“Craving is like a great tree with many branches. There are branches of greed, bad thoughts and of anger. The fruit of the tree of craving is suffering but how does the tree of craving grow? Where can we find it? The answer, says the Buddha, is that the tree of craving has its roots in ignorance. It grows out of ignorance, and its seeds fall and flourish whenever they find ignorance.”
~~ Ajahn Sumedho
Craving grows out of ignorance, has its roots in ignorance. The Buddha taught that suffering arises from ignorance of life as it is, ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, and ignorance of impermanence, not-self, and suffering.
Ignorance of “life as it is” means that we try to avoid the understanding and the experience of the difficulty in life. Life goes up and down. I will not always get what I want and may not even get what I need. There are difficulties in life. No matter how positively I think, I will still not always get what I want. I will have problems. Terrible things will happen to me and those I love. I will age. I will at some point become ill. I will be separated from my loved ones. We will all die. This is the truth of suffering. This is the truth of life as it is. This is also the truth of impermanence. Somehow we believe that everything in our lives will last forever, contrary to the evidence of life. Everything we own wears out – cars, appliances, our favorite pair of jeans. It’s disappointing to have to replace them and we ask each other why things don’t last anymore, as if at some other time in our lives things lasted, if not forever, at least longer that they do today. Our greatest denial though is about death. We are always surprised by death. We have the idea that all of us will live forever. Death happens to other people. It does not come for our loved ones and certainly not for us. And if death does come, well, the “soul” will go on forever. We will live on forever in heaven or paradise. What most of us are talking about when we are talking about the “soul” is really the “personality.” We expect that we ourselves will go on forever in some way. We expect that all of our desires will be fulfilled in the next life; we will live lives free from lack, aging, sickness, death, and separation from our loved ones, and that we ourselves, fully restored to our youth and vigor, will be present for all of this, living eternally. We will be perfect in every way – perfect body, perfect mind, perfect character – angelic. All character defects will be cured, including ignorance of all of the mysteries of life.
We say that nothing lasts forever, but we fully expect that we will. This is one of the causes of suffering.
Take a moment to ask yourself if you will die. “Of course, I will,” you say. Do you believe it? Allow that question to be present in your meditation. See what arises.