Sensual craving

Sensual craving gives rise to grief;
Sensual craving gives rise to fear.
For someone released from sensual craving
There is no grief;
And from where would come fear?

Dhammapada v. 215, translated by Gil Fronsdal

As with the last post, we’re looking at a common source of grief and fear, in this case, sensual craving.

What exactly is sensual craving? Desire for sensual satisfactions – nice foods, pleasant smells, pleasant sounds, pleasant tactile experiences — things connected to the body, or daydreams/memories that substitute for the actual experiences.

I will confess to sensual craving for classical music (especially live), books, movies and theater for mental stimulation and story-telling. So far, these things have not (apparently) caused me much grief, but the thought of doing without them (especially books) raises real fear.

We have to take the dangers of “sensual craving” to include everything from a mild inclination to choose A over B, all the way to complete physical and emotional addiction, e.g., alcoholism, sex addiction, etc. These are not all to be treated in the same way! It’s easier to diagnose an addiction, but harder to counteract it. A regular desire for tea or warm slippers is generally harmless, but is also harder to notice.

We are driven through our days by a (mostly unconscious) desire to avoid unpleasantness and seek out pleasant experiences. This is pretty normal. With proper attention we can notice what we are doing and why – not to judge every action or motivation, but to understand them. This awareness, if practiced diligently, can bring us closer to complete knowledge of things as they are.

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