We normally look at things as if they are permanent and unchanging so we feel immediately happy whenever something nice happens to us and we feel sad when something bad occurs to us. These emotional highs and lows that we experience occur only because of our misunderstanding of the true nature of how things exist in reality.
What we see is not really what exists in reality.
Everything in this universe is a result of many different causes and conditions coming together but our mind instinctively clings strongly to the object as if it exist independently from its own side – separate from these causes and conditions that came together to result in the object or event. Therefore, many people in the world (including myself), who don’t have much understanding of or forget the true nature of things, chase and desire nice, beautiful and good quality things (e.g. an expensive car, a nice gold watch, a large house), which we strongly believe exists inherently on its own. We don’t want to be separated from them due to our strong desire and attachment for them. We want such things more and more, which in most cases is unachievable.
The more we have the more we want. It’s like drinking salty water – when we get thirsty, the more we drink the more we feel thirsty. Similarly, the more we desire the more we suffer because things always decay – this is the nature of things. That’s why we should be happy and satisfied with what we have and buy things that we really need and not what our greedy mind wants.
In order to do this we need discipline and mindfulness, which can be cultivated from the awareness of the dangers of desire and attachment to an object. Everything begins from cultivating an awareness of an issue in our minds – everyone, whether Buddhist or not, can develop this awareness of the evils of desire. So next time we reach for our purse to buy something we can first ask ourselves “do we really need it or are we just desiring and wanting it?” At this point we can analyze and make a sensible decision whether to buy or not or whether to get attached to an object or not.
Imagine all the positive things that would arise if we all did this:
- We would save money, which we could give to people who really need it. This would make us happy.
- We would be happier and suffer less as we wouldn’t be addicted to getting our happiness from things, which eventually decay or get lost.
- Our environment would be healthier as the factories wouldn’t have to produce as many things and therefore there would be less pollution that would make the animals, tree and us happier.
- Everyone would lead a simpler life so there wouldn’t be the pressure to compete with others to have a bigger house, better car or nicer clothes. Everyone’s mind would not be focused on desiring things and making more and more money to satisfy these desires and instead we would have more time for each other, more time to relax with our family and friends and contemplate and enjoy life in general.
Do you really need the best quality handbag just to hold a tiny purse or probably some face cream? Some people spend $3,000 USD on a handbag; imagine how many poor people you could help with this money.
Do you really need a big expensive car to carry your body that is probably only 60 to 70 kilograms?
Do you really need an expensive fancy dress or smart jacket to protect your body from the heat or cold?
Do you really need to earn lots of money (over and above what you need to live a comfortable, simple life) to fill up your small stomach and live on this earth for your short life?
Do you really need a big house just for your 5 or 6 feet high body?
Our span of life is on average 70-80 years, our body height is 5-6 feet and our stomach space is very small so we really don’t need what we want.
Everybody who reads these few simple words, please try to think and analyze them for a few minutes each day for a few weeks and observe your mind. After this time look to see whether your mind is thinking in a different way than before.
May this benefit many people like me who don’t have much understanding of the true nature of things.
Namgay from Phajoding Monastery.