Isn’t trying to reach enlightenment a form of desire? Wouldn’t it therefore contradict the second Noble Truth, and trying to reach it bring suffering?
Just to to refresh everyone’s memories, the second Noble Truth says that, “suffering is caused by attachment to desire.” It is also sometimes expanded to include irrational desire or grasping.
The problem isn’t exactly desire, it’s the attachment to desires. I want a new car, but I’m not going to get one anytime soon, and I accept that; no problem. The problem comes in if I get attached to that desire and become jealous of others who have a new car. Or go out and steal the car or steal the money to buy a car. Or cheat on my taxes in order to be able to buy that car. Those are all obvious problems due to my desire for the new car. But there is more to it that this; actually all those problems are more related to breaking precepts than anything else, the real problem is internal.
Greed. Jealousy. Lust.
Overly strong desires alone can cause damage. They steal time from your own concentration. It’s a distraction, it’s a mental nagging that wears down on you. It’s basic human nature to want things you cannot have. Ask any rich person, and they’ll tell you they still have desires. Desire is a bottomless pit than can never be filled. It doesn’t have to be a desire for things either, since you can desire people, situations, and actions as well. The bottom line is that too strong of a desire crosses a line.
But we all have desires, every one of us. We desire to sleep at night, we desire to eat when we’re hungry, we desire new clothes when the old ones wear out, and so forth. There is nothing wrong with wanting things and desiring things. The problem begins when those desires become irrational or overpowering. We become attached to desires and we grasp at them irrationally.
If you want to become enlightened, that’s fine. Buddha wanted it too; that’s why he spent so many years working towards that goal. But if you become infatuated with the idea of becoming enlightened to the point where you start ruining your life, turning away friends, not eating, losing your job, etc., then you are too strongly attached to the idea.
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