I completely understand the second noble truth which says

origin of dukkha, which arises or "comes together" with taṇhā ("craving, desire or attachment")

in plain English,

Desire is the cause of Sorrow.

But if one has not renounced and not living as a monk one has needs to maintain the Samsaric existence. As a layperson, you need money for thousands of things, pay the bills, get the wood for the fire to cook, pay for children's education, etc etc. Now I understand that core desire like, "I want more money" will lead to suffering, but you need an intention to become prosperous as time passes, i.e. grow in the samsaric world along with a spiritual goal towards Nirvana.

How can one grow without harboring desires? I understand that, the thoughts like, "I want a Ferrari" is a blatant desire, but I do want a decent car to drive few miles to my work. How is this basic necessity dealt with without desiring? How is this situation dealt with in the bounds of Dhamma? I am not talking about attachments to already possessed things, but working towards a prosperous living. After all, Nirvana or not, nobody wants to live in adversity.


2 Answers 2


There are two kinds of right livelihood:

MN117:30.2: Right livelihood is twofold, I say.

One may give up bad deeds for good deeds and prosper:

MN117:30.3: There is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment.
MN117:31.1: And what is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment?
MN117:31.2: It’s when a noble disciple gives up wrong livelihood and earns a living by right livelihood.
MN117:31.3: This is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements.

Even better, one may give up attachments:

MN117:30.4: And there is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.
MN117:32.1: And what is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path?
MN117:32.2: It’s the desisting, abstaining, abstinence, and refraining from wrong livelihood in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path.
MN117:32.3: This is right livelihood that is noble.

The path is gradual and the first step is understanding the nature of good deeds. In other words, let ethics temper the siren call of desire. MN8 provides a list of ethical considerations:

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’
MN8:12.3: ‘Others will kill living creatures, but here we will not kill living creatures.’
MN8:12.4: ‘Others will steal, but here we will not steal.’
MN8:12.5: ‘Others will be unchaste, but here we will not be unchaste.’
MN8:12.6: ‘Others will lie, but here we will not lie.’

For example, buying and driving a Ferrari alongside a hungry person would be cruel. But helping to ease that person's hunger would be kind and it would also be cheaper.

AN10.28:4.5: ‘All sentient beings are sustained by food.’


The ideal is basically to not break the sitting posture until the mind is freed from defilements, that even if one's blood was to dry up.

Most don't have this.

An ordained bhikkhu who accepts vinaya for guide basically set his mind on attainment even at the cost of his life as well.

A monk is not supposed to store up goods and generally not allowed to pick fruit even in famine.

They are not supposed to disrobe if they can't get food, they are suppoded to accept that kammaresult & go without.

The level of virtue, the strength of determination and the purity of intent is more important than days lived and is what makes them a bhikkhu.

Now most monks fall short of this ideal and would disrobe even if there is a lot of food & options due to a lack of attainments.

Then there is the household life. Technically a householder who decides to pursue heightened virtue & ability is called a bhikkhu even if not formally ordained. That is due to the purity of his intent & resolve.

It is noteworthy that Arahants do not store up provisions, bhikkhus are supposed to emulate Arahants.

It then follows that a householder is a bhikkhu in as far as he emulates the Arahants.

An ordained bhikkhu is a bhikkhu by affiliation & on account of the order alone as well as due to maybe having bhikkhu resolve, bhikkhu virtue & bhikkhu ability.

Knowing the ideal one makes adjustments to one's behavior to grow closer to the ideal.

Here's basically what i do..

Start with the easiest things, trifling matters that do not require much of you. This can be as easy as getting some more exercise, cutting some ties, resolving conflicts, diet & whatnot.

Proceed then to confining, moderating & coming to terms with your current conditioning & circumstances.

Here i mean things like how you spend your days & nights, where you live, how you spend vecations, personality traits, habits, guilt, fear, regret, shame, vices & allowances.

Fear & shame is super important to understand & analyze because if one knows that one is slacking and not acting optimally then one will fear the consequences & be rightfully ashamed, one should expect the associated anxiety & heart pulpilation as this is what one is signing up for.

One should also prepare to have sad thoughts like 'when will i enter into some superhuman distinction of the noble ones..'.

Analyzing these one can prepare for future peril & parting with what is dear.

In general tighten up the leaks making vices & relationships orderly & safe for you & others.

This stage is for damage control, relative calm & coming to terms with one's conditioning, which frees up resources to overcome.

At this point one will have done a lot.

Ideally here one moderates sleep, food, sensuality and is often intent on heightened virtue & concentration.

In layman terms this is where one has laid most of the groundwork for having mystical spiritual experiences that alter philosophy & behavior and should exert effort thinking 'I shall come to know the unknown'.

In due time the quality & intensity of the resolve will increase and mind will be inclined to knowing & seeing grand successive distinctions.

A mendicant with defilements ended can’t deliberately take the life of a living creature, take something with the intention to steal, have sex, tell a deliberate lie, or store up goods for their own enjoyment like they did as a lay person. Dn33

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