Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Second Noble Truth, the Cause of Suffering

“Anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is. It is the symptom of flight from birth and death, from the pulse of the present.”

Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

Mr. Batchelor’s explanation seems to sum it all up quite simply; we crave for “life to be other than it is.”  If we look at our lives we can see how this is the case.  We have the greatest discomfort when we are struggling against life as it is. We don’t want to accept that everything is impermanent. We feel alone and separate from everyone and everything.  We believe that life is supposed to be good and easy all the time. We think we are being victimized and that our actions have nothing to do with the way our lives are today. We allow the Kleshas to run our lives unchecked and unnoticed. We struggle against life and try over and over to make it the way we want it to be so we can keep it that way once it is accomplished. This is the truth of suffering and its cause.  


One of the most challenging things we do in life is to live it just as it is, without what I think of as “add-ons.”  “Add-on” are the things we make up about our life, or the current situation, or circumstance. Again, bring awareness to your thoughts in meditation. See where you change reality to fit what would be more comfortable – see where you “add-on.” Just be aware.

The creation of happiness

Lama Surya Das wrote, “If you genuinely repent, atone for, and renounce your negative actions—whether they were committed in the remote or recent past—you do not have to bear the whole karmic load. Moreover, if you vow not to do execrable deeds again, you have transformed bad karma into sterling karma and have begun to fulfill the Buddha’s deathbed injunction to his followers: “Work out your own salvation with diligence.”

Lama Surya Das reminds us in this paragraph that the cause of our suffering is not really outside of ourselves. The origin of our suffering is within us and it is within our power to eliminate. We can end our own suffering and create our own happiness.  

Karma is the result of our action. It is absolutely fair and balanced. Karma is created by intentional or volitional action; vipaka is the fruit or result of that action, and every action bears fruit – positive or negative accordingly. The kleshas, or poisons, pollute our lives with greed, hate, delusion, conceit, wrong views, doubt, and generate negative karma even if we don’t see ourselves acting on them. When we become greedy and lust after people or things our motives change. We begin to behave or speak in ways that are directed toward getting what we are thinking about, as if we were always leaning toward that person or thing. We fantasize about what life would be like if we got what we wanted rather than living in the life we have moment to moment. We begin to be dissatisfied with our real life, hating the way it is and longing for the times when we can go back to the fantasy… which can lead to restlessness and then to recklessness and then to shamelessness in our efforts to get what we want.

Recognizing the pull of greed, hatred and delusion is an awakening! When we do, and can tear ourselves away from them, we can build a life based on generosity, love and reality. The karma that we generate from these is as powerful in it’s goodness and brilliance as the darkness created by the kleshas


The three primary Kleshas, or poisons, are greed, hatred and delusion. In meditation, open your mind to see these as they arise in your mind and heart. Observe what happens when they arise. Be aware of the affect the Kleshas have on you. Just that. Just be aware.

The Second Noble Truth

“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.