More than two thousand years ago the Buddha proclaimed the Four Noble Truths. Suffering exists. The cause of suffering is desire. Suffering can end. The eightfold path is the way to end suffering.
Many dedicated seekers have devoted enormous time and energy to their efforts to give up desires.
Look at our politicians. See how they contort themselves into pretzels as they ‘explain’ the positions they are taking and how they are ‘different’ from the positions they articulated last week but, despite this, they really have not changed and are steadfast in their integrity and desire to serve you.
Their desire for the power of elected office, for fame, for adulation and much else drive them into endless rounds of placating people they can’t stand but whose money they want.
Their lives would be much simpler and fuller if they did not have the desire that drives them.
Perhaps your life would be better if you did not so strongly crave some of the things you are striving for.
Here is something for you to consider.
You cannot give up desire. Striving to do so is pointless. It will not work, and it will drain you.
Let’s say you are a heavy smoker. It is bad for your health and you wish you could give it up. With will power you stop smoking cold turkey. And you stay that way for years.
But, every time someone lights up close by, you feel a twinge of desire for a smoke. Or a puff.
Desire has to give you up!.
And the way to drive away desire is a technique I call Deep Reflection.
Think about how every situation that brings you pain has some desire as a foundation stone. You may be tempted to say that fulfilled desires are the source of happiness in your life.
Deep Reflection shows you that fulfillment of desires is not the cause of your temporary happiness. You become happy because, for a brief moment when your desire is satisfied, you are no longer a wanting creature. Then the next desire rises and you get back on the treadmill.
The problem is not with any particular desire you have – for wealth or fame or power or sexual gratification.
The problem is with desiring.
Why do you insist that the Universe unfold the way you would like it to?
Why are you not OK with it the way it is? Who told you that the way it is is ‘wrong’ and it is your job to ‘fix’ it?
These are deep waters and I will be coming back to the technique of Deep Reflection in future columns.
For the present, try this: Try to make changes in the Universe so it conforms to the way you would like it to be. You may succeed. You may not succeed. In either case accept the outcome gratefully and with joy. And, from this new starting point, repeat the process.
Do this over and over again.
And, one day, you will find that your ever-so-strong desires are drying up and disappearing.
And you will realize that the Kingdom of Heaven was always within you. You were just too blinded by your overweening desires to enter.