QUESTION: Just a little question that's been on my mind recently. The second noble truth. Dukkha Samudaya. It is thirst for self-recreation that is associated with greed. It lights upon whatever pleasures are to be found here and there. It is thirst for sense pleasure, for being and non being. I'm interested in the terms "self-recreation" and "being and non being". Could you expand on this please.

SHORT ANSWER: Dukkha samudaya is the energy aroused in us by affliction. We can turn that energy to good or ill. The good is the path. The ill is craving which leads back to more dukkha and so sustains the process of self-re-creation.

LONGER ANSWER: A key term in early Buddhism is bhava which can be loosely translated “becoming”, sometimes “being”. The implication is that being is a process, To be is to become and to go on becoming. This is also referred to as the karmic continuum. The idea is that the form of our becoming is a product of our intentional acts. When our intention is some form of craving then that intentionality has consequence. It shapes our (spiritual) becoming. This is like the opening paragraphs of the Dhammapada: “All states are born of the mind (heart). Mind is chief, mind-made are they.” etc. So the idea here is that we only exist because of this karmic stream and we go on existing because it is self-replicating.

Now the import of the second part of the second truth is that craving can be considered to play out at three levels. Simple craving is naked desire. When you see chocolate and want it and act upon that desire, it is a case of simple craving.When we are ill at ease we want some distraction. It does not much matter whether it is a film or a beer or a bit of gossip, or something to moan about, or what. "Whatever pleasures are to be found here and there" will do.

However, as humans we also have complex cravings - craving to be somebody or something. This all revolves around pride or conceit. This kind of craving is much more serious. It entraps us in the karmic net in a much more tangled way. It is easier to give up a chocolate habit then to give up the conceit of self. However, there is even worse, which is the craving to obliterate oneself, to get out of life altogether, to destroy the world. There is a big hate aspect here. This craving for non-being can be directed at oneself or turned outward in destructive impulses. The suicide bomber is a classic example because in that phenomena the outward and inward aspects of the destructive urge are both simultaneously manifest. That breeds very bad karma. When one thinks about addiction, one can see it operating at all three levels. To begin with there is a pursuit of pleasure and distraction. Then there is involvement in a whole lifestyle. Then there is the craving for oblivion.

All three levels of craving lead back to further dukkha. The first truth is dukkha. In response to dukkha we either fall into craving or we have faith. If we have faith then the energy roused by dukkha can mature as the spiritual path. If we fall into craving it goes one of these three ways and all three lead back to more dukkha, though the first is the least and the third is the worst. I hope that helps.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks that's great. Very deep! I was sort of thinking in terms of gratification(being) and annihilation(non-being), which I think is basically what you said. Very interesting philosophical implications. It's really tough to get past that conceited craving eh!? Good job I can just call the Buddha, otherwise I'd be in a lot of trouble!! Namo Amida Bu( :

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