I am also quite confused and want clarification. There appear to be many folks who think that
all desire leads to suffering (dukkha). Apparently they
seek to eradicate all desire from their lives since this will lead to "enlightenment."
These folks always lump together the words "craving and desire" as if they are identical.
I distinguish between the two. They mean two different things.
"Craving" is something that usually leads to unhappy results (my observation after 61 years).
I've known my fair share of alcoholics, obsessed individuals, drug addicts, ultra-rich bankers, fanatics, etc.
Most (but not all) of them appear to have suffered as a result of their "craving".
Unhappy results from "desire" occur virtually never (for me).
I desire to attend a film with my son, we are thrilled during the film, rave together
about it afterward over a light dinner at the pub, go home and recall some of the best
scenes with fond remembrance, then sleep.
There has been no "suffering" or "dukkha" as a result of this desire to see a film and acting upon it.
If the theater was closed when we got there, we would go to another or to the pub and have our evening together.
Is the Buddha saying to extinguish the desire to go to the movies with my son?
On the other hand, there may be some who absolutely must see this film or else.
Its the absolutely must part that leads to the dukkha, the grave disappointment at not getting to see it. This is "craving."
The book mentioned a few posts ago about "desire" points out that there are
seventeen Pali words that have all been translated as "desire" into English by various authors.
So, I am uncertain of what the Buddha really meant about all this. Something is getting lost in the translating.
I've read a bit of the Canon (in English) and see some contradiction.
Leading a life that seeks to extinguish all desires is not something I "desire."
It looks more to me like a total withdrawal from life itself into complete apathy,
clinical depression, schizoid personality disorder, or something resembling mental suicide.
Leading a life that is free of "craving" after things that will provide grave disappointment upon their loss may be attractive.
Yet many are willing to accept disappointments upon the loss of what is "theirs."
It is possible to accept loss with equanimity. The Greek Stoic, Epictetus comes to mind.
The basics like food, water, air, heat, shelter, etc do not provoke "desires" or "cravings", they are needs.
Anyway, I sit on the Newbie fence as far as Buddhism goes and remain undecided about much of it.
The practice of mindfulness has been helpful to me,
but the idea that all desires lead to suffering is probably not what the Buddha meant.
If he did, then he was mistaken.