Natural Hanger and Unnecessary Hanger .
By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Let's go back and take another look at this thing we call "hunger". We ought to know that there are two levels of hunger. First, there is physical, material hunger, which is a natural process of life. The body instinctually feels hunger regarding its natural needs: clothing, food, shelter, medicine, exercise. This kind of hunger is no problem. It doesn't cause dukkha and can be satisfied without causing dukkha. Then, there is the second kind of hunger, which is mental, that we call "spiritual hunger". This is the hunger of thinking born out of attachment. Physical hunger really has no meaning, for it causes no problems. Even animals experience physical hunger, so they eat as allowed by the limits of the situation. Spiritual hunger, however, being tied up with ignorance (avijja) and attachment (upadana), destroys the coolness and calm of the mind, which is true happiness and peace, thus bringing dukkha.
The problem of human beings is that our minds have developed beyond the animal mind. The consciousness of animals has not learned how to turn physical hunger into mental hunger. They don't attach to their instinctual hunger as we do, so they are free of the dukkha caused by craving (tanha) and clinging (upadana). The human mind is more highly evolved and suffers from more highly evolved hunger. Through attachment the human mind knows spiritual hunger.
We must distinguish between these two kinds of hunger. Physical hunger can be dealt with easily. One day of work can satisfy our bodily needs for many days. With mindfulness and wisdom, physical hunger is no problem. Don't foolishly make it into dukkha. When it arises, just see it as tathata -- thusness, the state of being "just like that". The body has a nervous system. When it lacks something that it needs there arises a certain activity which we call "hunger". That's all there is to it -- tathata. Don't let it cook up into spiritual hunger by attaching to it as "my hunger" or the "I who hunger". That is very dangerous, for it causes a lot of dukkha. When the body is hungry, eat mindfully and wisely. Then physical hunger won't disturb the mind.
Hunger is solely a mental problem. The highly developed human mind develops hunger into the spiritual hunger that results in attachment. These are mental phenomena -- tanha (craving) and upadana (grasping and clinging, attachment) -- which aren't at all cool. Although we may be millionaires, with homes full of consumer products and pockets full of money, we still hunger spiritually. The more we consume, the more we hunger. However much we try to satisfy mental hunger, to that extent it will expand, grow, and disturb the mind ever more. Even billionaires are spiritually hungry.
So how are we to solve this problem? There is the Dhamma principle that stopping this foolish hunger results in peace of mind, cool happiness, freedom from disturbance.
Physical hunger doesn't bother us. It's easy to take care of, to find something to eat that satisfies the hunger. Spiritual hunger, however, is another matter. The more we eat, the more we hunger. This is the problem we're caught in- being annoyed, pestered, bothered, agitated by spiritual hunger. When nothing annoys the mind, that is true happiness. This may sound funny to you, but the absence of disturbance is genuine happiness.
We're sure that each of you is bothered by hopes and wishes. You've come here with your hopes and expectations. These hopes, wishes, and expectations are another kind of spiritual hunger, so be very careful about them. Don't let them become dangerous! Find a way to stop the expecting and hoping. Live by satipañña (mindfulness and wisdom); don't live by expectations.
Usually we teach children to be full of wishes -- to "make a wish", to "dream the impossible dream." This isn't correct. Why teach them to live in spiritual hunger? It torments them, even to the point of causing physical pain, illness, and death. It would be kinder to teach them to live without hunger, especially without spiritual hunger. Live with sati-pañña, do whatever must be done, but don't hope, don't dream, don't expect. Hopes are merely spiritual hunger. Teach them not to attach. No hunger, neither physically nor mentally-think about it - what happiness that would be! There's no happiness greater than this. Can you see?
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