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Does Desire Lead to Liberation or Suffering?

“Desire is a trap; desire lessness is liberation. Desire is the creator; desire is the destroyer. Desire is the universe.” Baba Ram Dass

According to psychologists and those that practice the Buddhist philosophies, suffering is caused by desire.

Desire takes many words such as positional, wanting, striving, attachment, grasping, stuck, righteous, searching, addicted, needing, and hungry. This list is based on psychologist and author, Dr. Rick Hanson’s article on “The Second Noble Truth – The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering” (n.d.).

There is nothing wrong with desire per se, but what it inevitably leads to is less than what one would desire, which is loss (Hanson, n.d.).

Two reasons desire is a trap according to a psychologist (Hanson, n.d.)-

1.- It creates clinging- We become consumed by our desires and make choices that lead to negative experiences (suffering for ourselves and others) because they come from a place of fear and not courage. The need to validate ourselves comes from desire, and we start clinging to concepts, beliefs, and not just objects. It is much harder to choose to accept what is and not change your circumstance than it is to act on a desire. The need to add to ourselves to make ourselves bigger, better, and in more control comes from a place of egocentrism. Please, dear reader, do not be mad; there is nothing wrong with this place. It is our nature to survive and have needs, but it still leads to suffering because what happens when you do not have food? The more ego (prefrontal cortex), the more desire, the more grief.

2.- Everything is impermanent- Nothing lasts; even what we desire for will not last. Once we get it, we know it will go away someday. It is unavoidable to feel impermanence. When we avoid this place instead of allowing it to be, we cling to its antipode, permanence. We feel safe in this space until something comes along and reminds us that something is missing and time for more.

We cling to the need and desire to add to ourselves, giving us a temporary sense of solidity. But that is just it, it’s temporary, and if the idea of this understanding makes you feel negative, I apologize, but this is the place we can use to practice turning poisonous arrows of desire into flowers.

This place of groundlessness is where change is made because there is finally the space to accept all emotions, feelings, experiences, storylines, beliefs, and attachments. When we accept what is, we will know what needs to be done without any ego-clinging desires. When we no longer cling to a need to have things on our terms, we find freedom in whatever unfolds before us.



Hanson, Rick Ph.D. (n.d.) The Second Noble Truth – The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. Retrieved from

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