The Second Noble Truth: Insight 1 There is Origination of Suffering

Dancing with Life (DWL) (pp. 74-93)

The Second Noble Truth of Suffering

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.”  (trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

With the insights of the First Noble Truth, there is suffering, we developed “the ability to stay present with life just as it is.” (DWL p. 75).  With the Second Noble Truth, we learn the origination (cause) of suffering and what we can experience when we let go of the cause.

The Second Noble Truth goes deeper as it gets more specific about the process of suffering.  To use a medical metaphor, the First Noble Truth identified the condition (disease).  While many diseases can be treated without knowing the cause, the Buddha is telling us that knowing the specific cause can lead to a more specific treatment.

The First Insight:  There is Origination of Suffering Which is the Attachment to Desire.

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress” (trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

Desires arise all of the time in our mind.  Desires are “energetic states felt in your body and mind that arise from pleasant and unpleasant feelings.  Desires are the result of our sense bases (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind coming into contact with a sense object.  Once in contact, the desire can arouse clinging, the wish to obtain more pleasure or to get rid of something unpleasant.  As the feeling gets more intense, the clinging can change to craving.

When you crave something, either to have or keep it or to make it go away, you are expecting a specific outcome to occur in the future. Rather than be in the moment, you are in the future.  When you don’t get that outcome (what you want), suffering occurs in forms such as disappointment, frustration, anxiety, depression.

Also note that the Buddha states: “the craving that makes for further becoming.” Further becoming means having more of a sense of self.  So that we are not only strengthening our attachment to the outcome of our desire, we are strengthening the recipient of that outcome.  What good would it do to achieve an outcome if the “I” weren’t around to experience it?

The Three Kinds of Craving

In this teaching above, the Buddha refers to craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.  Craving for sensual pleasure involves your six senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling and thinking).  Desires arise from pleasant sensations and thoughts and craving can ensue.  Craving for becoming is wanting to “be” a certain way.  Sumedho gives an example, “I want to enjoy the sense world without having to give up anything and become an enlightened arahant too.”  Even if the “be” seems skillful such as to be healthy, having an unquenchable craving for this goal can cause suffering.  Craving for non-becoming happens when we want to get rid of whatever is bothering us.  We can get so distraught that we don’t want to live anymore and we reject existence.

Desire is Neutral

Desires arise all of the time.  Desires do not cause suffering.  It is not what is outside that causes suffering, it is how we process it.


  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  When suffering arises, look to see what desire was present and what outcome was expected.  There is no need to do anything about it.  Just observe.


  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away.  Note particularly any phenomena that are negative, unpleasant, and which could be suffering.

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