With the reflection upon the Noble Truths, we bring into consciousness this very problem of human existence. We look at this sense of alienation and blind attachment to sensory consciousness, the attachment to that which is separate and stands forth in consciousness. Out of ignorance, we attach to desires for sense pleasures. When we identify with what is mortal or death-bound, and with what is unsatisfactory, that very attachment is suffering.
Sense pleasures are all mortal pleasures. Whatever we see, hear, touch, taste, think or feel is mortal – death-bound. So when we attach to the mortal senses, we attach to death. If we have not contemplated or understood it, we just attach blindly to mortality hoping that we can stave it off for a while. We pretend that we’re going to be really happy with the things we attach to – only to feel eventually disillusioned, despairing and disappointed. We might succeed in becoming what we want, but that too is mortal. We’re attaching to another death-bound condition. Then, with the desire to die, we might attach to suicide or to annihilation – but death itself is yet another death-bound condition. Whatever we attach to in these three kinds of desires, we’re attaching to death – which means that we’re going to experience disappointment or despair.
Death of the mind is despair; depression is a kind of death experience of the mind. Just as the body dies a physical death, the mind dies. Mental states and mental conditions die; we call it despair, boredom, depression and anguish. Whenever we attach, if we’re experiencing boredom, despair, anguish and sorrow, we tend to seek some other mortal condition that’s arising. As an example, you feel despair and you think, ‘I want a piece of chocolate cake.’ Off you go! For a moment you can absorb into the sweet, delicious, chocolate flavour of that piece of cake. At that moment, there’s becoming – you’ve actually become the sweet, delicious, chocolate flavour! But you can’t hold on to that very long. You swallow and what’s left? Then you have to go on to do something else. This is ‘becoming’.
We are blinded, caught in this becoming process on the sensual plane. But through knowing desire without judging the beauty or ugliness of the sensual plane, we come to see desire as it is. There’s knowing. Then, by laying aside these desires rather than grasping at them, we experience nirodha, the cessation of suffering. This is the Third Noble Truth which we must realise for ourselves. We contemplate cessation. We say, ‘There is cessation’, and we know when something has ceased.