Why Do “I Want,” And For Whom?

We used to have a different translation of the second great vow: “Desires are inexhaustible. We vow to extinguish them all.” Once during an interview, a student asked Zen Master Wu Kwang:

Student: “Desires are inexhaustible. What does this mean?”
ZMWK: “I want!”
Student: “Then how do you extinguish them all?”
ZMWK: “I want!”

Commentary: Human life is “I want!” Even to direct yourself toward extinguishing desires is a want or desire. Strictly speaking, desire or even preference is not the problem. Clinging and self-centered craving is really the core of the issue. Why do “I want,” and for whom? How do I use the energy of desire to go beyond just I, my, me? When hungry, eat; when someone else is hungry, give them food.

Zen Master Wu Kwang

(From The Kwan Um School of Zen)