Uprooting craving

Just as a felled tree grows again
If the roots are unharmed and strong,
So suffering sprouts again and again
Until the tendency to crave is rooted out.

Dhammapada v. 338, translated by Gil Fronsdal

Like weeding a garden, the job of uprooting our tendency to craving must be done persistently. The craving just sprouts up again and again, and we keep skillfully discerning it and letting it go, until the sprouting becomes less and less, and finally ends.

Patience is required; a lot of patient tending to our minds will bring about the result we desire. If we’re in a hurry, we’re likely to give up long before the job is done. The roots of our craving go way, way down, to the very beginning of our sense of a separate self.

An analogy I’ve often used for the Buddha’s teaching is that it’s like a ball of yarn. If we pick up one teaching and follow it to its logical conclusion, we get to the end eventually, but not before touching all the other teachings along the way. So if we work on uprooting our craving, one wish at a time, we are likely to notice that whatever we’re wishing for dissipates or is replaced by something else very quickly (impermanence). We can see that this condition is not satisfying (dukkha), and that everyone else is in the same situation.

If we’re paying attention, we’ll notice that impatience makes things worse, and that being kind to others and ourselves makes things better. Training our attention with almost any object will (in time) cause the attention to work better with all of our experiences. Causes and results may come into focus. Investigating our own craving is an excellent object for contemplation because it is so often present, and so easy to overlook.

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