Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 139 – Understanding Desire

In helping us with understanding desire, Joseph Goldstein explores the three types of desire that the Buddha spoke of and offers several ways of working with desire in our practice.

This dharma talk from September 1994 at the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center was originally published on Dharma Seed.
Joseph Betterhelp
Understanding Desire

Joseph begins his exploration of desire, of craving, of the fever of unsatisfied longing. He introduces the three types of desire the Buddha spoke of and talks about how we can begin to explore the force of craving in our lives when we look at our closest attachments, such as to our bodies and certain people. Joseph examines working with desire in a retreat setting.

“It’s interesting to begin to notice carefully the range of intensity of desire because there’s a very broad spectrum.” – Joseph Goldstein

David Nichtern and Michael Kammers discuss working with desire in the modern world in a special Creativity, Spirituality, & Making a Buck mini-episode
Three Types of Desire (19:20)

Joseph illuminates how desire can come to our meditation practice in the form of expectations or trying to hold on to some state which we previously attained. He dives deeper into the three types of desire: the craving for sense pleasures, the desire for rebirth, and the desire for not being reborn. Joseph talks about how desires come out of our sense of self. 

“Trying to recreate a past experience is like dragging a corpse around. It’s gone, it’s over, it’s finished, dead. Let it go. It’s such a relief. We don’t have to be recreating anything. We simply have to be settled back and open to what’s presenting itself. So that’s very simple. There’s no pressure in that, there’s no tension, there’s no wanting.” – Joseph Goldstein

Ram Dass explores the concept of reincarnation in Here and Now Ep. 62
The Joy of Renunciation (40:10)

For Joseph, practice is an opportunity to pay close attention to moments of craving and desire. Desire obscures the simplicity of the natural mind. Joseph notes how desire is not the problem, identification with the desire is the problem. He talks about working with desire by investigating the joy of renunciation, and how desire is really about the pleasant feeling we anticipate getting with a certain experience or object.

“Usually we think that what we want is the object. But really what we want is the pleasant feeling that we think is going to come with that experience.” – Joseph Goldstein

Jack Kornfield shares the surprising delights of renunciation in Heart Wisdom Ep. 57
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