Friday, January 18, 2008


Trishna: a Buddhist concept similar to desire. The word is the root word of the English word "thirst," but it's meaning is here is wider. Trishna is the desire for things to be a certain way, a desire that is easily disappointed when reality turns out to be different than what you wanted. In this sense, it is not just desire but also aversion, since aversion is just desiring something to go away.

The Buddha's admonition to rid ourselves of desire is seen by many people as an austere rejection of pleasure. What motivation do we have for living if we are not to desire? I think this misunderstanding comes from taking the word "desire" too literally. Of course you must desire to be free from suffering to even start to learn about Buddhism.

The kind of desire we must investigate is the desire to reject reality. We look around us and categorize the world into:
  1. Stuff I like (the good)
  2. Stuff I don't like (the bad)
  3. Stuff I don't care about (the neutral)
When someone criticizes me, I don't like it. That is "aversion." When I'm disappointed with reality, I'm rejecting reality. When someone tells me how smart I am, I like it. "Attachment" or "desire." (Remember that these words are just approximate translations of what the Buddha meant.) How is this rejection of reality? I am smart, of course, and that person did tell the truth. Well, imagine once the person changes her mind. Or if someone else calls you an idiot. Suddenly you are disappointed with reality, rejecting reality. And believe me, for every person who praises you, there will be at least one person who will look down on you. So within each desire is a hidden aversion to reality. Reality will be what it is, but our ideas of what it should be and shouldn't be get in the way of our happiness.

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