The Zennist

Overcoming desire

The notion of desire is difficult to put in to meaningful words.  It can only be understood in a kind of haphazard way.  In Buddhism it is a mistake to understand desire as anything more than a preference for the conditioned.  One ,for example, cannot desire enlightenment because enlightenment is unconditioned.  It is beyond all expectations.

Overcoming desire by the sheer force of will is next to impossible. The very human body is constructed for the purpose of desire and to consummate that desire through procreation.  But from a Buddhist perspective desire can be transcended.  But this radically entails awakening to what is beyond desire, this being nirvana, or the same, the absolute which is unconditioned.

To pause and think about this, desire cannot be stopped except through transcendence.  The path of transcendence is to be found in Buddhism.  Here one must first awaken to their true nature or essence which transcends all conditionality (enlightenment is beyond all expectations, all things human, and conditioned).

None of this is meant to suggest that resisting desire or going along with desire are the same as transcendence.  We can only transcend desire when we see through it.  And what makes us able to see through it is the fact that we see, directly, the unconditioned which is desireless.

Those who have been taking the path of Zen (dhyāna) for a long time come to realize that the path is one of learning to let go of expectations about what the unconditioned is.  The adept goes to the end of their wits.  A desirelessness overtakes them.  But woe unto those who have put all of Zen’s path into their imagination.  They will never come to illumination.

The Zennist

Author of The Zennist blog since 2007.