Usually we equate suffering with feeling, but feeling is not suffering. It is the grasping of desire that is suffering. Desire does not cause suffering; the cause of suffering is the grasping of desire. This statement is for reflection and contemplation in terms of your individual experience.

You really have to investigate desire and know it for what it is. You have to know what is natural and necessary for survival and what is not necessary for survival. We can be very idealistic in thinking that even the need for food is some kind of desire we should not have. One can be quite ridiculous about it. But the Buddha was not an idealist and he was not a moralist. He was not trying to condemn anything. He was trying to awaken us to truth so that we could see things clearly.

Once there is that clarity and seeing in the right way, then there is no suffering. You can still feel hunger. You can still need food without it becoming a desire. Food is a natural need of the body. The body is not self; it needs food otherwise it will get very weak and die. That is the nature of the body – there is nothing wrong with that. If we get very moralistic and high-minded and believe that we are our bodies, that hunger is our own problem, and that we should not even eat – that is not wisdom; it is foolishness.

When you really see the origin of suffering, you realise that the problem is the grasping of desire not the desire itself. Grasping means being deluded by it, thinking it’s really ‘me’ and ‘mine’: ‘These desires are me and there is something wrong with me for having them’; or, ‘I don’t like the way I am now. I have to become something else’; or, ‘I have to get rid of something before I can become what I want to be.’ All this is desire. So you listen to it with bare attention, not saying it’s good or bad, but merely recognising it for what it is.