Greg Kramer’s hungers

I have been studying the Four Noble Truths lately in preparation for writing a piece about them. I found this very interesting interpretation to the three desires of the 2nd noble truth. 

The classic three desires in Buddhist teaching are:

  1. The desire for sensual pleasure
  2. The desire for being.
  3. The desire for non-being.

Greg Kramer, “Insight Dialogue”, has reinterpreted these three desires from the perspective of interpersonal relationships. I find these very helpful when I am being mindful of my psychology and my relationship to people. Each of these hungers has an associated fear.

Interpersonal desires:

  • Desire and attachment to pleasurable interactions –
    • fear of pain in relationship with its corresponding loneliness and aversion
    • wanting relationships with no conflict.
  • Hunger for being seen – fear of invisibility
  • Hunger for escape – the fear of engagement and intimacy

The root of each fear is the terror of emptiness or self-anniliation

This has been very fruitful to work with in my intimacy with people. How can I have Awakened Awareness and presence with people? My mindful curiousity has to discover the issues in my psychology that degenerate my sense of presence with people.

I seem to bounce back and forth between wanting to be seen by people and wanting to escape people. This dichotomy presents first as wanting to be fully engaged with life and seen in public with the preference for being praised or being liked. Simultaneously or sequentially, I want to be a hermit and avoid all the complications of relationships. I fantasize about living on a mountain top with no visitors or meditating on the shore of a lake with no other responsibilities. (a permanent vacation. Smile).  Sticking to either of these sides interfere with my presence in life and my real communication with real people.

The fear of conflict can really diminish my field of relationships and my sense of who I am. I work with, in Greg Kramer’s vocabulary, trusting the emergence of the dialogue and the openness to work things through. I have noticed if I don’t enter a conflict with my shame in the forefront or my defensive stance of “protecting my so-called self and her opinions”, problems with people can get resolved one way or the other. This is where the understanding of no centralized self can really help our everyday behavior. We are less defensive and more capable of listening and allowing change. We see ourselves as a network of inter-connectedness and not an isolated unit that needs protection.

On a subtler level, I can see the desire for being and non-being playing out within my zazen. To do zazen with a goal in mind is to be attached to one side or the other. For many years I was attached to the energetic system of the body; wanting the rapture of an open energy system. For me now, I regard this as attachment to the body or desire for being. That view is to be attached to the beauty and mystery of form life (and it is beautiful and mysterious. Ah, our precious human birth) but our attachment to it creates suffering. Than I swung the other way. I tried to annihilate the sense gates and nest in silence, darkness or emptiness; a place where nothing is happening. My zazen became a test of whether or not I could find and maintain emptiness. The “I” being the operative word in that sentence and “concepts” of dharma being hidden within it. The idea of a “test” or a right way and a wrong way, produced an extreme fatigue in meditation, and belies the reality that we are always, even without trying, connected to the universe. Now I see that both clinging to being and clinging to emptiness or non-being, is not the Way. Let go and be with what arises, either side. Don’t evaluate.  From Dogen’s Fukanzazengi — “If there is a hairsbreath deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth.”  Trust in the co-arising of the opposites, and don’t control. Be the universe without thought .

Much of our practice is to learn or reteach ourselves not to cling to pleasure and have aversion to pain. This is the transformation of pain spoken about in the Four Noble truths. How do we do this? We cultivate in ourselves the ability to bring Awakened Awareness to whatever is happening without evaluation. Truly, learning to Live our Life. The “Trust in the Big Mind” sutra is truly an inspiration for this.

The way is not difficult
For those who do not pick and choose
If we are open to the process of life itself.
With its ups and downs, pains and pleasures, successes and failures
If we can see our “self” as an open, interdependent network
If we can accept the “losses” that come with the inevitable changes in life
Then, we can
As the Four noble truths suggest
Transform this very suffering into freedom.