To be (seen) or not to be (seen)

As I was creating this website, I found myself contemplating the Buddha’s teachings on the desire to be and be seen. He taught that there are three broad kinds of desire, each of which can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction:

  • The desire for sense pleasure and to avoid pain
  • The desire to be, be seen, and to become - to have continued existence
  • The desire to not be seen, to not exist

Each of these is very ripe for investigation. However, in creating the website, I found myself reflecting upon and investigating this desire to be seen and become.

Of course, we are human beings, and especially as infants,  the need to be seen and acknowledged and cared for is absolutely vital for our well being and survival. As we grow, this connection, this being seen continues to be a source of joy and nourishment. So when can this be a cause of suffering?

In Pali (the language the Buddha's teachings were written in) desire is Tanha. It is an unquenchable thirst. Traditionally this is depicted in paintings as beings with pinhole mouths and large bellies. Never satisfied. Never possible to be satisfied.

Bhava Tanha, the desire to be and be seen can manifest in many ways: wanting more: power, love, recognition, accomplishments, control, security, fame … in all areas of one’s life (including, by the way, in one’s meditative attainments). It is easy to look around our political and economic worlds and see evidence of politicians wanting more power, recognition, control, security, fame ...  often (usually?) at the expense of others. We may also notice this from time to time in our personal lives, and experience how this naturally leads to a greater sense of there being "a me" separate from "a you" and "my" interests, views and opinions and needs taking precedence over "yours".

Bhava Tanha results in us continually leaning forward into the future towards what isn’t here. As a result, we can miss all the “enough” that is already present, right here, and right now. 

As I created this website, wanting it to be beautiful and pleasing, I also noticed a bit of greediness - really wanting to be seen and acknowledged, leaning into something just beyond this moment. A little bit perhaps of all of the above (Recognition of my accomplishments? Security? Fame?).

And I must say, I also noticed and reflected on the desire not to be, not to be seen as it manifested in the experience of my own vulnerability in taking the risk of being seen. Perhaps that’s why I waited so long to create a website?

Nothing wrong with seeing any of this of course. Of course! Of course! This is the shared human experience. This human mind! The practice is seeing all of this as it arises and not being carried away in ways that can be harmful to oneself or to others. 

Does this mean I shouldn't have created the website? No, of course not! It  was important to stay close to my intention to be of to benefit others - to let students and potential acupuncture clients know of my services and to always keep these primary in the dance of these different hungers.

I thought this might be a useful reflection for you as well. Do you notice the desire to be and be seen in your own experience? What is the impact of following these hungers?