Why do we get so wrapped up in the five khandhas – in our thoughts, emotions, passions, relationships, bodies and all the rest of it? When we seek to maximize pleasant experiences and minimize unpleasant experiences we become enmeshed in our desires. And our desires are focused on the khandhas. This is the magnetic attraction that conditions attachment.
If we refer to the Four Noble Truths, then in the Second Truth we have the cause of suffering as attachment to craving. The Third Noble Truth is that the end of suffering is the abandonment of craving. Craving is concerned with trying to get these khandhas happy or pleasant or nice or comfortable or good – or whatever. Craving is this energy that is always going out from the heart, out from the mind, trying to reorganize something or get rid of something or figure something out or own something.
Craving can be future-oriented – trying to become successful, powerful, thin, or beautiful; dreaming about being with the perfect partner; worrying about losing your job; and so on. It can be fixed on the past, replaying a painful incident over and over again, stirring up old hurts with resentment and revenge, or dwelling on nostalgic replays of the good old days. It can be violent or it can be petty. It takes many shapes and forms, but its hallmark is a lack of peace.
If our attention is taken up with this energy of dissatisfaction, we are not available for spiritual inquiry. This is the struggle with craving that focuses on the khandhas; this is preoccupation with the khandhas.
This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, Stillness of Being, (pdf) pp. 35-36.