Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of dukkha: the remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving.
—Samyutta Nikaya 56:11
This statement from the Buddha is a very clear and unambiguous declaration of what frees the mind. Can we even imagine a mind free of craving? We might resonate more easily with St. Augustine’s famous prayer: “Dear Lord, please make me chaste, but not yet.”
Some years ago, in reflecting on this third noble truth, I began to understand the Buddha’s words in a new and more immediate way. Rather than understanding the end of craving only as some far-off goal, as the end of the path in the distant future, or as some special meditative state to try to sustain, I understood it as being a practice to experience right now, in each moment.
When we explore directly, in our experience, the meaning of the Buddha’s declaration, we can see for ourselves how craving obscures the natural ease and openness of mind, and how in moments free of desire, wanting, and clinging, we can recognize the taste of happiness and peace. As a simple experiment, the next time you have some wanting or desire in the mind, investigate what the wanting feels like and then notice how it feels when the wanting passes away. Given the great law of impermanence, it always will.
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