Beyond good there is nothing to hunger for and no one to hunger. Hunger stops. The ‘I’ who hungers and all its desires disappear in voidness — the emptiness of self and of soul. This voidness is the purpose of the practice of Dhamma. It is the way to transcend the endless cycles of hunger and worldly happiness. It is the Supreme Thing, the final purpose of Buddhism.
The thing to observe in this matter is that it is impossible to attach to good and evil when there’s no knowledge of good and evil. When there’s no attachment, there’s no dukkha [unsatisfactoriness] and no problem. Once the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has been eaten, however, there is this knowledge of good and evil. What happens then? If we lack the wisdom (paññā) to know that we shouldn’t attach to good and evil, we’ll go and attach to the good and evil of common sentient beings. Thus, there is dukkha, which brings with it all the problems of life. These are the results of eating that fruit: attachment, dukkha, and death.
Once there is this knowledge, there is no going back to a state of innocence in which good and evil aren’t known. After this knowledge arises, after the fruit has been eaten, we must go on to know fully that good and evil cannot be attached to. It is our duty and responsibility to learn this. Don’t attach to good and evil because they are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not-self (anattā). Good and evil are anicca, dukkha, anattā. When there’s this correct knowledge of good and evil, there’s no attachment. Then there’s no death, just as with Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit. We’ve all eaten that fruit; we all know about good and evil. There’s no going back to a state of innocence for us. Instead, we have the duty to know that good and evil should not be attached to. They must not be attached to. Please understand this matter wisely.
Don’t attach to good and evil. Know them so thoroughly that you will never attach to them. This is the heart of Buddhism and the essence of Christianity. Both religions teach this same thing, although people may interpret it in quite different ways. If you understand this, you will have the key to the genuine happiness of freedom from hunger.
You can see that if we grasp and cling to ‘good,’ we are hungry for good. If we have something better, we hunger for what is better. If we have what is the best, we hunger for the best. No matter how ‘best’ something is, it still causes hunger. We will hunger for the best. Inevitably, this hunger is the problem that leads to dukkha. No matter what the degree of hunger, it will cause some sort of dukkha.
Thank you for coming to Suan Mokkh and using it beneficially.
Translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu
A Dhamma lecture presented to foreign meditators
on 7 May 2529 (1986) at Suan Mokkhabalārāma
From Happiness and Hunger by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Click here to download a PDF copy of Happiness and Hunger.
Categories: Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Theravada
Recently, I’ve interpreted the Garden of Eden story along these lines. It is a mistake to see Adam and Eve’s ‘story’ as mere disobedience. I think it important to acknowledge the hatred, greed and delusion within ourselves. (Without attachment) Thanks for the insight.
Thank you so very much for this post.