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.
Dhammapada v. 334, translated by Gil Fronsdal
Craving is the most common English translation of the Pali word “tanha”, which also means “thirst”. It can be useful to remember this quality of thirst, of wanting something urgently, when we consider how our own craving works.
Until full awakening, we are all driven, to some degree, by craving. We want certain things and we don’t want other things. The lists of these things are infinite, encompassing the trivial and the profound, but the craving behind them is the same grasping movement of the human mind. If you look closely, you will see these “reaching out for” and “pushing away” energies moving us to most of our actions.
The verse invites us to bring this grasping energy into consciousness. If we don’t try to see it, then we are just like monkeys, flitting from one attraction to another. The craving grows uninterrupted, like a creeping vine.
Sometimes we are moved by hunger to eat. Sometimes we are not even hungry, but the craving is still there. Can we see the difference? We might see a beautiful object; how close behind it is the desire to own that object? A fictional character finds the perfect mate – what form of craving comes up in our minds as a result? Is it dissatisfaction with our own partner, or despair at being single, or a general wish to go to the imaginary land where everything is perfect?
Craving is real. By seeing it clearly in our own minds and bodies, as it happens, we have a chance to free ourselves from its compulsive quality.
More on craving next time…