The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

4 Ways to Overcome Desire

by Bhante Gunaratana
June 15, 2015
Mon, 06/15/2015 - 11:00 -- Bhante Gunaratana

Excerpt from the “Techniques for Overcoming Hindrances” section of Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana.


Sensual Desire

Symptoms: Distracting thoughts about what you want to get, do, have, or attain. Most of our distracting thoughts have an element of wanting something to be different from the way it is. Planning is always like this. The thoughts are incessant and obsessive. You cannot keep the mind on anything else for long.

Nutriments: Giving frequent, unmindful attention to the thoughts in the desire category. The nourishment of sense desire is unmindful reflection, and the route to overcoming it is mindful reflection.

Solutions: You are dwelling on something. You cancel that by making the mind dwell on healthier things:

  1. Pure mindfulness—When a desire arises, notice that it is present. When it disappears, notice that it is absent.
  2. Mindful reflection—Generate a genuine, healthy desire to rise above this unmindful reflection and get rid of it. Generate its opposite, mindful reflection.
  3. Self-encouragement—You can actually talk silently to yourself, reminding yourself of wholesome intentions.
  4. The Noble Eightfold Path—The most direct way of getting rid of sense desire forever is the cultivation of the entire Noble Eightfold Path. Recall the steps. Which one is lacking at this moment?Which one is most lacking in your life? Resolve to work on that.

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