The Second Noble Truth is that dukkha has a source — our tendency to grasp at pleasure and repress pain.
The Buddha called referred to this tendency as tanha, which we can translate as craving.
To understand craving is to make a life-changing discovery: Dukkha does not result from painful circumstances in life or the behavior of other people. Rather, dukkha arises with craving.
Also, craving is an “inside” job. It is something that we add to our experience. Craving is something that we do.
The Buddha talked in detail about how craving arises. He pointed to five basic stages in the process (which he called the five aggregates):
- Matter is physical form. This includes the human body. However, craving is not ultimately about mind, not matter. The other four aggregates are all aspects of mind.
- Perception is pure awareness of our moment-to-moment experience without any effort to describe it or change it.
- Sensation is pure feeling rather than complex emotions. Sensations exist on a simple continuum — from pleasant to neutral to unpleasant.
- Conception is the realm of thinking and language. Conception separates perceptions and sensations into distinct categories: Self versus other. Past versus present versus future. And much, much more. However, distinctions exist only in thinking. At the level of pure perception, there is just one unbroken stream of experience. Nothing is separate from anything else.
- Intention is the realm of motivation. Once we separate experience into separate things, we compulsively move toward the things we like and move away from the things we dislike. This hardens into longing and loathing, greed and hatred — in short, craving.
Fortunately, there is an alternative to craving. The Third and Fourth Noble Truths explain.
Posts in this series:
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Four Noble Truths
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The First Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Second Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Third Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots of Mindfulness — The Fourth Noble Truth
- Returning to the Roots Of Mindfulness — How Modern Authors Distort an Ancient Teaching