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Craving (tanha) is a strong and persistent drive to experience or acquire something. According to the Buddha, craving is one of the two causes of suffering, the other being ignorance. When we are unaware of why we are suffering or even that we are suffering we are unable to even begin the process of freeing ourselves from it. On the other hand, we might be intensely aware of the incompleteness and unsatisfactoriness of conditioned existence but mistakenly believe that the solution to the problem is to pursue our desires with even more tenacity thinking that getting what we want is the only compensation for all the difficulties in life. Once again, this will only prolong the problem. It is only when we begin to see with wisdom the true nature of craving and its causes that freedom becomes a possibility.

Some wonder if seeking enlightenment is a form of desire or craving. It is a desire as it is a goal, but it is a different, better form of desire. The vipassana teacher, Joseph Goldstein, describes how our translations do not do justice to the word desire. It is a difference of the desire of wanting something versus the desire of motivation. The desire of motivation is joined with wholesome factors. In Pali, there is a word for one type of desire called, tanha, and another word for a different desire called, chanda. Tanha is the desire for craving, for attachment. Chandha is the desire to do, which is for a wholesome goal. It is a desire to accomplish something good, such as enlightenment. Desire, per se, is not the enemy, it is only unwholesome desires that cause suffering.