We go through life propelled by our desires.
Sometimes we get what we want and we’re satisfied for a while, and then we’re not so satisfied, so we generate more desires. We take it for granted that that’s simply the way things have to be.
Some of us think that, well, maybe if we get a lot of things, they’ll make up for the lack of other things. So people amass things—amass power, amass wealth—thinking that a little wealth didn’t satisfy but maybe a lot of wealth will; or a few things didn’t satisfy but maybe a lot will; or one partner didn’t satisfy so maybe a lot of partners will.
But that wasn’t the Buddha’s approach. He wanted to find something that left no need for further desire. But then he also discovered that he really had to desire it to find it.
There’s a passage where, after he gained his awakening, he said, “All things are rooted in desire.” “Thing”: The word here is dhammas, and that can mean both good and bad phenomena. Everything you experience, he said, is rooted in desire someplace. After all, when you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think about things, you’re not simply a passive recipient. You’re out there looking for things to sense, looking for pleasures, looking for some satisfaction. That active side is rooted in desire.
But then nibbana, the Buddha said, is the ending of all dhammas. It’s the one thing that’s not rooted in desire. But to get there requires desire.
This is why desire is one of the bases for success.
This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Dhamma Talks book, Bases for Success : Six Dhamma Talks on the Four Iddhipādas, “Generating Desire.”