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H.E Tsem Rinpoche says the following on his website.

"Through a lack of understanding of how things truly exist, we create and recreate an independent self entity called “me.”

The whole of our experience in life can be viewed through this sense of self. In consequence, various cravings govern our actions. Cravings arise for sense experiences, for “being” or “becoming” (e.g. rich, famous, loved, respected, immortal), and to avoid the unpleasant. These cravings are the root cause of suffering."

I struggle with this idea because from my perspective many great achievements and accomplishments only happen because people are driven and about things. This seems to be saying that we shouldn't bother trying to be anything because it's all dukkha, anicca and anatta anyway. Surely if everyone believed this we wouldn't even be here and evolved to the level we are in the world. We would have just given up. I can't see the point of doing anything creative. I do creative things because I want to create something great that can inspire others and that I can feel proud to have achieved. Many people who have struggle to achieve certain things like to become a successful actor for example say that they feel very fortunate to be able to wake up and do what they love for a living everyday. What exactly is wrong with wanting to become something?

Responses quoting scriptures and linking to rambling repetitive suttas will be down voted.

  • Make sure not to confuse desire with craving. Being motivated to do something is not craving, but chanda. The problem with a lot of our pursuits is that we have a craving to reach the goal. We identify with it & the process of bhava (becoming) takes place. I am this, I am that. As a lay person it's important to cultivate good & abstain from doing bad (as any practioner as well), PLUS not getting entangled with the idea of nibbana. If most suffering can be reduced, that's sufficient. Realise that there is a difference between suffering & unsatisfactoriness. Both are dukkha though. – Val Jan 29 at 17:33
  • Also, the problem with "becoming" is that we're identified with that thing. What if that actor loses his job? What if a successful & eminent manager loses his job? There you have it. As mentioned above, don't think in terms of avoiding all suffering and all bhava (becoming), simply try to remind yourself "I am not this", "This is not my entirery", "I am more than just that". Having ambitions is fine. Be devoted without being devout. – Val Jan 29 at 17:41
  • @Val 'Chanda' is not always translated as a "good kind of desire". Just consider the five hindrances (nivārana), where kāmacchanda (sensory desire) is the first one described. – Brian Díaz Flores Feb 3 at 8:51
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I struggle with this idea because from my perspective many great achievements and accomplishments only happen because people are driven and about things.

There's no contradiction between the 4NT vs. great achievements and accomplishments. Matter of fact, the greatest achievements/accomplishments are those driven by a selfless nature: The polio vaccine - Dr. Jonas Salk

  • "Matter of fact, the greatest achievements/accomplishments are those driven by a selfless nature." - well said! This also applies to the greatest achievement in this universe (attaining Nibbana). – Damith Jan 24 at 3:13
  • So true. What are often called achievements are no use to man nor beast. . – PeterJ Jan 24 at 11:17
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The Four Noble Truths is only about dukkha. Its not about everything.

The Four Noble Truths is saying when there is dukkha; its cause is craving.

Its not say all desire leads to suffering.

Compare it to "bacteria". The digestive system needs bacteria to operate. But bad bacteria causes disease. When the doctor gives you antibiotics to cure a disease, you don't complain & object saying 'bacteria is good'. Instead, you take the medicine.

So if you desire to get a job, for example, this is not necessarily suffering.

But if you are suffering about not having a job, the cause of this suffering is craving.

You take the medicine when you are sick (rather than when you are well).

3

The four noble truths are about suffering, its origin, cessation and path. As long as human mind is in the "clinging mode" it is normal to want to do something or be something. Until a person becomes an Arahant, wanting to be something or wanting to do something will continue to arise in the mind. Only Arahant is completely free from karmic intentions.

Clinging to anykind of intentions/desires brings suffering sooner or later, so it is certainly not a sane thing to cling to any kind of intentions. Buddhism doesn't require suppression of one's intentions/desires but it tells that even the good karma has to be given up. Nibbana is freedom from all of the karmic intentions and it is the highest bliss and freedom. In an experiental level, wanting to be something or do something must be transcended temporarily to experience Nibbana. And to attain Nibbana permanently one must have complete purification in the mind that makes he/she free from all of the karmic intentions which includes desires like wanting to be something or wanting to do something.

But in the high enlightenment stages (before the Arahant stage) it is possible to become detached from the karmic intentions even If they continue to arise in the mind or the person continues to act based upon these intentions. The important thing for the meditators (who haven't attained these stages yet) is to try to become detached from the actions/desires as much as possible. That's why mindfulness and meditation is very important. If one falls back to egotistical thinking, pride etc. he or she mustn't cling to the "I'm doing something wrong" like thoughts because human mind works this way until finally the meditator comes to a point that his/her identity is no longer based on the ego/self.

2

The fourth noble truth points to the noble eightfold path, as the balanced middle way towards ending suffering. If you look at only the first three noble truths, you might think that extreme asceticism is the best way to end suffering, but it doesn't work that way.

The Buddha taught that in order for a lute to make music, its strings must not be too loose or too tight. Similarly, we must adopt the middle way to nibbana.

Buddhism shows the path towards permanent happiness (nibbana). This is achieved by ending craving and ending becoming. This is the long term goal of happiness in Buddhism.

However, Buddhism has the medium term goal of stream entry and the short term goal of happiness in one's worldly life. As part of this short term goal of happiness, one should not just earn and enjoy his own good fortunes, but he should also help others.

From AN 5.41:

'My wealth has been enjoyed,
my dependents supported,
protected from calamities by me.
I have given supreme offerings
& performed the five oblations.
I have provided for the virtuous,
the restrained,
followers of the holy life.
For whatever aim a wise householder
would desire wealth,
that aim I have attained.
I have done what will not lead to future distress.'
When this is recollected by a mortal,
a person established in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,
he is praised in this life and,
after death, rejoices in heaven.

But of course, such joy never lasts forever. The dissatisfaction arising from the fact that joy cannot last forever and pain cannot be avoided forever, constitute suffering (dukkha). And that's why eventually we need to move from the short term goal to the medium term goal and finally the long term goal of happiness.

1

I think your question is asking,

Why can't I be a craftsman (for example), and make great stuff? Useful, helpful stuff? What's wrong with that? And what's wrong with wanting to become a craftsman?

I guess there are several answers.


One is maybe that you can and should do exactly that: i.e. that this is what a typical layman does, to make a living and to benefit others. There are (the Buddha defined the rules such that there would be) two "societies" in Buddhism: i.e. lay society. and the society of monks and nuns ("the sangha"), and the two societies more-or-less depend on each other for different things ... and they each have a different definition of what "right livelihood" is.

"Right livelihood" for a layperson might well involve making useful things, or farming, or etc.

Some cultures even get into "Zen and the Art of ..." (that may be a bit unusual, i.e. Japan is at the far edge of the continent and an island, but I don't doubt lay and artistic endeavours are affected/inspired in other Buddhist countries too).


So I think about your question, "Let's say I want to become a potter and make nice dinner plates that will benefit people, what's wrong with that? The Four Noble Truths say that what's "wrong" is craving and attachment. So how about doing that without attachment, is it OK then?"

And I re-read Why do the Noble Truths talk about 'craving', instead of about 'attachment'?

So I think that part of the answer to the question is that it is possible to be an artist, a musician, and craftsman, but without being a happy one.

And producing something, a new plate, even if that's enjoyable, does the enjoyment last? Look at all that's been produced by humanity to date, does that make people happy? Well "yes and no".

What happens when you're forced to retire, to cease activity -- infirmity, lack of customers -- how will you cope with that? Have you been training yourself to cope with that?

And if I imagine being an unhappy craftsman, that might be for the very reasons quoted ...

Cravings arise for sense experiences, for “being” or “becoming” (e.g. rich, famous, loved, respected, immortal), and to avoid the unpleasant

... i.e. I don't think that what you quoted is wrong.

It's also maybe inherently a source of dissatisfaction: if I wanted (i.e. craved) to be what I'm not, e.g. a potter, a sailor, a house-builder -- if I had that "craving to-become" then I might be unhappy. But if, I don't know, if that were a wholesome desire rather than an unwholesome craving, if I did what was appropriate to achieve it, if I were satisfied with that effort, then maybe it's alright.


Also there's a time or a sense in which ambition is appropriate.

I think the Pali distinguishes between unwholesome and unsatisfiable "craving", versus a "wholesome desire".

For example there's this sutta which says it's OK to have a (wholesome) desire for nibanna, and that's not even a contradiction because once you arrive there then that desire is allayed.

Similarly I suppose that wanting what's attainable and beneficial via lay activity isn't necessarily wrong, it might be normal and sensible.

Perhaps "wanting to become something" shouldn't be an end in itself, though, because even if it's achievable it can't be permanent. You might want to become a doctor, but even if you succeed you couldn't remain so forever. You might want to become-a-doctor-in-order-to-help-people though -- I think there's a sense in which, if you do help someone, than having-helped-someone will remain a fact more-or-less forever, so that might be some satisfaction if you are ever retrospective (which maybe people are even if only when they're dying).

I kind of like this sutta, The rewards of virtue. Some people say that you need to get your "virtue" (ethical behaviour) in order before you can meditate successfully, others say that meditation begins to be successful when you experience joy when doing so. The intermediate stage there, between them, appears to "freedom from remorse". Maybe that's a guide: aim to do what you don't regret, and to not regret what you do.

1

I struggle with this idea because from my perspective many great achievements and accomplishments only happen because people are driven and about things.

Buddhism's greatest achievements and accomplishments are only Enlightening Nibbāna, no craving. The Buddhist people do the other greatest achievements and accomplishments to support the Enlightening Nibbāna. The other greatest achievements and accomplishments are not our ultimate goal.

So, the greatest achievement and accomplishment, core, of Buddhist people are driven to cease all craving. However, if the practitioner can not cease all craving now, the practitioner can choose to cease only "three fetters" first -- see below.

There are ten fetters -- of which "craving to become" is one of the "higher" fetters, which may be overcome at a high stage of enlightenment. The first three fetters include "belief in a self" (mentioned in the quote), all Buddhists should aspire to at least overcoming those first/lower fetters to begin with (and when they do they're called a "Stream-Enterer"). A stream-enter has overcome the first three fetters and is also "established in virtue"

Surely if everyone believed this we wouldn't even be here and evolved to the level we are in the world. We would have just given up. I can't see the point of doing anything creative.

That's the point of the four noble truth. Buddha teaches to give up everything except the meditation and Nibbāna.

I do creative things because I want to create something great that can inspire others and that I can feel proud to have achieved. Many people who have struggle to achieve certain things like to become a successful actor for example say that they feel very fortunate to be able to wake up and do what they love for a living everyday. What exactly is wrong with wanting to become something?

That's why we have four pairs of persons. If one still want to crave in creation they can enlighten Nibbāna as the Stream-Enterer first.

The meditation steps still the same, contemplating Dukkha in the Dependent Origination cycle to see Anicca Dukkha Anattā clearly, but the meditator attends to cease only three fetters first.

  1. Are you still caving to misunderstand in the Dependent Origination?
  2. Are you still able to do the Immoral Action, i.e. killing, which inherited from above misunderstood?
  3. Are you still doubt, which inherited from above misunderstood, in the Dependent Origination and in people who understood in the Dependent Origination?

It's the way to the cessation of Dukkha, hell, from doing the Immoral Action, i.e. killing, which happens from the misunderstanding in the Dependent Origination.

However, the craving in the other seven fetters still going on, so the Stream-Enterer can create the creative worldly works by the wholesome or unwholesome mind, except three fetters, **while Arahant can create only the four pairs of persons, e.g. clean the floor to let people admire in Buddhist moral and give a chance to listen to Dhamma for the chance of their enlightenment.

Responses quoting scriptures and linking to rambling repetitive suttas will be down voted.

This is the way that Tipiṭaka of the other Nikāya, except Theravāda, disappeared nowadays. We should learn the past mistake to avoid doing that same mistake again and again.

And my English is not that good to write the answer without the reference.

  • I added a paragraph (with a Wikipedia link) to introduce what you were saying about "fetters" -- the three lower fetters, stream-enterer, and so on. I don't know though how your three list items correspond to those three fetters -- I've read that a stream enterer is established in virtue, maybe has virtue pleasing to the noble ones; and "misunderstanding DO" may be related to "belief in self" -- but you mentioned immoral action, e.g. killing, is that related to one of the three lower fetters? – ChrisW Feb 2 at 19:06
  • @ChrisW It's The the ordinary does SīlabbataUpādāna (2nd Fetter is the same as Clinging Of Immoral Physical Behavior in Dependent Origination; See MahāNidānaSutta and CūlaSīhanādaSutta), such as killing, because they have DiṭṭhuPādāna (Clinging Of Misunderstood-of-Self-as-Doer-of-SīlabbataUpādāna Mental Behavior; 62 Diṭṭhi in BrahmajālaSutta). These both behaviors' origin is AttavādaUpādāna (1st Fetter; 20 SakkāyaDiṭṭhi; Clinging Of Misunderstood-of-Aggregates-as-Self Mental Behavior).' The misunderstood let the ordinary doubt (3rd Fetter) in Dependent Origination. – Bonn Feb 3 at 5:07
  • I think it's good to start new question to talk because I can quote the texts and links to make the clear answer. Actually, it maybe my mistake of chosen vocabulary, and you can see my mistake by comparing with the quote. My english still not well enough for an academic topic like this. – Bonn Feb 3 at 5:21
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I struggle with this idea because from my perspective many great achievements and accomplishments only happen because people are driven and about things. This seems to be saying that we shouldn't bother trying to be anything because it's all dukkha, anicca and anatta anyway.

So what's so great about seemingly "great achievements"? What does that mean exactly?

Surely if everyone believed this we wouldn't even be here and evolved to the level we are in the world. We would have just given up. I can't see the point of doing anything creative. I do creative things because I want to create something great that can inspire others and that I can feel proud to have achieved. Many people who have struggle to achieve certain things like to become a successful actor for example say that they feel very fortunate to be able to wake up and do what they love for a living everyday.

The life expectancy is still around the same controlling for the infant mortality rate all those supposed "creative achievements" so far haven't mattered for anything. So someone could pose the opposite question "what's the point in pursuing useless achievements?".

What if people were happier, healthier, less stressed out, and more joyful without pursuing those types of achievements?

A better achievement for mankind "generate pleasant feelings or good kamma even when mistreated, regardless" that would be a great human accomplishment. Most humans it seems when hating others don't realize that it generates painful feelings or bad kamma even if it's perceived as a rational thing to do in their mind.

What exactly is wrong with wanting to become something?

Well let's see:

  • Does wanting to become something lead towards the ending of suffering and the highest happiness?
  • After becoming something would you still experience painful feelings like anger, fear, sorrow, and physical pain?

The Four Noble Truths are misunderstood.

Having desire in the right way is part of the Noble Eightfold Path (Right Effort).

Having no desire as in laziness or sluggishness in doing things that lead towards arahantship is strongly opposed.

When people are happy and satisfied they naturally have no cravings but not in the painful way of suppressing a desire. The painful way of the ascetics who practiced painful austerities was strongly opposed by Gautama Buddha as being worse than the practices of many laypeople who enjoyed sensual pleasures.

Also keep in mind that many rules for monks were designed for those aspiring to become arahants here and now and may seem impractical for many laypeople.

Most people are laypeople not monks.

-3

yes toxic people always try salvage desire, to salvage their craving for building fantasies. THe most toxic people even claim that not being selfish leads to the greatest achievement because they fail to understand the path and how the result of the path is way greater than not being selfish. It is part of their toxic dichotomy being selfish-being selfless.

It is easy for those people to claim that whatever actions are done, as long as the people who do those actions think they are being generous and not acting from being selfish, they claim that they are good people. For instance, there are people who use and kill, or use and dispose of animals, like earth worms, mice, dogs, spiders and so on, in order to create drugs, vaccines, new materials, and they always say that they are good people because they use animals only in order to make life more bearable for humans. Those toxic people even claim that, since they crave with money, if you give them money to support them, you will be a good person too.

THe usual puthujjanas try to salvage their craving for entertainment, art, creation, philosophy, sensual pleasures and they always claim that they are not bad people for that. As usual with any idea created by puthujjanas, it is completely stupid. The way to be a good puthujjana is to have sila, which is the result of mindfulness whose sole purpose is to greatly weaken lust. So the puthujjanas who claim that there is nothing wrong with sensuality will never ever be good puthujjanas, let alone a good person like an Arhat...

  • 1
    Sila, is that when divisive or harsh speech are given up? – Erik Jan 24 at 16:05

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