The title of this article is a basic principle of Buddhist teachings. The common interpretation is that unfulfilled desires cause pain and suffering. This is very easy to understand, that desires themselves are the cause of suffering and we have to remove all desires to end suffering.
However, I have a different view of this teaching and will present some indications in Buddhist parables to substantiate my view which may totally change the common thought that we have to eliminate all desires in order to find happiness.
I, and many people, have found that trying to eliminate all desires causes far more suffering than simply having them by adding guilt or frustration to the already overwhelmed mind.
Desires will always be in our mind, as long as we are a human, even living alone, self sufficient without any hassles of life, we will always have desires. This is a natural part of being a human. We will always need to eat and will always prefer nice food rather than cardboard.
If it is the un-fulfillment of desires that causes suffering, and desires are impossible to eliminate, then the answer is in allowing and accepting the desires, while also accepting that you cannot have what you desire, and being comfortable with this.
A child throws a temper tantrum if they do not get what they want. This is painful for the child and parent. On the other hand, if we can accept that there will be a part of us that has desires, but another part which has the wisdom to accept that the fulfillment of that desire will cause more pain and suffering in the long run, and is thus not a good desire to have, then with wisdom and maturity, we can allow the desire to exist while not actually wanting the item desired, and thus the end of suffering.
It is not the desires that we must eliminate, but the childish demand of getting everything we desire.
The indication that this is the real teaching that Buddha was trying to give is in the parable of when he was sitting in the final stages of his enlightenment and Mara sent his beautiful nymph daughters to tempt Buddha to break his meditation and have sex with them.
In reply, Buddha turned the young girls into old women, and said; ‘For these old women I should give up eternal freedom?’ He did not say, ‘I do not desire sex or young girls.’
He did have the desire, as all humans would, but he saw that the end of the fulfillment of this desire with very temporary pleasure would lead to eternal suffering, while although the desire was there, he was mature enough to allow the desire to call, yet not to respond, and thus ended the suffering caused by desires.
If we could treat all our desires the same way, not to fight or deny them, not to try and suppress or reject them, but to listen to them as you would a radio in the background making noise, hearing but ignoring it, you too would find a permanent end to suffering caused by desires.
This is pure acceptance. Accepting that a part of you will always have desires, but another part is in control and does not have to listen.
There is no special training as such to attain this freedom, it is a decision you have to make, accepting that this is a condition of being human, that we are designed to torture ourselves in this way, and so choose to stop inflicting this torture by accepting our limitations.
I have written another article on this subject that you may like to read;
Your thoughts on this would be very interesting to hear.