Need vs. Desire

We can shed a little light on [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] by considering the smell of our own ___(you fill in the blank)____ with the smell of another's ____________. We don't mind the smell of our own so much... may even 'enjoy it', but often recoil at the smell of another's ________ - "Pee-U!" In fact, there is little to no difference. Our perceptions make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why? I suspect most of this is driven by social (tribal) instinct - no different than what we see in dogs, rats and even ants. Humbling, eh? :oops:

The same subjective illusion of difference kicks in when we compare people, cultures, clothes, music, politics,... you name it. Sure, we can 'feel' huge differences, but this actually - and only - amounts to a reflection - a symptom - of what is emotionally important to us. The emotional content of our observations only reflects our emotional state - needs and fears - not the 'thing' being judged. Of course, our emotional state blinds us to seeing our 'personal stake' in such matters. We [chref=71]think that we know[/chref] we are seeing things as they truly are!

Those, for whom this make sense, at least see the [chref=6]the gateway[/chref], and getting to know [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] is within reach. Maybe [chref=40]turning back[/chref] a little bit more might help?


  • edited December 1969
    Need vs. Desire
    [cite] mikequinn:[/cite]Are you suggesting that the desire is a derivative of some intellectual process?

    I've often heard people draw a distinction between desire and need. The latter being somehow more morally justifiable. But, judgements of justifiableness are relative, i.e., in the eye of the beholder. So, what is the distinction, if any?

    I see desire as the intellectual 'persona' of need. Buddha's Noble Truths certainly pertain to this. First, we have "the cause of suffering is desire, with the illusion of Self originating and manifesting itself in a cleaving*** to things". Next comes the idea of eliminating suffering by "extinguishing Self such that the flames of desire find no material upon which to feed".

    I suspect this visceral need to "cleave to things" is driven by the [chref=25]void[/chref] our mind experiences. Holding on to stuff - material, intellectual, sensual, political, spiritual, etc. - fills up the [chref=16]emptiness[/chref], giving us the illusion of 'solid ground'. We accumulate this 'solid ground' from birth onward, and by the time we reach 'adulthood' we are fully 'responsible and free-willed' Selves, i.e., the shear mass of our 'solid ground' produces an illusion of Self. Simply put, our innate animal 'self' awareness combined with that 'stuff' upon which we 'cleave' results in Self Awareness. Our 'stuff' feels real, especially after we give it [chref=32]names[/chref]. Our trust in that which [chref=1]can be named[/chref] leads naturally to our trust in a Self. Then I guess it becomes a vicious circle: We trust Self - Self holds on - holding on reenforces Self.

    To summarize: We have a Self (the illusion of), caused and maintained by "a cleaving to things", which is driven by a visceral need. Desire is simply the Self Awareness side of the process of need and "cleaving".[chref=1] Ridding yourself of desires or to allowing yourself to have desires[/chref] from this primal perspective is a bit nonsensical. Desire, and the accompanying illusion of Self, are just the tip of the iceberg of being - human being. [chref=64]Therefore the sage desires not to desire[/chref] is a nice idea, but it doesn't work until we feel a visceral need "not to desire".

    Fortunately, we Taoists can always fall back on [chref=43]the teaching that uses no words[/chref]. And if that doesn't work, we can always [chref=19]exhibit the unadorned[/chref] and [chref=37]should desire raise its head, we can just press it down with the weight of the nameless uncarved block.[/chref]...:lol:

    *** cleave >v. (cleave to) poetic/literary 1 stick fast to. 2 become strongly involved with or emotionally attached to
  • edited December 1969
    Well, if no one is going to add to this topic, I'll just post some more on the subject. :) :wink:

    Dealing with Desire
    Desire is the whipping boy of religion. I find it more useful to see the whole human situation in the context of nature, especially the fact that we are animals - essentially no different that any other. Our species-centric perspective tells us otherwise of course, but this is no more helpful to self understanding than one's ego-centric perspective. So, with that in mind, lets examine desire...

    Need is the emotional fire of motivation that drives all life to act - all life, from a virus to a plant to a human. Desire is the intellectual 'warming' effect it has on our big brain's mind. Desire is like the shadow cast on a wall from the sun in the sky. Without the sun, there is no shadow. Without need there is no desire.

    Now that we got that straight, where do we go from here? I find is very useful to realize that 'everything' happens down at the emotion level, deeper than thought can reach. In fact thought, and the words which make it up, depend on emotional context to give meaning. 'Words' without an emotional anchor are gibberish. You can verify this fact if you closely notice what occurs in your mind as you learn a foreign language. Fluency follows emotional context. Until that occurs you must translate the foreign words to your native tongue to feel meaning.

    Now, this make our experience of life a bit odd... even off kilter. We think we are conscious and know what we know, but in truth, our [chref=10]knowing[/chref] is as [chref=15]murky as muddy water[/chref]. Life's solid ground rests in emotion. Thus, despite our ability to understand and know something rationally, we are incapable of 'being that' until 'it' becomes anchored in emotion - need. Like they say, words are cheap.

    Thus, though we know and rationally accept something as so, we must await [chref=65]complete conformity[/chref], emotionally speaking. And that is where courage come into play. The buck stops with the 'heart'. As long as we avoid facing this, we go 'round and round' in thought... passing the buck and hiding in our hypocrisy.

    How do we 'develop' courage? That's the $1,000,000 question. Generally, I've found that a long term attempt to do that in which I lack talent or interest, but know through reason to be 'good' for me, gives me an opportunity to deal with this issue directly. The lack of talent and interest is a crucial part of this because it offers us the opportunity to discover 'heart' - our courage. This can be lost in the pursuit to that which we are drawn, and in fact, often becomes our [chref=53]by-paths[/chref]. Nuts! But, what a superb example of Natural justice... 8)

    For example, not being an athletic person, Yoga has been a helpful path for me to find 'heart'. However, if I would have been innately inclined to athletic activity, it would not have served me in this way... even though such talent could has helped me become a 'master' of yoga. One the other hand, I'm drawn to pondering and commenting on this 'stuff of life', so I best watch out, least it becomes my by-path. Mmmm... :oops:

    I think of life as a chain of 'things'. The integrity of the whole depends on the weakest link. In life, there is a great temptation to strengthen our strengths and hide our 'weaknesses'. Why?... probably the tribal instinct. We laud people's strengths and gossip about and ridicule their weaknesses. Biology has its own agenda, eh? :yy:
  • edited December 1969
    I can only reply to a piece of this.

    First, coincidently, I got a quote in my mail today: " If you lived in your heart, you'd be home by now." - Source Unknown

    Good one. But the question is how to live in your heart.

    You said "need is the emotional fire of motivation". I never thought of need as an emotion. I might get emotional about a need, but need an emotion? I don't think so. When I'm very thirsty, it's a deep craving and it's certainly motivating and if I can't get something to drink I might get very upset, but I don't experience thirst as emotion directly.

    One more thing: the Buddha said the answer is "extinguishing Self such that the flames of desire find no material upon which to feed". Can you say something about that? That seems the key issue here. After we understand need and clinging and how that defines the self and how that leads to suffering....then what?

  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Lynn Cornish:[/cite]1)....You said "need is the emotional fire of motivation". I never thought of need as an emotion. I might get emotional about a need, but need an emotion? I don't think so...

    2) ....then what?

    First, isn't this process neat; it gives new meaning to the saying 'think before you speak'. So, I let my thoughts ferment over night. Now here goes...

    1) What's emotion? Let's check the dictionary:

    Emotion >n. a strong feeling, such as joy, anger, or sadness. ->instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. -ORIGIN: from Fr. ?motion, from ?mouvoir 'excite', based on L. emovere, from e- 'out' + movere 'move'.

    I bolded some key aspects of how I use of the word. Now, just for fun, take any emotion you have ever felt, and think of it as a symptom of something deeper. By doing this, you're likely to look deeper for its 'cause'. Eventually you'll find that this emotion is being 'moved' by a need. Looking still deeper, you'll find that this need is driven - 'excited' - by fear. Looking still deeper, you'll find that fear is 'moved' by weakness. And that [chref=40]weakness is the means the way employs.[/chref]

    This takes us back to the beginning of this discussion, 'Need vs. Desire'. Are they essentially the same? Attraction and aversion; need and fear; push and pull; or whatever we call 'it', 'it' gives emotion life. 'It' is what joy and sorrow have in common, and indeed, what [chref=2]Something and Nothing[/chref] have in common.

    2) For me, a crucial step in the question "then what?" is knowing the dynamics of Nature. I've found that consolidating my perceptions, i.e., looking for the [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] rather than splitting hairs, helps greatly. Boiling 'it' all down to need and fear, for example, simplifies self understanding and self honesty. And this simplifies knowing what's going on in general. And, when I [chref=47]know[/chref] what's going on, "then what? " really seems to take care of itself [chref=25]naturally[/chref]... thankfully.

    Ok... But 'knowing' doesn't mean [chref=71]thinking[/chref]. This, in the end doesn't work. That is where Buddha's Fourth Noble Truth is profoundly helpful. I touched on this aspect of "then what" at the end of my post Dealing with Desire just above.
  • edited December 1969
    [cite] Lynn Cornish:[/cite]... the Buddha said the answer is "extinguishing Self such that the flames of desire find no material upon which to feed". Can you say something about that?

    Extinguish Self? This comes off sounding a little like that "just say No", doesn't it? The first step is knowing the landscape of the 'problem', which here Buddha says is Self. What is that Self we are called upon to extinguish? In the Buddhist sense of the word, it is the shadow we 'see' produced by the energy we expend holding on to stuff - things and thoughts. The things and thoughts are the Self; the Self is the reflection of the things and thoughts on which we cleave and cling.

    The more firmly we hold on, the more solid and real the Self feels. Why do we hold on so tightly to our 'stuff'? Fear of vanishing in the void, fear of [chref=5]silence[/chref], fear of [chref=16]stillness[/chref]... death. Biology tells us this holding on works, and it does a 'bit' - at least for the 'moment'. Yet, it doesn't, for [chref=4]emptiness [/chref] inhabits the 'moment'. Nevertheless, we hold on, for letting go is the only alternative, and to let go is to fall into 'it'. 'It' being the very thing we're afraid of - the void, silence, stillness,... death. The more energy we put into holding on, the more we feel it works, which leads us to hold on all the more - a vicious circle.

    When our trust in the stuff (and its ability to safeguard us from stillness) [chref=6]dies[/chref], the Self dies with it. Trust alone keeps the illusion of Self afloat. How do we extinguish Self then becomes this simple question: how do we loose trust in the stuff - the things, the thoughts? Think about a personal experience when you lost trust in something - some belief, someone, etc., and see if you can find any clues. It is not something we can do, nor cease doing, e.g., 'just say no' or 'extinguish Self'. It has to do with where our 'heart' is - our approach*** to life rather than our accomplishments in life. It is as [chref=64]easy[/chref] as breathing, it is as difficult as being [chref=37]still[/chref].

    We are given to rationalizing (thinking) our way around the issues that 'bug us' throughout life (what with our big brain and all). But, this is all in vain. The 'bugs' of life only resolve themselves down at the emotional level - at the 'heart' - on the [chref=5]ruthless[/chref] path of self honesty... 'Tao Te', (or in pinyin, 'Dao De')

    Pondering the definitions of the three words, Tao Te Ching, (i.e., Dao De Jing) is a helpful clue to what Taoism is about... so here they are: Dao = road, way, path, principle, speak, think, suppose; De = virtue, integrity, heart, mind; Jing = pass through, bear, endure.

    *** Buddha's Fourth Noble Truth puts it in a nutshell.
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