On Buddhism and Suffering
The language of cause and effect is too simple for thinking in a sophisticated way about causation. The Stoics noticed long ago that that “effects” are produced as a result of a network of conditions.
Lighting a match is not the cause for the flame that results—there has to be oxygen in the air too.
Planting a seed is not the cause for the growth of a tree—there has to be water and certain kinds of soil.
You get the idea: “effects” come about only as a result of a set of conditions, not just a single “cause.”
Consequently, it distorts matters to suggest that desire is the root of all suffering. Desire can, at best, be only one element in the conditions that produce suffering.
In addition, narrowly focusing on desire can have the effect of largely ignoring the other conditions that contribute to suffering (such as the production of desire, human exploitation, domination, etc.).
Yes, I know, there are socially engaged Buddhists. But that doesn’t negate this point.