ADVANCED TEACHING: Live Without Desire

All phenomena, the Buddha once said, are rooted in desire. Everything we think, say, or do — every experience — comes from desire. Even we come from desire. We were reborn into this life because of our desire to be. Consciously or not, our desires keep redefining our sense of who we are.

Thanisarro Bhikkhu

First, look at your mind – and study it. It is exquisite in telling you where the clouds and dust are. It uses discomfort and comfort to alert you. Where feeling arises, desire hides.

You must be willing to go beyond your old stories – those tales about yourself that you put together. Those constructions you take for granted as ‘you.’ You think those old stories are you – even those little momentary constructions of wanting something to go your way. All those stories you collected you rely on.

The mind is constantly getting a mixed message – of discomfort and comfort. When comfort boils over you get excited, thrilled and exuberant; when discomfort boils over you get hesitant and search for a fix. These two sensations are heavenly messengers. They signal, like clouds excitement of comfort and excitement of discomfort. It forecasts conflict and tells you desire is at the root of it.

The root is desire. Desire to get something or desire to get rid of something. Wanting and not wanting. Both cause vexation. Find the root desire and let it dissolve. Let the desire wind down and disappear.

Start small. Watch for desire. When you spot it don’t resist it or activate it. See it. Stay still. Let the desire dissolve. Everything is in flux, even desire. Let the natural fluctuations of change  carry the desire away. Don’t be carried away by desire.

Desire for anything stirs up the mind. We go after something on the wing of desire. We get away from something on the run. Let desire fly away. Let desire run through the mind.

I know. You think and even believe you need desire to live. You’re probably saying there is good desire and bad desire. Or perhaps telling yourself you need just a little desire otherwise  — otherwise nothing will happen. You might even die. You believe this story because you’ve been hoodwinked. You’re not alone. Most people believe you need desire. Ask yourself — what if I didn’t need desire? What if I tried to live without it for one day and see what happens. Maybe I don’t need desire. Find out.

If you think about it, wasn’t desire the whole problem in the Garden of Eden? Isn’t desire the whole problem today?

Both then and now we are taken in by desire. Here’s how it traps you. Desire arises. Fabrications in the mind follow. You begin to build a story of how to get what you want or get away from what you don’t want. The story brings the winds, the eight worldly winds: gain&loss, pleasure&pain, praise&blame, fame&disrepute. Of course we tend to focus only on one side telling ourselves that we can minimize the damage and get our reward by fulfilling our desire.

Try something else. Focus on the nature of consciousness when rapt in desire, fabrications and the eight winds. The dust is blown around with fighting, the clouds of conflict descend and rough roads appear. Impulses wreak havoc. All because you think and believe desire is real and solid and a necessity.

This is the way of the world.

The Divine work is different. When desire arises we know it is not real or solid. We see it for what it is. A figment of our imagination. OH, I know you’re going to start asking a what about question. What about desire for God. Don’t get hoodwinked by that either. That leads to lots and lots of fabrications and stories about what Divine work is and how to get a thing you call God or Peace or Liberation.

Sorry, there is a but…..
The “but” is that unless you are doing the Divine work you are full of desire….so it seems that the prudent thing is to change one of those desires into a ‘desire for the divine work.’ WRONG! Just jump in and work with all desire as unreal without even deciding whether to do Divine work or not. Just jump in. Turn away from the jumpy desire in the mind. Look at your mind. Study it in such a way you are able to spot desire rise and let it fly away.

Stay silent. Sit still. Listen. Study the mind. Watch for desire to pop in. Let it fade off. Let desire dissolve. Let it wind down. Rely on the fluctuations that are a natural, ever-present power to carry the desires away.

I bow to the Divine teacher. I offer gratitude for the teachings.
May the merit of this teaching benefit all beings in the ten directions.
Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

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To What….Do You Ascribe Things? by Fashi Lao Yue

Old Moon by Yao Xiang Shakya


When something goes your way, do you ascribe it to your skills….to luck….to good fortune? When something turns sour, do you ascribe it to your childhood….to misfortune….to bad luck?

In any situation we tend to ascribe things to a source which is often something about our small self or some aspect of the material realm. Once we find the culprit we make some vow. When we make an error, for example, we vow never to do it that way again. This approach is common and workable on the material level, but most spiritual seekers recognize it as coming from a dualistic, functional understanding of life. And it tends towards blaming and shaming either the self or the other when something goes awry or boasting and tooting one’s own horn when things go well. Neither of which is recommended on a spiritual path.

Spiritual practice is daily practice with pots and pans, sheets and pillows, toothpaste and brush, with traffic and travel, with making a mess and cleaning up, with getting up and sitting down, with walking and talking, with changing diapers and putting on a coat, with sweeping and mopping, with paying bills and mailing them, with eating and sleeping, with laughing and crying, with giving and receiving, with asking and responding….and on and on practice goes.

And what makes it spiritual? Knowing that nothing is left out of practice, that nothing in the world is without Buddha nature (God, Brahma, G-D, the source of all things, the god with no name and form). It is not a belief, it is a practice with all things knowing not to pick and choose, love and hate. Spiritual seekers know practice with full attention to each thing we meet is the Way; without letting our attitude be influenced by our ego which wants to stamp things with some measurement of quality, i.e., bad, poor, fair, good, better, great. It is to treat things, whatever they are, as coming from the whole (holy). Nothing is left out. Nothing is hidden.

It is simple but it requires effort and determination to pay attention. Many times when students came here to sit, they kicked and threw the meditation cushions around. When instructed not to do so, they often got angry or felt put out or argued. All their backtalk showed was they needed to train to give their full attention to everything that came into their life. To do so requires effort and determination.

When we ascribe things to the Way, we are more likely to give full attention to it, and to actualize the Way Seeking mind right where we are. We can call the practice love or emptiness, but what matters is not the name or form, but that we no longer ascribe things to the self or to the other.

In the case of kicking and throwing cushions, the student often ascribed things as a personal affront or unnecessary. Again all this backtalk showed was the student needed training to relinquish the mind that takes things personally or feels put upon or wants things their own way and not the Way of a spiritual seeker.

Practice requires we meet what comes into our life without the ascribed self that takes credit or gives blame.
The material world is a world of measuring between all the opposites; it is a split view of the world. When we split the world we remove heaven from earth or the other way round, earth from heaven.

Our third Chan patriarch, Seng Ts’an in his poem Faith in Mind says it clearly….

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
Everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

He goes on to say….

If you wish to see the truth,
Then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
Is the disease of the mind.

All his wisdom takes us back to practice. Practice without love or hate, without picking and choosing, knowing everything is Buddha (God, G-d, undying, without name and form). Give full attention to all the work of your life right where you are.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
Nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such erroneous views
Will disappear by themselves.

Nothing is hidden from practice.