2008-11-20 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Buddhism's tanha trips me up

Students of Eastern religions will be familiar with the Noble Truths of Buddhism. For novices of world spirituality, the essentials will still ring true. Buddhism holds that sorrow (dukkha) arises from attachment, and attachment is the direct result of desire (tanha). The Sanskrit word "tanha" can also be translated as "thirst," and isn't that exactly what it feels like when you crave someone: that parched-throat feeling of desire unquenched?

 
Buddhists believe enlightenment follows freedom from desire, but even the most devout admit it's no easy task. That is why Buddhists subscribe to a belief in reincarnation; reaching this state of mind can take multiple lifetimes. Personally, I'd be thrilled to let go of a little attachment and step away from my desires (especially "sensuous lust," Buddhism's No. 1 on its top-five list of Hindrances to Enlightenment). But, the truth is, I'm not great at letting go (not of the pleasurable parts, anyway).

My introduction to tanha and its attendant dukkha came long before I knew the tenets of Buddhism. It started with Dillon, who lit a fire in my belly and stoked the coals for years. We made the transition from casual acquaintances to close friends until Dillon, finally, asked me on our first date. We played miniature golf and ate meatball subs, and I felt like the luckiest girl alive. Still, his slow pace left me wanting more. He asked me out again, and again I had a wonderful time, but at the end of that second evening, I was still waiting for the next step. When he asked me out a third time, my desire decided I needed to take matters into my own hands.

I planned and choreographed the perfect night. When Dillon pulled into my driveway after dinner and a movie, I suggested we take a walk on the beach. At this point, we hadn't kissed, had barely held hands, and all that pent-up wanting raged like a wild fire. On the beach, we walked side by side, me leaning into him, the night dark and secretive. In front of a stretch of houses with dimmed lights, I stopped and turned to him.

"Have you ever been swimming at night?" I asked. The words were scripted, of course; I'd been rehearsing for days.

He laughed. "What are you thinking?"

"Want to go now?" It was late November and the night des ire s brings peace. fuels an cycle of instead. Dillon decided ol, but we was cool, stripped underwear As we waded took my "This great story day," I said. tell people time I went with this in my underwear --" I prayed know his

“And then he kissed her,” he said. Right on cue.As Sid-dhartha points out, schem-ing to fulfill our desires never brings peace. It fuels an endless cycle of heartbreak instead. A month later, Dillon decided to go back to his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly, I had a buck-etful of dukkha, a lot of useless tanha, and the revela-tory sensation that the Buddha was right: desire is the root of all (my) ills. ■

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