The Importance of Removal of Desire


All the Oriental religions share in common the belief that Enlightenment cannot be obtained without the removal of worldly desires and passions. In Buddhism, the basic statement of this belief is known as the "Fourfold Noble Truth", and it occupies a position in that religion which is roughly comparable in importance to the "Ten Commandments" in Western religion.

Buddhists regard the non-Enlightened state as being a state of suffering, whose end can only be brought about only by the removal of desires and attachments to things in the material world. This relationship between suffering and desire is referred to as the "Noble Truth About Suffering".

To the "Western" mind, which is filled with desire for wealth, power, fame, comfort, security, sex, and innumerable other worldly things, the idea of removing desire itself can be very difficult to comprehend. But the method of working toward Enlightenment turns out to be surprisingly familiar. Known as the "EIGHT-FOLD NOBLE PATH", here are some of its aspects:



Are the Precepts of Buddhism Foreign to Western Thought, or the Same?


Christians and Jews will immediately recognize that almost all of the Buddhist precepts listed above are to be found in the Bible, either in the Ten Commandments, the Proverbs, or the Prophets.

It may seem, at first glance, that "meditation" is an exception to this. Orthodox practitioners of "Western" religions often speak contemptuously of this practice, as if it were obviously pointless and slothful. But before dismissing meditation as unworthy, do not fail to recall first the great Prophets of the Old Testament: What is it which is referred to in Biblical verses which say that such-and-such a prophet "called upon the Lord", or "inquired of the Lord"?

It is not necessary to limit our consideration of this question to mere speculation. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have already created a storm of controversy regarding the nature of pre-Rabbinical Judaism and early Christianity, we have been given an unparalleled opportunity to examine the minds and methods of the most devoutly religious of Israelis during a period of history where documentation was previously sparse.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are almost universally considered to have been the work of an ascetic sect, usually assumed to be the Essenes. They lived in Qumran, a desert in the wilderness of Judea. Every aspect of their lives was ordered according to strict regulations, the nature of which have been preserved in these Scrolls. In them, there are frequent references to a book known as the Book of Meditation, whose contents the members of the severely ultra-orthodox Qumran community were required to master.

The text of the Book of Meditation has not been found yet. That notwithstanding, it is clear that Orthodox Jews of old practiced meditation -- a form of observance which disappeared from Jerusalem but became highly developed in the Orient. Did Orientals learn meditation from Jewish refugees? That seems most unlikely. But, without a doubt, Jews used to meditate, and it is a mistake to think that Buddhist practices are, by their nature, foreign to Western religion. Perhaps they, like the "Lost Tribes" themselves, have merely been forgotten.


For more information about Buddhist teachings, look in the Table of Contents for these two titles:

"The Relationship Between Enlightenment and God"

"Practical Disciplines of the Buddhist Religion"