The basis of Buddhist practice lies in the recognition and transformation of suffering, and the causes of suffering, namely desire, the desire for gratification, the desire to become and the desire to not become. These opposing forces cause most of the issues in our lives, along with the realization that we do not perceive reality as it really is. We are driven by our senses, the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch lead us down a path of almost constant aversion or attraction, the eye senses something, engaging either pleasure or revulsion and before we are even halfway aware we are drawn onto a different path, often literally. Vague feelings of hunger are transformed by the sight of a stranger eating our favourite food, and we are led almost on autopilot to the nearest burger bar, sandwich shop, or deli. Hearing some music we like, we begin pondering about how to get tickets to see their show, before spending the night on the internet searching and buying the tickets and another day and night spent organizing friends, making plans. The weekend spent buying outfits, making calls, and all this is before getting anywhere near the venue. All because we heard a sound we liked, and instead of just allowing it to be 'sound' that arises and passes away, we become entranced in the desire to hear it again. Of course there is nothing wrong in going to show or seeing a band if this is what you want to do, it's just that so much of this is completely unconscious. That our actions stem, from the desire of hearing the sound. Did we want to see that band before we heard the sound? What were we doing before we heard the sound? Did we finish it? Or did we just set off immediately in the direction of the new desire! Essentially this is how desire works. It becomes all enthralling, moving us almost immediately and directly away from what we were originally doing.
Watching our desires and aversions can become a full time job if we are interested enough. Worse still is the aversive side desire. Seeing how our often unconscious aversive desires cause later problems can form the very basis of waking up to the reality of karmic action and result. Often times there is more of a readiness to look at how we are impacted by our choices when pain is involved, but it takes willingness, persistence, and an openness to look honestly. Anything from the angry response, a reluctance to respond, to outright rage and hate has the ability to transform our relationships for the worse in the longer term.
So why is it so important? Why should these simple desires be such a process to unravel? And how can watching them unlock the secrets of letting go and allow us to travel into the uncharted territories of our hearts and minds?