In Zen

when I first read

the answer is to stop striving

I thought it meant

Stop striving

for Enlightenment

I didn’t realize

It meant everything.

-Dr Lucinda Green


Dear Noble Sangha,

The second Noble Truth is our practice theme for February. The Second Noble Truth is about the cause of suffering: Tanha. Tanha means thirst or craving and is the root of suffering. Tanha is the desire to hold onto pleasant experiences and to avoid unpleasant experiences. In regards to Tanha and neutral experiences, at least in my experience, sometimes Tanha craves them and sometimes Tanha wishes to replace them with something more interesting. We could simply say:

Tanha is craving for things to be other than they are.

There are three types of Tanha that the Buddha identified:

1) Sense-craving (kamma-tanha)

2) Craving to be (bhava-tanaha)

3) Craving not to be (vibhava-tanha)

Sense craving is often called sensuality and refers to craving for worldly and sensory pleasures. This could be craving for physical sensations like the taste of chocolate or more subtle experiences like worldly wealth and power. The craving to be is our ego-clinging: we crave to exist as separate, independent, permanent entities (even though no such thing exists). Our ego craves to become something, to establish its kingdom, and to protect its acquisitions. Craving not to be is the thirst for escaping life, escaping experiences we don’t like, and even escaping existence completely. This is the yearning to not experience something, with the extreme being the desire to be dead or nonexistent.

How do we work with our craving? As always in practice, we begin by noticing it. We look directly at Tanha and see it for what it is: This is Tanha. This is thirst. This is craving. We look at it and get to know it. What causes Tanha to arise? When is it strongest? What is its root? Once we have seen Tanha with mindfulness we can apply an element of the path. We can remember any one of the 3 marks of conditioned existence: dukkha, impermanence, or no-self. We can summon some metta for ourselves and for the suffering Tanha creates for us. We can cultivate calm by just coming to the breath and not reacting to Tanha.

All of these techniques, the entire Buddhist path, come down to this essential teaching in Dr. Green’s words:

Drop the wanting.

We invite you to notice Tanha in your life and to do your best to “Drop the wanting.”


Ben Mikolaj