What is Craving?
Craving is like a thirst, yearning or longing for something outside of you to satisfy you.
The Drawbacks and Limitations of getting Sense Pleasures through Craving
The problem is this is that if it’s something external to you, you have to go get it. And whatever you get, eventually you have to unget – so whatever you get externally is impermanent and can’t permanently satisfy you.
So when you get something from outside and you love it – eventually it changes to become otherwise – your mind will be beset with worry that what you loved so much before is not so nice or pleasurable anymore. And if you keep clinging to it while it changes, decays and disintegrates before your eyes, you’re setting yourself up for suffering – like sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
The 3 Types of Craving
There are 3 types of craving/tanha:
– Bhava tanha – craving to get, craving for becoming
– Vibhava tanha – craving to get rid of, craving to annihilate
– Kama tanha – craving for sense pleasure – pleasures of the senses.
Craving to Get – Bhava tanha
You can consider it like this:
– You crave to enjoy the pleasures of the sense world – so that you are born into the world of the senses to enjoy it.
– But whatever is born will arise, reach the peak of sense pleasure – so you’re happy until then.
– But once it reaches its peak, it will surely turn downwards and start to decay and disintegrate
– Eventually, it will die off.
This is the pattern of impermanence that you can see in all conditioned, compounded things (i.e., things that are born, things that are created, things that are formed). It does NOT apply to things which are unconditioned though – this is an extremely important distinction to understand.
So back to craving for sense pleasure – you get attached to this on the up phase but on the down phase, if you’re still attached to it, you suffer because you want something that impermanent (changes) to permanently satisfy you. You want the sense world to to be something that it is not.
Craving to get rid of – Vibhava Tanha
Now the craving to get rid of or the craving to annihilate is like attachment to destruction. So the world you live in is not so nice, so you want to get rid of it or destroy it because you don’t want to face it. Trying to inflict self harm is an example of this.
Problem is you think that you are getting rid of suffering by trying to destroy yourself or inflict harm of yourself, but it actually makes it worse and causes further suffering.
The reason why we crave to annihilate because we think that the pain that we experience is permanent. So we’re undergoing some sort of pain and suffering – and you think it’s going to last forever and you can’t see a way out of it. But pain too is impermanent.
So can you see how suffering comes from taking what’s impermanent to be permanent in these 2 ways:
1. Taking impermanent sense pleasures – to permanently satisfy you
2. Taking impermanent sense dis-pleasure – to be permanent suffering
Suffering also comes if you take what’s permanent to be impermanent (but that’s another story).
So the 1st Noble Truth is with its 3 aspect to reflect on is:
- There is suffering.
- It should be penetrated and understood.
- Suffering has been understood.
The 2nd Noble Truth with its 3 aspects to reflect on is:
- Suffering arises from craving.
- Craving should be let go of, abandoned.
- Craving has been let go of, craving has been abandoned.