The Buddha, 2500 years ago, after long years of meditation, saw that the source of suffer was desire, but not any desire, only unhealthy desire produces suffering; for example, the desire of liberation of suffering is a healthy one, while any craving, addiction, produces lack of freedom, also can easily turn into frustration and anger: suffering.
Buddhism also describes aspiration: “soft” desire that has an openness to a possibility that we see as good, but without a need for anything to happen, so without any expectation nor grasping. Also, Buddhism relates unhealthy desires to the discursive world of planning, thinking, and fantasy, while aspiration is related with inner stillness, with mental calm; that’s why meditation is needed for first calm the mind, and then calm the unhealthy desires.
Here, 2500 years after Buddha, we are going try to show a deeper vision of the very origin of suffering, thanks to our modern knowledge. First, let us define suffer in a very simply, wide way:
Suffer is the tension produced by opposed forces.
Any object subject to opposed forces experiences tension; if tension is enough strong, eventually break such object. Let us give some examples:
1. I want to have a nice family, but I have not; disputes, anger, lack of kindness are instead the habitual. What are the forces here? One force is: want to have a nice family, that is directly derived from survival instinct expressed as want to live in a cozy environment, to feel being protected; note we don’t label it as desire or aspiration is only a natural force, and is good of course. On the other side there are personal conflicts between individuals, with causes that are usually diverse: different opinions, old unresolved quarrels, etc etc; such conflicts are the visible results of the same force, survival instinct, manifested as negative emotions and behaviors, a reacting against things that are seen as ‘bad’. So the first force is constructive, and the second one is destructive, and their confluence causes suffering. Indeed, both forces are in fact one and the same: survival, protection of the individual against the environment, but it expresses in opposed forms.
2. Think now about a person getting old; she is trying to overcome the degeneration of her body, taking care of her health, trying to stay active, etc but as we know time does not stop, it is irreversible, so the degeneration and the chronic diseases also don’t stop; there are pain, and such person needs a very healthy mind for don’t fall in suffering. Again, there are two opposed natural forces acting: survival of the individual and destructing of the individual for renewal of life on earth.
As Buddhism says us, when the person mindfully accepts the situation suffering vanishes; but the forces are still there one against the other, what happens? Suffering is produced by the mind, because all our actions and reactions are made by the mind; when we fully accept the situation, the mind are not reacting, she let things happen, let the natural forces acts one against other and observe the scenery wisely, recognizing the forces that act there, she knows that in a deep sense that forces are intrinsically positive, even externally, from a personal, partial point of view, seems negative.
What about desire in our framework?
Desire is an automatic, so unconscious, mental reaction driven by the force of survival.
Our personal mind, complex, multifaceted, express the force of survival, of welfare, in a multiple ways, from desire to simply eat or have sex up to desire for luxury. We need a clear awareness of what is happen moment by moment, what forces are acting within us and out there, this awareness is beyond thinking, and also beyond automatic unconscious desires. Indeed, we are saying the same that Buddhism: mindfulness meditation show us how the mind is constantly under the sway of craving, chasing after its own thoughts; but we introduce the new element “forces of Nature” as the very source of desires and suffering. We think take into account such forces enrich our knowledge, making easier achieve and stabilize a mindful state of mind: we know what is the source and also why is there, and is good, because such forces are the ones that make everything exist. Such forces are the forces of the creation.