Recently I wrote this to a list on
the internet and after sharing it with our teacher, Bhante
Vimalaramsi, he recommended that I share it here. The subject is
Craving. If this is the root of our suffering, as the Buddha told us
repeatedly, then it is very important we understand exactly what
Craving is. We need to know what it is if we are going to nip it in
the bud eh? KK
April 26, 2004:
I'm back from a few retreats and travelling with
our meditation teacher, Bhante Vimalaramsi, and others preparing the
center for the upcoming summer sessions. Exciting developments are
coming our way with a new piece of land and encouragement from
surrounding neighbors to start a supporting industry for our
community idea. Though I did not have the time to respond to many
things that were discussed, I have been watching the entries and I
must say some have been very interesting.
This one most recent entry on CRAVING (
“Seeing, Seeing, and seeing” which was the string topic that peaked
my curiosity) caught my eye today and got me going a little.
One member of the list who attended and
contributed, seemed closest to getting to the heart of the matter
here with her entry of:
>>May all see the craving for
self-identity view as it actually is present: inconstant,
compounded, dependently co-arisen, subject to ending, subject to
passing away, subject to fading, subject to cessation.>>
The part about "subject to cessation:" is the most
important to note here. That we should actually know that it IS
possible to end craving through observing it’s passing away is
important. If it is actually possible to cut off craving in the bud,
then there IS a chance for a cessation of Dukkha because the process
goes no further beyond this craving.
But it is very important to understand WHAT
CRAVING IS to begin with in a way one can relate to it within our
daily meditation practice.
First look at how craving occurs?
Because a feeling arises, Craving arises. This is
what we know from many of the suttas that show us where the craving
occurs in the process we are studying. But what is craving? As a
feeling arises, it is either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. The
"CRAVING" which comes next in the process, (occurring very quickly
too ) is manifested by the "I like it" or "I don't like it" mind of
ours. OK. Next comes the CLINGING, which is the story our minds run
away with about why we like it or don't like it ( whatever “it” is
Having now defined what exactly the CRAVING is
along the process, one can begin to watch within their meditation as
a feeling arises, and the CRAVING quickly follows. Now you need to
know HOW to end the craving? Ah! As one is doing the meditation,
with an object of meditation ( be it the breath or Loving Kindness,
or whatever,) one begins to become aware of a slight tension in the
body, which, if observed carefully, usually manifests first in the
head area, occurring just as a feeling begins to arise, ( it matters
not what this feeling is about) one lets the feeling/thought go,
also relaxing the entire bodily formation, most especially any
slight tension in the head that most of us forget about as a part of
our body. We are specifically directed to do this within the sutta
instructions ( see " tranquilize the bodily formation on the
in-breath and on the out-breath" [see MN 118 : Bhikkhu Bodhi
translation, for an example of this phrase which runs through many
of the discourses repeatedly]
At this point one returns to their object of the
meditation and continues to observe any further movements of the
mind as they occur i.e. further feelings/thoughts that may arise as
you continue meditating...
Now it isn't easy to "let it go" at first at the
point of the CRAVING! No. In fact, at first, most of us let it go
after falling into the “CLINGING” which is what occurs following the
craving and very fluently, I might add, as it happens so fast that
many people who talk about this today, have simply changed the term
to "grasping" which is inclusive of the craving and clinging
together. But if we do this, we are eliminating a step in the
process, and loosing the opportunity to understand that we CAN, in
fact, eventually reach a point in our training where we can, let it
go at the point of CRAVING! Now, if one trains to let the thoughts
go earlier and earlier, one ACTUALLY CAN let them go before the
CRAVING hits. One can learn, through practice, to feel the earliest
tensions within the bodily formation during the deeper more subtle
arising of the feeling.....as it comes up.
This is HOW one can go into the deepest states of
observation which, in fact, match the meditation progression
described in the Discourses. Our progress becomes easier for us to
follow as one practices in this way because if one also listens to
the Discourses being taught (specifically, directly from the suttas,
word for word in entirety) as we progress, we are repeating the
experiential form of learning of the ancients as it was originally
In this way one can begin to understand, for
example, Sariputta's experience more clearly. We come to understand
why, in MN 111, the Buddha uses this particular monk’s experience to
teach others meditation and encouraged other monks to use this
example when guiding their students.
So, by understanding exactly WHAT IS CRAVING,
which is the MANIFESTATION OF THE MIND AS " I like it" or "I don't
like it" clearly, we have a chance to learn how to let go of the
cause of suffering early on.
Remembering the direct teaching of the Buddha when
teaching us the process we are observing (of Dependent Origination):
- Because contact arises, feeling arises.
- Because feeling arises, Craving arises.
- Because craving arises, Clinging arises.
So nipping CRAVING in the bud IS TRULY possible!
Keep your meditation going.....
As one stays on the object of meditation longer
and longer, without wavering, it allows us to see deeper and clearer
the impersonal process of the movements of mind. We do not control
HOW it moves. But we can improve our alertness to detect when it
moves. We remain on the object of meditation. In the peripheral area
of the mind, feelings and thoughts arise and we can observe this
happening as we do the meditation, releasing them when they arise,
relaxing the entire bodily formation and returning to the object of
meditation to continue with our observation.
What you will see as you do the meditation in this
way, releasing, relaxing, returning to the object again and then
doing it again and again, is truly amazing.
Try it. I sincerely hope this has been of some
help to you all....
Sending you much loving-kindness to you all!
Remember to SMILE into it, no matter what it is! :-) It's always
Khanti-Khema Asst. to Bhante Vimalaramsi
Resource study used for this article came in part
from MN 38 which is "The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of
Craving" MN 38:17 and 38:41
Questions regarding this article should be written