A friend wrote: : According to Buddhism, "Life is suffering." and : "Suffering is caused by desires." This confuses me. : If, according to Buddhism you should not desire, does : this mean I should not want to eat and sleep, or get : out of bed in the morning, or for that matter : even want to live at all?
In the Second Noble Truth, the Buddha identified the causes of sufferings to be Craving and Ignorance. Under the heading of "Craving", there is "Craving for pleasure and Aversion to pain". This basically means that our mind is constantly seeking to maximize the sensation of pleasure and minimise the sensation of pain. When pleasure arises, our minds try to cling on to it, Clinging arises. When pain arises (whether physical or psychological), our mind trys to get rid of it, Aversion arises.
This is one main cause of our sufferings. Our clinging on to pleasure & aversion to pain. There is be a state of mind where one fully experiences pain without aversion & pleasure without cravings. Where there is no more craving & aversion, there is no more sufferings. There is only perfect peace.
Hence, in this sense, sufferings is caused by Cravings. It's not that we should not desire to eat & sleep etc, but that we should be aware of the source of our sufferings within our minds. Being aware of the source of our sufferings will help us to work directly with it.
(In the scriptures, the cause of sufferings due to Cravings is explained within the scheme of the 12 Dependent Originations. I took the liberty to render it to the above form coz I think it's closer to laymen's experiences, & therefore, easier to understand. So any unclarity here is due entirely to me).