Is not craving the very root of the self? How is thought, which has become the means of self-expansion, to act without giving sustenance to the ego, the cause of conflict and sorrow? Is this not an important question? Do not let me make it important to you. Is this not a vital question to each one? If it is, must we not find the true answer?
Reflection on the Self, p132
Whenever I re-read K, I am astonished at some small phrase which I had overlooked the last time and which shines out with a special significance.
Is not craving the very root of the self? Again, I must pause and consider this afresh. The way I can understand it is to rephrase the question. Can “I” exist without craving? It seems not, because every micro instant of my existence is filled with an inner restlessness and desire which I try to subdue by my thoughts and actions.
This sounds very negative. When I try to describe this restlessness to other people, I often get this response: gosh, you seem to be so restless and discontent! Relax! By the way, all our moments are not like that! We have moments of tremendous peace too!
I feel that this restless desire is not peculiar to me, that it’s part of our human condition. Let me try to describe it. We are often bored, and we crave to fill that boredom with small actions. Pick up a book. Pick up the phone. Send a text message. Write a blog. Make a cup of coffee. Day dream. Day dream some more. Get absorbed by work. Solve a puzzle. Cook a meal. The list is endless. And each of these “tasks” can itself be broken down into micro moments of restlessness and desire, even though we can be absorbed for a brief period.
The time when I understood this most clearly was when I attended a Vipassana session. (Vipassana is a kind of Buddhist meditation). I sat, cross legged, eyes closed, completely quiet, for upwards of ten hours every day for ten days. Talking about the restless craving mind is one thing, but encountering it day after day in this naked form is something else. This was when I realised that the smallest actions in our lives fill in some kind of void. Those ten days of absolute silence were extremely challenging.
And of course, beyond the micro-craving, we have macro-cravings! The urge to be important, famous, well-loved; the urge to have money, power and sex. These are obvious cravings which seem connected to the subtler ones.