Buddhists aver that the ‘self’, with its limitless desires, is the root of all suffering.

So how is desire born? Where does it come from?

Take a neonate. I think it has no desire. I mean, it knows that it does not like the cold world that it is born into and it cries because of discomfort. The neonate doesn’t desire anything though. Only after it experiences the warmth of its mother’s body or of a blanket, does it come to desire these things, the next time it gets cold. Does this mean that the seed of desire is always taught?

Take a human teenager. It has countless desires. Some of these desires are not in accordance with what the child has been taught. So does this mean that the older child takes what it has been taught, and screen life experience against what it has been taught, and come up with its own unique, and sometimes disquieting desires?

Take a criminal. He does crimes to satisfy his desires. Now if every desire that he has is dependent on those first desires that he has been taught, plus other desires that he has created out of initially taught desires plus derived desires logically arrived at by embellishing taught desires in accordance with life experience, then can any criminal be individually culpable for his crimes? Shouldn’t the culpability be shared with the society that taught him to have desires initially, as well as, provided the life experiences which led him to embellish his initial desires with experience in order to come up with new desires?

Desire arises from the presumptions associated with instincts - subtle hopes and anticipations providing positive feedback concerning a goal. It has a very subtle, often worshiped initiation (especially in Hindu).

Parents tend to mishandle the conditioning of infants such as to program irresponsibility and self-indulgence into the base formation the a child’s mind. The medical world also substantially participates through neurological agitants that provoke urgency, lack of attention, and insecurity, all of which provoke the urge to presume (aka “to sin”).

So most definitely in a world of Godwannabe manipulators and ignorant parents, society is very largely at fault for the rise of unwarranted and undesirable desires and lusts. And to a very small extent, society accepts some of the blame in that they confess that they must treat infants this way or that way so as to cause the growing child to be more socialist/communist/capitalist compatible. But promoting that notion into the masses is dubiously wise. Most often the verbage is more like, “We must teach our children the proper way to be at the earliest possible age, even before birth, so that they become an acceptable addition to our social ideology” (e.g. teaching children that there is no difference between male and female other than the female superiority, homosexuality, hatred of specific religions, races, and allegiances). Often in today’s world, parents are fined for their children’s inappropriate, unordained, desires.

And then in addition, the Media has taken on the obligation of hypnotizing as many children as possible into having the mind of a proper citizen as “the Fourth Branch of the Government” (aka “Propaganda Ministry”).

But how can discomfort come with no desire? Doesn’t discomfort just mean the desire to be rid of the discomfort?

[i]Cart before the horse --^[1]

It is discomfort that initiates desire. Inappropriate desires will then lead to further and grander discomforts (e.g. Out of boredom, one decides to go rob a liquor store). Non-acceptance of the irritation called “boredom” is what flames the fire of desire. Buddhism recommends to accept such irritation void of attempts to appease it. In that way, the uncontrollable desires never rise and life can be managed with self-discipline. And the irritant soon abates.

That is the very essence of Buddhism.

Such a philosophy is abhorred by the Semitic Middle East because it is through discomfort the manipulation of men and their desires is accomplished and further used to build and destroy empires.

  1. /i ↩︎

I don’t think that a newborn has desire until it has experience. So a newborn, fresh out of the warm en utero environment, experiences cold for the first time. There is no desire at all it its wailing. I think that a newborn doesn’t even know of anything to be an object of desire. It cries because the new experience (cold) is an unpleasant experience. At this point that is its only realization, ‘I feel bad’.

When a nurse swaddles the newborn in a blanket, the bad feeling goes away. Do that enough times and the newborn will begin to feel desire for the blanket each time it gets cold. The infant has learned to desire the blanket for warmth. And by the time it has become a toddler, the blanket has become a token of, not just warmth, but comfort in general. The toddler might desire the blanket in any uncomfortable situation; a security blanket.

Do you agree that that is an example of discomfort with no desire? Desire requires an object. A newborn doesn’t know any objects to desire. It would probably desire to be back in utero if it realized that it had just been ejected from the same, but a newborn doesn’t know what’s happening.

Well, a newborn human does have instincts, like the sucking response when you brush its cheek. But I don’t think that the newborn presumes anything. It does not know anything to presume. The world is all new and strange. A total unknown. But, it can feel unpleasant even if it knows no implications of being in such a state.

Can you state more specifically how you see desire arising from presumptions which accompany instincts?

How can there be desire in a neonate. Desire for what? It does not yet know of ‘blanket’, or anything else. It feels discomfort, but it can not name a word for it. For all the neonate knows, discomfort might just be the way it is forever. It takes experience before reason can kick in, doesn’t it.

And I think that subsequent desires are built by analogy to previously experiences desires. But that’s later on in development. And for that reason, it seems to me that all desire is taught by the environment. I say environment instead of parents or society because the child can accidentally learn that something meets a need e.g. learning to turn head to avoid unpleasant bright lights.

There is physiological reflex and there is instinct. Isn’t everything else learned?

The cart is the horse in this case.

But doesn’t ‘bad’ = ‘undesirable’? I don’t think the experience of discomfort leads to desires, I think they are synonymous. I think ‘discomfort’ = ‘wanting this state to end’.

I agree that the baby wouldn’t necessarily know what other states there are to be in, or what actions would halt the uncomfortable state, or what objects would help to alleviate the discomfort, but I don’t think you need that just in order to feel that the state you’re in is a bad one and therefore desire to be rid of it. Later on, the baby learns to discriminate between the undesired state and the objects of desire–there becomes certain degrees of separation–such as the blanket getting rid of the cold even though ‘blanket’ != ‘cold’. But I think discomfort and desire begin as the same experience and later on become separate.

  1. /i ↩︎

A newborn presumes everything. It has no other choice. To presume means to act with intention, but without forethought. The newborn hasn’t anything yet to think (as you noted), so it has to proceed without thought and with inherent hope of success, although it has no cognitive idea of with what to succeed (“presumption”). Instincts are the drive toward inherited and/or genetic aimed goals, often subtle to the point of being unnoticeable. No intentional action is ever taken without expectation of accomplishment, even in an infant.

Once through experience an action is cognitively associated with an accomplishment of the removal of a discomfort, any time the discomfort arises, the associated removal action is triggered into consideration of action. It is the balancing of multiple considerations that forms “self-discipline”. When the child is not taught, conditioned, or trained to consider multiple concerns before acting, it is being trained and conditioned to be presumptuous, wanty, and dissatisfied with life.

Liberalism in society is instigated just to form such a base behavior. It is by spoiling the child’s presumtuousness (aka “boiling the kid in mother’s milk”) that eternal dissatisfaction, yearning, lusting, frustration, anger, hatred, and rebellion against authority is fostered. Such is usually both medically and psychologically inspired by fooling parents into thinking that they must allow their children to act as they wish, without discouragement. Sporadic, chaotic, excessive desires, fetishes, lusts, and addictions follow. Nations are overthrown by such tactics.