Habits of Becoming

Ajahn Amaro

Habits of Becoming

There is a contrast between the mind caught in the habits of becoming, and the quality of right practice, in which we learn how to work towards realization without creating more confusion.

The English word ‘becoming’ is a translation of the Pali word ‘bhava’, which is sometimes translated as ‘being’ or ‘existence’…but I prefer the translation ‘becoming’ because it conveys the quality of momentum. There’s an implication of movement towards a particular goal or a movement in a direction.

Luang Por Sumedho would avoid talking about any kind of attainments or levels of concentration; he would refrain from talking about reaching jhāna or being concentrated or attaining levels of enlightenment, because of the danger in that kind of terminology. It very easily ensnares the heart in the habit of becoming, in trying to get something or somewhere and thereby creating more confusion.

In the second of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha defined the cause of dukkha (dissatisfaction) as being tanhā (craving, desire). Mostly we assume this means desire for sense pleasure, desire for nice, pleasant things, desire for enjoyable experiences (kāma-tanhā); but in the very first discourse that he gave on this theme (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel), together with the desire for sense pleasure, the Buddha also lists bhava-tanhā and vibhava-tanhā – the desire to become, and the desire to get rid of.

Kama-tanhā, the desire for sense pleasure, that self-centred craving, is the one which gets most press, which is talked about most often, and of which we think as being the cause of dukkha. I feel extremely grateful for Luang Por Sumedho’s teaching because he would point out that in terms of meditation, the real obstructions or difficulties don’t so much come from the desire for sense pleasure as from the more subtle obstructions, the quiet partners, the outriders: bhava-tanhā and vibhava-tanhā. They are the real troublemakers because they can be disguised as good practice, right practice.

This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, The Breakthrough, (pdf) pp. 110-111.