama of illusion we create in our world of perception. The characteristics of the illusion lock into place and it becomes as real as anything or everything else. Does it really matter if it’s artificial… the whole world of perception is artificial.

The bus arrives at the stop and we all get on. It rumbles off down the road into town and the smell of fruity jam is still in the atmosphere, I can smell slight traces, then I get distracted and soon after that I’ve forgotten all about it.

‘Though my view is as spacious as the sky, my actions and respect for cause and effect are as fine as grains of flour.’ [Sogyal Rinpoche]

———————-

Summarized from an earlier post titled Fragrant Illusion, written during my time as a teacher of English in banks and offices and small industries in a small town in Switzerland.
Source for header image. Please visit the original page for the interactive version of the image.

 

velocity

IMG_2403POSTCARD #192: DELHI: Photo shows the hoarding (with part of the word ‘caution’ in Hindi) behind which, work on the Delhi Metro underground is taking place. The construction zone encroaches on to an already crowded roadway as three lanes of slo-mo traffic are bottle-necked into two, then one – all that earth has got to be shifted out of the hole I suppose… traffic congestion so bad, road rage is a palpable thing… static electricity flashing and sparking in the spaces between metals very close but don’t actually touch; a kind of unseen neon percussion hi-frequency zizzle in the surround-sound of car horns in a musical composition on alto sax, trumpet, trombone and all the various combinations of horns in the brass section of the orchestra. Yes it is quite bad. Ok for me, I’m not the one driving, just sitting in the car interior here, trying to not be upset by it and get a headache coping with the traffic jam in my mind, What’s needed here is breathing; a long deep in breath, and slow outbreath….

Thoughts without substance arise and fall away. The good feeling is nice when it’s here, the bad feeling is nice when it’s not here – and the often overlooked position of neutrality situated between the two extremes; the Buddha’s Middle Way. It was a turning point in my life when I first saw that if I could remain in neutrality as the feeling comes on and be aware, observe how it’s possible to sidestep the clinging thing, the Velcro of self that’s always inclined to attach itself to the same old thing: this-is-mine-so-it-belongs-to-me, then the chain of events is interrupted and everything that happened moves on, ungrasped-at… as simple as that.

The sense of being in a state of no-self is one of astonishment and the relief that the whatever-it-was THING did not take place… wow! how good is that! This feeling moves it all forward in such a sensible and wholesome direction. These small successes are necessary in a world that doesn’t educate children about this basic truth and the moments of conscious experience are instead allowed to form events that occupy our thoughts. No teaching on how to liberate oneself from unrest and the state of always having to make something out of it; the present moment cloaked by Mind pondering over either some past memory or preoccupied with something in future time that hasn’t happened yet. Never really at ease, never able to witness this peace… the inherited karma of generations.

Forever unable to see that thought processes lead nowhere in the end, maintain themselves hesitantly, and are forgotten in the on-going awareness of what’s happening now. I’m part of it, but I’m not ‘in’ it. The present moment is not the near future, it’s happening now – so fast, you could say, look, there it goes, into the past. Yep, history taking place before our very eyes…

We learn from the principle of dependent origination that things and events do not come into being without causes. Suffering and unsatisfactory conditions are caused by our own delusions and the contaminated actions induced by them. [Dalai Lama]

————————-

magha puja day 2014

OB-SC487_0308ai_H_20120307120048POSTCARD#49: Delhi: It’s Valentines Day today and by coincidence it also happens to be a special day for Buddhists; Magha Puja Day, the full moon of the third lunar month. On this day, 2500 years ago, 1250 enlightened monks came from different places in India to pay respect to the Buddha. No mobile phones in those days, of course, so how did they get it organised? Maybe it was telepathic, all these monks had been ordained by the Buddha himself and it had only been 7 months since the Buddha had had the experience of enlightenment – a time when everything must have been vital and immediate. The arrival of the monks was thought to be a key event in the development of the Dhamma teachings and this was when the Buddha gave the “Ovadha Patimokkha” discourse: the three principles of the Teachings: do good, abstain from bad action, and purify the mind.

On Magha Puja Days in Thailand there’s the circumnambulation ceremony, walking clockwise three times around the temple holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle. For me it’s a time to sit on the cushion for a while, if possible outside in the moonlight. A time to consider what it must have felt like to be present in that ancient gathering. The great circle of the full moon in the dark sky of 2500 years ago illuminating everything, and the assembly of monks seen in its mysterious silver light. That moonlight would have been the same as the moonlight we experience today. The function of seeing is the same now as it was then. And for those monks sitting in the moonlight so long ago, the associated consciousness that arose through the act of seeing was the same consciousness arising that is always arising; consciousness of an ever-present flow of sensory data from outer to inner. They would have contemplated the truth that ‘I’ am a mind/body organism and an inseparable part of the whole that appears all the way through time – everywhere it’s the same moment. For those monks sitting in meditation all those centuries ago, the sensation of the breath in the nasal passages, a coolness of air gently present, would have been no different from how I experience it now. They would have contemplated the breath in this way; watching the in-breath, the out-breath, and the awareness that arises with that feeling was the same awareness I experience here and now.

Through the subjectivity of human experience, that special Magha Puja event of the gathering of the 1250 monks is suddenly brought into present time. The ‘now’ that happened then is the same ’now’ happening as I write this, 2500 years further on in linear time. The entire history of the world is like a very, very, very long moment. The ‘now’ moment is, of course, always present and, although I may think of that gathering of monks 2500 years ago as happening in the ancient past, I have to remember that a moment experienced at that time was a moment happening in present time for those who were there.

————————-

“Refrain from doing evil,
 cultivate that which is good; 
purify the heart.
 This is the Way of the Awakened Ones.” [Dhammapada v. 183]

‘The first stage of cultivating the way is refraining from following all that is evil. It is about learning to say ‘no’ to ourselves when we need to. As a result, we discover later we can say, ‘yes’ without losing ourselves. If we don’t recognize our unwholesome impulses for what they are, we might think the bad stuff is only in other people. The second stage of cultivating the way is developing that which is good. Even if it is only a small moment of goodness, don’t dismiss it. The third stage is purifying our effort of the taint of ‘me’. Even when we have completely finished redecorating a room, the smell of paint fumes remains. Though our practice might be getting stronger, the sense of self-importance could be getting stronger too.’ [Ajahn Munindo, Friday 14th February 2014 – Magha Puja]

light-headedness

IMG_0460POSTCARD#42: Chiang Mai: Don’t know why or how it can be like this, but there’s a sense of joyfulness, today – floating free. An easeful vertigo that’s comfortably not lost its balance. I’ve been looking at the building under construction next door, and seeing it expanding upwards daily. It’s like something sculptural. The floors and wall surfaces that will hold the enclosed space we recognize as rooms and corridors are not complete, just the shape of the space within which things exists, a 3 dimensional photographic negative in the mind’s eye. The builders do everything in negative form.

They’ve done one new floor since I last wrote about it [structures]. Bricks and mortar with foundations deep in the earth. So fast, almost like everything is made out of paper, no gravity, no heaviness, and we’re in the realm of birds and flying. The guy in the red shirt seems to be the one who always goes up first; climbing into the sky. I don’t know what his life can be like, maybe bonded to his job, burdened with hardships, and struggling with the contractor over pay… but how could he not feel good today, standing up there in the cool morning and looking out, blue sky as far as the eye can see.

These builders are the heroes of the story, men and women in their wide brimmed straw hats, faces covered with cloth to protect the skin from the sun and regulation hard-hats squeezed down over the straw crown. The big bankers and investors might open bottles of champagne when it’s finished, but they’re nothing compared with these ordinary folk on the scaffolding who climb up into the sky on their flimsy structures and boards and the building follows on up behind them. It’s as if there was a hook in the sky they attach their ropes to and from there, can haul the building up, suspended.

IMG_0462BBuildings are the mountains of the city and the created world. These builders are rural/urban migrants; they’re from the villages and the mountains themselves; mountain climbers who build the mountains they climb. And seen from where I am, on the third floor, this mountain/building next to me appears above the tree line and looks strangely separate from the ground below – I can’t see the foundation, there’s sky above and (I assume) sky below. It’s a floating building.

A strange illusion, I’ve seen it in Switzerland, on walks around Dhammapala Buddhist Monastery. When you’re high up there on a steep incline, with trees near enough so you can see the forest floor below, the mountain above the treetops looks like it has disconnected itself from the earth, drifted away from its moorings; a gravity-free mass of rocky earth and vegetation floating in the sky. Thinking of the floating Hallelujah Mountains in the Avatar movie; based on the Huang Shan mountains in China.

There’s a light-headedness about this because, today, I’m somehow free from attachment to things in the mind. Considering the possibility that one reason human beings tend to be in a state of ‘holding’ a lot of the time, is that we’re all earth-bound creatures; attached by gravity to a spinning planet and the default mindset is this holding-on thing – can be difficult to feel comfortable about letting go. But today I feel released from that pressure; climbing the mountains in the mind. This freedom has always has been like this. I just didn’t notice.

‘The Buddha taught that clinging was the ninth link in the chain of Dependent Origination. In that chain, craving led to clinging, and clinging to “becoming” (bhava), i.e., to continued stuckness in cyclical existence. There are two places where the chain of dependent origination can be broken: at the point where a pleasant feeling turns to craving, and at the point where craving leads to clinging.  We can break the link of craving through awareness of its dangers and insight into where it will lead us.  We can break the link of clinging by simply letting go.’ [Seth Zuihō Segall]

————————-

‘self’ is a sensory experience

dreamstime_s_22196618.jpgPOSTCARD #28 Delhi: Thinking about things in the darkness. Stories come and go, pondering over this and that, and the awareness of being caught up in the thinking thing gets included in the meanderings – searching for a way out. If I start thinking about how to stop thinking, the mind gets busy looking for a solution; finding something and comparing it with other reasons why I can’t stop thinking. Thinking has its own momentum, takes time to slow down; that’s the nature of the vehicle I’m driving. Letting it all fizzle out until it can go no further and everything evaporates for a moment.

In that instant there’s no thinking and the mind is alerted… an empty space opens up; a great mirror showing Mind looking at itself – the awareness of being aware. Silence and emptiness, held on ‘pause’. There’s the desire to be actively thinking, and I see the invitation to be involved with thought but pay no heed, it’s just part of what the software does.

The breath coming from the nostrils, so faint and light it stirs only the tiniest thing; a single strand of hair. No other sensory input the mind needs to be engaged with; no sense object activates the chain of events and all that remains is the mind’s cognitive function. There’s a curiosity about this: The ‘self’ is a sensory experience; the experiencer is an experience – there is only experienc-ing. What is it? Consciousness is the sensory organ of the the universe. By seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, the universe experiences itself. [See below: Note 2.]

A wave of thoughts comes rushing in, stays for a moment and goes out again, as if in another reality. I see it as an observer watching from some hidden place. Then the observer disappears and it seems like only the awareness itself is left there. Then the forms disappear and in their place, a sequence of obscured mental events, each one linking with the next; small bursts of electronic energy explode then it’s quiet, and again more explosions, like a fireworks display, arising and falling away. Fainter and fainter. Some time later sleep comes and the whole world disappears…

‘The Blessed One said: “And what is the origination of the world? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. This is the origination of the world.’ [“Loka Sutta: The World” (SN 12.44)]

————————-

Upper image replaced from the post: uncertainty
Note 1. This post is developed from an earlier post (click here: the thinking thing)
Note 2. ‘The self is a sensory experience’ arose from a dialogue with Truthless Truth last year
–   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –

spaciousness of being

IMG_0085POSTCARD #17: Nontaburi, Thailand: Here in this large house, surrounded by a garden of tall trees. Monsoon season, heavy rain all day, all night – oceans of frogs all around, hundreds of them, l’amour, croaking throughout the night in rising and falling waves as I sail off into sleep. Still raining next morning, then it stops about 10 o’clock, and the frogs are quiet now – I don’t know where they can be… submerged in mud with a bubble of air to breathe in? Frog heaven. A time for quiet reflection, the actuality of just being here; conscious experience. I’m alone in an empty house, walking around the hallway, bare feet on cool marble tiles; pita, pata, pit, pat, pata, pit, pit… stop and look out the window; everything is totally wet out there.

IMG_0170Conscious of cold feet – an unusual feeling in Thailand, it’s usually hot all the time. The skin sense (touch), contact with the world, consciousness of a physical object. Standing on the cool floor – the sensation. And the mind sense (cognition), ‘I like this coolness’, consciousness of a mind object. A pleasant wanting… hovering in a created sense of ‘self’. A whole lifetime taken up with the body/mind’s responses, reactions to the ‘outside’ world. Preoccupied with the doing of it, actively engaged with it; this is happening to ‘me’. Everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think, received through sense organs mostly situated around the face, means the head is thus spinning around constantly to engage with whatever it is; the object of consciousness.

‘A life guided by desire, a life contracted to the mind’s thirst, seldom has the spaciousness of being. That pure awareness which wants nothing, which yearns for nothing, which simply takes on the shape of whatever form comes within its natural spaciousness.’ [Stephen Levine]

There’s consciousness of thought and consciousness of no-thought; consciousness of the cognitive function triggered by a simple curiosity: what is going on here? Unattached consciousness, released from sensory experience – awareness of the awareness, seeing the seeing, knowing the knowing. One way or another, conscious experience is what I’m writing about; an all-inclusive thing. I try to be minimalist, writing as if it were text messaging. No real ‘story’, no sequence of events; it lacks content, barely enough to hold the reader’s attention. It just evolves, becomes something, gets broken down again and rebuilt. Often it feels like once it’s been taken apart, it’s not worthwhile putting it back together; everything in a state of disarray, prepositions and verbs scattered around, a small tribe of semi-colons nibbling at my ankles’, no subject, no object; no actual finished state.

After another couple of days of just ‘me’ and the frogs in the rain, and I realize it must be Sunday because Naa J and Naa M arrive that evening with a take-out dinner. We talk for a while and they spend the night. Early next morning I hear the monks outside. Go to take a look, rain has stopped and it’s dry again, takbat, offering food. Generosity, J and M have this kindness. An hour later I come downstairs, and they’re gone…

‘Awareness could be said to be like water. It takes on the shape of any vessel that contains it. If one mistakes this awareness for its various temporary forms, life becomes a ponderous plodding from one moment of desire, from one object of the mind, to the next. Life becomes filled with urgency and the strategies of fear, instead of lightly experiencing all these forms, recognizing that water is water no matter what its form.’ [Stephen Levine , Ondrea Levine: Who Dies]

IMG_0179————————-

Note: ‘a small tribe of semi-colons nibbling at my ankles’, quote from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo/ Sharpening The Quill. Thank you! (link in text)
Related post

nothing in particular

IMG_0132aPOSTCARD #16: Bangkok: Waiting for my number to be called… the figure 109 printed on a square of paper the receptionist gave me here at Rutnin Eye Hospital, outpatients department on the 2nd floor. People everywhere, very crowded today and only one seat available facing the white door that leads to examination room number 5. Fortunate because it’s where I’m supposed to be – at least I’m in exactly the right place. Yes, but there could be 108 people in front of me… an endless time to wait; nothing to read, nothing to look at, just watching the time go by. The second hand spinning round on a clock on the wall, designed like the hospital logo; it looks like an eye – someone has taken care to create this icon; it’s childlike, friendly, elegant.

3305480I’ve been struggling with poor eyesight for years and, since the surgery, seeing the world through ‘new eyes’ means anything happening in the field of vision immediately calls out for attention; a movement, a colour – it has to be noticed. The world is a great diversity of things. I see a tiny patch of colour at the bottom of the door about half an inch wide, where a piece of the surface of the door panel has chipped off, probably caused by moving some heavy equipment into the room and the door was struck in the process. It’s been repaired with something a slightly different colour and the coloured patch seems luminous, out of context with its surroundings… there’s also the glint of something like mica, something metallic. For a moment I’m immersed in this although it’s not important; it isn’t anything, there’s no attachment to it. It’s just a coloured patch, yet it’s fascinating. These days I’m often in the curious situation of having this intense visual awareness of an object and no subjective sense that it’s worth paying attention to at all; mind is not inclined to engage with it. This is just an ordinary mark on a door, nothing in particular; I have no desire for it, no pressing need to possess it. There is sensory data input by way of the eye and eye-consciousness; receiving the world through the six sense-doors: eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue and cognitive functions, without the idea of it happening to ‘me’. All that I’m aware of is a quiet presence, seen in peripheral vision and knowing it’s there.

 ‘… habitual desires manifest and condition awareness into a discriminative mode that operates in terms of subject and object held to exist on either side of the six sense-doors. These sense-doors open dependent on contact that can arouse varying degrees of feeling. Feeling stimulates desire and according to the power of desire, attention lingers… personal aims and obsessions develop and give rise to self-consciousness. That self-consciousness, mental or physical, once arisen must follow the cycle of maturing and passing away. When the mind looks into the sense of loss and comprehends (this) truth, the awareness is no longer bound by discrimination, the separation of subject and object is no longer held and one does not feel trapped behind or pulled through the sense-doors. There is freedom from desire… no personal image is created; there is nothing to lose, a sense of gladness, uplift, joy and serenity.’ [Ajahn Sucitto]

————————-

Lower image: Rutnin Eye Hospital logo   Note: Ajahn Sucitto’s poetry link: dhammamoon.org

suspended disbelief

StACaPOSTCARD #04: St Andrews, Scotland: It’s a sharp bright light, different from the sunshine of South East Asia, comes at a lower angle; the sunbeam seems to shine straight into my eyes. Quite blinding in the early morning, I’m dazzled and have to shade my eyes to look up at the ruins of the nave of St. Andrews Cathedral, against the Northern sky. A great emptiness, 12th century mediaeval folk saw it as the ‘Glory of God’, projecting a ‘self’ onto empty space and if there was an intuitive sense – a normal inquiring mind – that something about this is not quite right; the sense of lack, unconvinced, doubting – could it really be God? If it was like this, they were living in fear of their own natural thinking processes and reasoned that it must be because ‘we are all sinners’ and the Church is there to ‘save’ us. Religion was/is power; the Church of Rome, then the Scottish Reformation claimed all the wealth of the Cathedral of St Andrews. Not much in history about the spiritual life of those who lived in that place, studied, prayed, meditated; their compassion, or loving kindness…

I see the door arches and passageways, people walked through here and lived their lives, breathed this air. How was it then; the existential reality of these 12th Century Britains? Conscious experience was the same in mediaeval times as it is today: outer object triggers inner recognition/desire. Example found in the Old Testament: Adam sees the apple: I want that… Dependent origination (paticcisammupadda) in an Old Testament format: there’s an apple out there and I want it but there’s conflict in the mind, associating a fictional self with a normal response; sorry this apple belongs to someone else and you can’t have it. How to resolve this? The response to the apple is normal, the process of human consciousness must be universal – there was never any time when people didn’t react/respond like this. Today we can apply understanding; how does the process work? In those days, no other way to understand it, you have desire for the apple, you are a born sinner, believe in God, and have your sins forgiven… and that was it – no other instruction. Thank goodness I discovered Buddhism.

It’s daylight until very late at night here, a long twilight going through to dawn the next day – really no darkness at all. The morning gathers momentum and we’re flooded with sunshine, day after day, everybody stumbling around in a state of astonishment, suspended disbelief. The sense of being on an island doesn’t seem to be here in Scotland, we are not held, contained, more like we are dispersed, all the way to the Northern region; Orkney, Shetland, Faroe Islands, the Arctic Circle and beyond…

————————-

Ignorant of their ignorance, yet wise in their own esteem, these deluded men, proud of their vain learning, go round and round like the blind led by the blind [Mundaka Upanishad 18]

Too Much is Never Enough

Tanha

“If this sticky, uncouth craving overcomes you in the world, your sorrows grow like wild grass after rain.” (Dhammapada 335)

Tanha perpetuates ‘the fever of unsatisfied longing’; the opposite of bien être (sense of well-being). Tanha is not a happy bunny. It attempts to feed the hunger of ‘wanting’ but the action of feeding it only sharpens the edge of appetite; there’s never enough. Tanha is a deep craving for ‘self’. It is astonishing to think that the ‘self’ we have constructed to fill the void of ‘no self’ is the direct result of tanha. I am ‘me’, here in this world, because of tanha.

Tanha is the cause of Suffering, the 2nd Noble Truth, the 7th step in the Paticcasamuppada. Tanha is the reason for rebirth. In the story of King Assaka and Queen Upari, Queen Upari died and became a cow dung beetle in the next life. But she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle and this is due to tanhã (craving) which finds delight everywhere. Tanhã gives pleasure, delighting in whatever sense object presents itself – tanhã has the tendency to delight wherever it finds rebirth. Reborn as a dog, it takes delight in a dog’s existence; reborn as a pig, as a fowl, there is always delight in each existence.

It explains very well the reason why some people you meet are absolutely committed to ‘wrong view’ with an intensity that takes your breath away. They believe they’re right and the rest of the world is wrong. No matter what anybody says, they continue to do it the wrong way. Life is pretty difficult for somebody like that. I’m reminded of a song from the 60s: ‘The original discriminating buffalo man. He’ll do what’s wrong as long as he can.’ (Lyrics: The Minotaur’s Song’ by Incredible String Band [link])

Tanha is step 7/8 in the paticcasamuppada causality sequence. Interrupt the sequence there and bring the whole thing to an end. I first came across it in Walpole Rahula’s ‘What the Buddha Taught’, then later in Ajahn Buddhadasa [link] The way to deal with tanha is to cut off the conditions that lead to its arising. The entry point here is the step before it: 7. Vedana. At the vedana stage, there are three possibilities: the arising of pleasure, or pain or neutral feelings. If feelings of pleasure or pain arise, then craving or aversion will follow and tanha will be the result.

‘… if, by an act of will, only the neutral feeling was allowed to arise from contact with the object… the seventh link would be neutralized, de-activated. That being so, tanha could not arise, and the next link (upadana) would fail to arise and so on …” Eric Cheetham, “Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism”, p214-215

For me, the discovery that interrupting the sequence at Vedana changed the momentum of everything was awesome, to say the least. This is how I quit the tobacco habit (and other things). By allowing the neutral response (at Vedana) to be present for a moment, I noticed an easing in the craving, a cessation – just enough to trigger my curiosity… what is going on here? The first time this happened, the cessation took place just as my recognition of it clicked as (possibly) ‘the way out’, and I knew then I’d cracked it. Now I see it’s about staying a little distant from it, and allowing the craving to start the process of cessation by itself. Trying to confront/defeat the craving will not work because willed action only causes it to arise again.

Time went on and the craving would arise but there was always cessation. By my continuing to recognize that it’s in the nature of Tanha (as with everything else) to be transient like this, it was seen as something that comes and goes – bye-bye craving. The neutral feeling didn’t register as anything (that’s the thing about neutral feeling) and there was a space, a gap that wasn’t there before. Curiosity about this new space, just discovered, led to extra motivation. I could see that I was changed. Situations that used to completely overwhelm and demolish me seemed more distant; I’d found a way of looking at them as if they were something quite separate.

Other habitual behaviour began to fall away. I began to notice the wonderful emptiness or the wholeness or … (whatever word you use isn’t quite it), a great peace in the space of the mind that comes about when you understand that there is a way out of Suffering. I figured out that I am not dependent on the ‘dependent’ mind state tanha. I can walk away from it; everything that arises, ceases.

[link to image source]