“It’s a series of events – we desire something – we want it – (craving) – we get it and treasure it and don’t want to let it go because it makes us feel good (clinging) – and there is a birth of attachment which becomes a part of who we are (becoming). It works the same the other way too – unpleasant feeling results in not wanting followed by pushing away. This chain of events, according to Buddhist teachings, is called “dependent origination”. It shows how nothing is independently produced. This series is happening so fast we don’t even notice it. Yet, it’s the driving force by which we live.”
I was doing some reading and studying in some of my texts and articles relating to and I found myself stuck once again on the topic of “Dependent Origination”. I wrote about this topic here once before, and I think I was just as confused about it then as I was during my study. I felt like I understood it, but my “wisdom meter” disagreed with me. So, I decided to really dig in and see if I could write something that would make sense to me – and to you. Here’s hoping!
About a week ago, I went on the Internet and bought a few books, a warm pair of slippers to wear around here and paid for a renewal of a domain name. The same day I also got an email with a new quote from the Buddha. One of the items I ask Google to search for and send me are articles written about Buddhism. I got one that same day about karma. The email told me about how actions always have results. You’ve probably heard it too – “If I plant a plum seed, I will get a plum tree. If I practice greed I will be more greedy. If I practice compassion, I will be more compassionate.” Buddhism 101, right?
The Buddhist teachings talk about this all the time. We come upon something we like – something we desire. This object gives us a pleasant feeling in our minds and our bodies. We associate this good feeling directly with the object. It really feels good! We come to realize that in order to keep this feeling going, we have to get the object. We cling to the feeling – then we cling to the object and the next thing you know, we give birth to an attachment. This has now become a part of our self.
It’s a series of events – we desire something – we want it – (craving) – we get it and treasure it and don’t want to let it go because it makes us feel good (clinging) – and there is a birth of attachment which becomes a part of who we are (becoming). It works the same the other way too – unpleasant feeling results in not wanting followed by pushing away. This chain of events, according to Buddhist teachings, is called “dependent origination”. It shows how nothing is independently produced. This series is happening so fast we don’t even notice it. Yet, it’s the driving force by which we live.
We’ve taught ourselves – and others have been helping with this teaching since the day we were born – that to avoid suffering, we have to get what we want or stay away from what we don’t want. However, isn’t it interesting that as we follow this cycle over and over we continue to suffer? It’s as though we don’t have any control, even though we read in our studies of Buddhist teaching how it’s all this craving and clinging which is causing us to not find peace and happiness.
Is there a way to break free of this endless cycle or are we locked into what we’ve been taught all or lives?
There is an answer. It’s called mindful awareness. As you know, mindfulness is the part of your mind that knows exactly where you are and what you’re doing in each moment. With mindfulness our mind is connected to the moment. It’s this power which can break through the automatic response to the desires and the clinging. Here’s an example:
Man, I really do want that latest iPad when it’s released. (I really don’t, but it’s just what popped into my mind as I write this.) I can feel the desire coursing through my body. I just think about it and my heart sort of flutters and I have this aching in my gut. That new iPad is so perfect for answering all my current techie needs.
But, wait a moment. Let me truly look at all these emotions I’m feeling right now. Are they really needs or are they just thoughts and sensations. When I put the brakes on and take a moment to check out what’s really going on in my mind, I can see it’s not a need – it’s just me falling into the same old trap of thinking I want something I don’t truly need. I’m just buying into all the hype and it’s making me think irrationally. It’s only me and my thoughts, nothing else.
Buddha’s teaching makes it clear that it is painful to want. If we can let wanting go, we get rid of the pain. When we get what we want it’s only a temporary fix. It doesn’t take long before we want some more. Buddhist wisdom teaches that desires don’t have to be fulfilled to make them go away. If we stop and look at the thought of desire, we can see it is just a thought – we can catch the want before it turns into a big-ole desire. We just have to catch our self in the midst of wanting and let it go. Break the cycle.
Of course, we need to have the time to be mindful, don’t we? If we’re so busy we don’t have time to think, then what do we do? This gets to be a real problem with the Internet. The time between seeing the slippers I talked about above and imagining how great they would make my feet feel, (my feet seem to always be cold!), seeing the link to place the order, and ordering them, was almost instantaneous. Gone were the days when you would see the item in the paper, then get a friend to go downtown with you, take the bus or the car and drive to the store, and after some parking or some lengthy walks, you might eventually get to the point of purchase. Plenty of time to “rethink” this “desire”.
What is happening now, though? Dependent Origination has been put on the fast track, hasn’t it? Where is the time to squeeze in a little mindfulness? Now we can fill our desires with a click of a mouse. You can see it in the youth today – they are living in a culture where they can get whatever they want whenever they want it. Where are the moments to break the cycle?
Scary! We have become slaves to the sped up dependent origination cycle. The objects of desire are endless and we can get them instantly.
Not a happy ending to this one without something changing.
Metta ….May I be well and happy. My I live in safety. May I be healthy and strong. May I live with ease. May all beings be well and happy. May all beings live in safety. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with ease.
Namaste — Be in Peace.
Stephanie Kaza — Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
Stephanie Kaza, an amazing writer and Buddhist teacher I knew from my 36 years living in Vermont, gathers key Buddhist thinkers to reflect upon aspects of consumerism, greed and economics. Certainly, many other authors have examined consumerism from the lens of their religious traditions, but this book’s Buddhist perspective is unusual, and its pairing of consumerist critiques with core Buddhist concepts is generally fruitful. Check this one out! Hooked!
Stephanie Kaza — Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking
Another one from my Vermont friend — Stephanie Kaza, a biologist and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Vermont, combines Zen Buddhist practices and teachings with her 40 years as an environmentalist for this guide to enlightened environmentalism, proposing a belief in the interdependence of people and nature as the genuine way to “go green”: “When we come to see ourselves as part of the green web of life… we are naturally drawn to respond with compassion.” A good read for Buddhists or anyone from any religion. Mindfully Green
Anam Thubten — No Self – No Problem
No Self – No Problem
shows how to realize the ultimate meaning of life in each moment by dissolving all notions of ego-identity. It asks that spiritual seekers wake up to their true nature, which is already enlightened. Based on Buddhist wisdom traditions, this easy-to-read book discusses in simple, but profound and inspiring language, how we can live a life full of love, satisfaction, and happiness. No Self – No Problem
Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook
“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that. — From The Kindness Handbook
Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, A New Earth
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, My Stroke of Insight: Nirvana is just a breath away!
And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.
This is a new one for you by Pema Chodron entitled: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
Have a peaceful day!! —
P.S. If you’d like to read my memoir/novel, you can access it here: