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The Second Noble Truth

The Second Reality

The Buddha said:

“And this, monks is the noble truth of the origination of dukkha (suffering): the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.”

The Origin Of Unhappiness

The Buddha said:

“People cleave to their worldly possessions and selfish passions so blindly as to sacrifice their own lives for them. They are like a child who tries to eat a little honey smeared on the edge of a knife. The amount is by no means sufficient to appease his appetite, but he runs the risk of wounding his tongue.”

Take a hard look at the politicians in your country. Can you see how much of an effort they make to remain in office? Campaigning every year, involving themselves in dishonorable business dealings, appealing to constituents, and presenting thousands of plastic smiles. They’ll risk their own integrity in a heartbeat to remain in the power that they’ve worked so hard to claim. It’s all in a bid to retain that power, and they are all miserable – eventually blighted by the media, the people, security and scandals. 

Take a look at the rich. Do you see how much strain and stress they endure to remain rich? They’ve taken an arduous path to become wealthy and they only become more miserable trying to hold onto the riches that they’ve amassed. In fact, it’s reported that more than ten thousand suicides were linked to the financial crisis of 2008 in the United States.

Most of the people that come to me seeking advice are wealthy individuals. Unhappy with their life situation, wondering why their money has not made them happy. Most of them are on their second or third divorce. What goes wrong in these situations? Shouldn’t passion and perseverance lead to happiness? 

The more power people rake in, the more greedy they become. The more riches they have, the more riches they desire. They have become obsessive, amassing power, and fortune that can never be truly spent. They go on wasting their lives, paying attention to the wrong things and in the end, they die, like everyone else, with empty hands.

The Buddha says that it’s the craving, not the things themselves that make you unhappy. The craving for more than you have, more than you are. Craving for sensual pleasures, the things of the world. Craving for becoming, the furtherance of your life. Craving for non-becoming, the craving for death, the sleep state.  

It is not just the very rich and very powerful that fall to their cravings. They are only the most obvious cases. You will begin to find that you have many desires of your own. Desires big and small. To become successful, to become beautiful, to become famous. Some desires are even altruistic in nature, such as the desire for world peace. You’ll begin to notice even small desires such as a simple craving for new clothing or sugary foods. It matters not the size of the desires, only their presence in your mind.

I have witnessed many people, and you may be one of them, who become miserable with the state of the world. They find that they are unable to be happy while there is suffering all around. While there is poverty, corruption, and descrimination. It is partly because it is used as an excuse. They are aware of their own unhappiness, and it becomes easy to attribute this to the suffering of the world. 

This unhappiness experienced is a real personal unhappiness. This unhappiness is not caused by the state of the world, it’s caused by desire. Altruistic as it may seem, the desire for a change in the world, the desire for perfection creates misery. The world will never be a utopia. There will always be poverty. However just because a person does not have what you have, doesn’t mean they are unhappy. Are you happy? You have what they have not and yet you are not happy. Does your unhappiness make another happy? It does not. If you could learn the path to happiness you would know that it is not paved with possessions. 

If you could learn the path you could help others on their path. In fact your “altruistic” unhappiness is not happiness at all. It is pity. Pity has never been a gift to anyone. 

Now, many religions and philosophies around the world believe in the idea that life is unsatisfactory. It’s nothing unique to the Buddha. What is unique to the Buddha, however, is the idea that all suffering and unhappiness have one single source.

This is the Second Reality of the Buddha. All unhappiness, suffering, stress, and dissatisfaction come from one source. The source is of craving. This is your constant clinging, your obsessions, your desire for more.

The Buddha said:

If this sticky, uncouth craving

overcomes you in the world,

your sorrows grow like wild grass

after rain.

If, in the world, you overcome

this uncouth craving, hard to escape,

sorrows roll off you,

like water beads off

a lotus.

How is it that desire causes suffering? You must understand that for yourself. The Buddha’s path is a personal journey, something experiential as well as existential. In your life, start to become conscious of your desires. What desires do you have for your future? What desires arise in you throughout each day? What things do you yearn for, and what do you observe in other’s lives that you desire? 

These can be simple and they can be complex. You could desire simply that the weather will not be rainy tomorrow, and when it starts to rain your emotional state will change. You can desire for success in the next two years, and when that two year mark gets closer and you haven’t attained anything, your suffering will be profound.

Start to become aware of your desires, become aware of the emotional state of being in desire. You might have believed that being in the state of desire was propelling you into bliss, however it was not. Your desire is a restlessness. Your desire is a dream, a projection of yourself into the future. It is telling yourself that right here with what you have now is not enough. That you must escape as quickly as you can to a time where your desire is fulfilled. This escape can only be to the past or the future, so you will remain miserable in the present. 

Your desires, big and small, will constantly trap you in the idea that your presence is not enough. They will trick you into believing that something needs to be obtained in order for you to feel bliss.

Until you recognize that the fulfillment of the desire will never result in bliss, then you will remain in this trap. When you recognize that bliss only exists in a fully present and relaxed state that is free of worry and desire, then your desires will drop.

The Buddha said that holding onto these desires is like holding onto colored rocks. When you discover diamonds, you will simply drop the colored rocks. They will pale in comparison to inner bliss which is like a diamond compared to the dull rocks that are your desires.

All Craving Is Equal

The Buddha said:

“From the passions arises worry, and from worry arises fear. Away with the passions, and no fear, no worry.”

It is completely irrelevant what you crave. Many people have grown defensive towards the idea that desire can cause suffering. They’ve tried to argue this with me, to put craving and desiring in a positive light. If the subject of their desire will benefit others, they feel that it can’t cause them suffering. Yet it can. 

To desire a more peaceful world is a symptom of the anger and dissatisfaction you have towards the present time. You cling to this desire as if it’s creating a better world. Only actions can create change. Your clinging to the desire is merely clinging to anger and despair. Craving and desiring itself is the problem, not what you crave. Changing the subject of your desire to a noble endeavor might make you feel better for a short time, but it will end the same. Even if your desire is fulfilled, there will always be another more noble desire. You’ll remain in an endless state of despair until the world is perfect. This day will never come.

Most religious people follow the same route. They fall into the same trap. You start by craving worldly things like money, and power and prestige. After accumulating enough money and prestige, or failing to do so,  you come to realize that you never attained the bliss that you expected to come along with your journey. From this realization, you choose a spiritual path. Many people remain at this point. In a deep desire for divine bliss and wisdom. Immensely frustrated because it’s all that they desire. They’ve renounced everything else because no material pleasure can quench this thirst. Little do they realize that it is the desire for the divine that is preventing them from experiencing it. At least money and prestige you might have been able to attain, but now you are craving the divine!

This state of tense desire, this strain to be in the place where they are happy. Remaining in this state is a trap that you must be aware of in order to escape. This is a worse state than the stages before. In this state you have recognized that all worldly desires will not bring you peace, yet your desire for peace prevents you from achieving it. 

It is only once a person begins to drop even the desire for bliss will they begin to experience it.

Remember that the origin of unhappiness is the craving itself, not just craving for the “wrong” things. It does not matter what you desire, it’s the desire itself. 

The Tree of Unhappiness

The Buddha said:

If its root remains

undamaged & strong,

a tree, even if cut,

will grow back.

So too if latent craving

is not rooted out,

this suffering returns




The Buddha says that craving is like a great tree with many branches. The branches are the pursuits of the world, money, power, objects, and fame. The fruits that grow on this great tree of craving are nothing but unhappiness. If you cut this tree down but you don’t cut out the roots, it’ll grow back and its fruits of unhappiness will come once more.

What are the roots of this tree? Ignorance.

It is the ignorance of the roots of suffering that continues to perpetuate it. The way to end unhappiness is to understand the cause of it. This is the Second Reality. 

First, understand that there is unhappiness in life. Second, understand the origin of unhappiness. The Buddha says there is a cause for your suffering. Your constant desire. Having found the root, you may now be able to remove it. However, understand that the roots are embedded deep into your mind, with many branches, large and small. It will take effort. It will take absolute awareness of all thoughts and beliefs to remove the strong roots of desire.