Craving for Becoming

We are familiar with the central role of craving (Pali: tanha) in the dharma. The Buddha discussed three distinct kinds of craving. The first kind is the craving for sensual pleasure; the second is the “craving for existence”, or “craving to become” (bhava-tanha); the third kind is the craving for non-existence. At the Sangha this Sunday we undertook a more fine-grained analysis of the second kind of craving, “bhava-tanha“, and its impact on our lives and practice.

The literal translation of “tanha“, is “thirst”, and this translation points more clearly to the kind of craving in question here. Ajahn Sucitto comments,

Craving to be something is not a decision, it’s a reflex… So the result of craving to be solid and ongoing, to be a being that has a past and a future, together with the current wish to resolve the past and future, are combined to establish each individual’s present world as complex and unsteady. This thirst to be something keeps us reaching out for what isn’t here. And so we lose the inner balance that allows us to discern a here-and-now fulfillment in ourselves.

We listened to the last part of a talk by Joseph Goldstein to scaffold our discussion. You can listen to the talk here:

Finally, Margaret read two quotes from the Dhammapada as translated by Gil Fronsdal,

“The craving of a person who lives negligently 
Spreads like a creeping vine.
Such a person leaps ever onward, 
Like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest.”

“Those attached to passion
Are caught in river [of their own making]
Like a spider caught in its own web.
But having cut even this, the wise set forth,,
Free from longing, abandoning all suffering.
Let go of the past, let go of the future,
Let go of the present.
Gone beyond becoming,
With the mind released in every way,
You do not again undergo birth and old age.”