Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Greed, a distraction from our spiritual journey

la-la-he-greed13-jpg-20130704Greed is the worst kind of poverty, the desire for more and more means you never have the time to be content. Material wealth only breeds a life of suffering.  Let us take eating for example, a thing we all do, when we eat a good meal we are pleased by it, but if pleasure was the true nature of the act of eating, then no matter how much we ate, the act would only increase said pleasure.  Instead when we have eaten too much we find that we are in pain and suffer.  In contrast if we do not eat at all we suffer from hunger and starvation.

The healthier approach is daily examination, we must determine our true motivations for our desires, do we wish to obtain merely to increase our lives of decadent pleasures? Only through diligent self reflection and examination can we see the origin of our daily suffering, once the source has been discovered can we aid in its cessation.

Material excess only causes us to become distracted from who we truly are, universal manifestations on a spiritual journey. We must help others, or at least live in a way which will cause no harm, because we are all connected, the perception that we are all separate is because we rely on the limited senses to which we are manifested. Our own two eyes are limited to the spectrum between infrared and ultraviolet, we cannot perceive the others but it does not mean they do not exist, such is the same for what connects us all together. When we take in excess we cause only the other extensions of universal selves to suffer.

You may ask yourself, “Wouldn’t life be boring without attachment?” No. In fact it’s attachment that makes us restless and prevents us from enjoying things.

Hundreds of stupid flies gather
On a piece of rotten meat,
Enjoying, they think, a delicious feast.
This image fits with the song
Of the myriads of foolish living beings
Who seek happiness in superficial pleasures;
In countless ways they try,
Yet I have never seen them satisfied.
7th Dalai Lama from ‘Songs of spiritual change’ translated by Glenn Mullin

In the Four Noble Truths, Buddha himself explained that one of the primary causes of suffering is attachment. He meant more than just attachment to material things; he meant attachment to ideas, people, emotions, beliefs, and much more. But let’s focus on just worldly material possessions for today.

In the East, historically, it has been tradition for householders to support wandering monks, mendicants, ascetics, and other traveling “holy men.” It was completely possible for these men to survive owning nothing but the clothes on their backs, and in some regions, even clothing was an option. With modern society in the East, and even more-so in Western countries, this lifestyle just doesn’t work well anymore. Generally speaking, we don’t look at “homeless people” as holy men; often it’s quite the opposite. Clearly, for most of us, we need to find some kind of middle way between being totally homeless and property-less and blatant greedy materialism.

There’s nothing wrong with having a job, driving a car, wearing decent clothes, and owning a few “toys.” The trick is not to get too attached to them. How would you react if somehow you lost it all tomorrow?

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One response

  1. At one point I used sewing machine,tried to constantly upgrade my possessions, but I have found more gratification in giving them away. Now my ‘things’ are pretty basic – an old car, older laptop, sewing machine, used clothes, and a few more. Not much more than I had as a young adult. I feel more a part of the general world condition. I’m new to Dharma and am glad to have these life choices reinforced by teachers wiser than I.

    May 24, 2014 at 12:49 am

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