Craving (tañha) occupies the mind when wisdom is not applied to pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Without the wisdom of seeing their impermanent and transient nature, we react in unwise ways that lead to our affliction. We are unable to see straight because we are blinded by craving, and even allow emotions to control us. The Buddha explains in the Sallatha Sutta (SN 36.6), of the unwise reaction to tañha :
“When in contact with a painful unpleasant feeling, an unwise person sorrows, grieves and puts another layer of mental pain over the physical one;
“When in contact with a happy pleasant feeling, an unwise person develops craving and grasping towards it.”
To quell unskilful inclinations, we need to guard the 6 sense doors so that we become mindful of physical and mental yearnings. Instead of immediately acting on them, reflect if they form part of the path towards true happiness. If we see that they are instead a part of the vicious cycle of endless cravings, we should readily let them go.
Meditating on these sense experiences further allows us to see them for what they really are; they fluctuate between being pleasant to unpleasant to neutral, always coming and going. It is therefore futile to focus so much of our efforts to please these senses because whatever we acquire materially or in dominion becomes unsatisfactory and inevitably left behind one day. We need to prioritise what we really need, especially for spiritual development.
When we reduce our desires, it also means that we have more time to live meaningful lives through wholesome endeavours such as helping worthy causes. Over time, we will become more selfless, contented and compassionate, all steps to purifying the mind. The less we want, the less we lack and the more peace we will have.