Desire to end all desires

One primary criticism/question commonly levelled at buddhists is:

Buddhism aims to cease all craving. Isn’t the craving for enlightenment a craving too? Is this hypocritical?

Firstly, a good analogy can be found in the Brahmana Sutta (SN 51.15).

A Brahmin was asking Venerable Ananda, the attendant to the Buddha, about the Buddha’s teaching at a park. He asked the familiar question:

“Such being the case, master Ananda,
      the situation is without an end,
      not with an end.
It is impossible that one can abandon desire
      by means of desire itself!”

Venerable Ananda, as usual, with a twinkle in the eye, returned the question,

“What do you think, brahmin,
      did you earlier have a desire,
            ‘I will go to the park’
      and after you have gone to the park,
            did the said desire subside?”

And the brahmin could not but agree! And so Venerable Ananda cleverly concluded on his behalf, that the goal of enlightenment is with an end, not without an end.

Secondly, it is a common “mistake” to say that Buddhism is about ending all desires. There are certain purposes that we wish to achieve, some which are unwholesome (greediness, anger and deludedness) which result in a vicious cycle leading to unending suffering, and there are the wholesome purposes which are based on positive counterparts: generosity, kindness and clarity which result in a virtuous cycle.

Buddhism therefore seeks an end of desire for what is not good. Surely the Enlightened One still would wish for the well-being of others. However, the hallmark of cultivation is when one is not troubled and remains in equilibrium and peace despite whether or not the purpose is satisfied.


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