"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eckhart Tolle: On Attachment and Our Real Needs

It is hard to even begin to gauge how much a complication of possessions, the notions of "my and mine," stand between a true, clear, liberated way of seeing the world. To live lightly on the earth, to be aware and alive, to be free of egotism, to be in contact with plants and animals, starts with simple concrete acts.

The inner principle is the insight that we are interdependent energy-fields of great potential wisdom and compassion - expressed in each person as a superb mind, a handsome and complex body, and the almost magical capacity of language. To these potentials and capacities, "owning things" can add nothing of authenticity. "Clad in the sky, with the earth for a pillow."

-- Gary Snyder --
(Excerpt from "Essential Zen," page 32.)
Humanity's "physical needs" are relatively few - clean air and water, heat, food, clothing and shelter - but our "psychological needs" are nearly infinite - we all, or so it seems, want more and more to gain some sense of fulfillment or completeness. Tragically, in seeking to fill this vacuous need for more "things" to meet our "psychological needs," we preclude millions of others from attaining the most basic physical necessities of life.

The whole structure of the world's interrelated economy is thus premised on an unachievable aspiration. We all want "more" than we possibly need, both for seeming "comfort" and to give a twisted sense of "meaning" to the mad rush for material "well-being" rather than true psychological and spiritual fulfillment.

This unending drive to fulfill faux psychological "necessities" becomes, as spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle points out in his best-selling book, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" (below), a self-perpetuating cycle of dysfunction.
"The physical needs for food, water, shelter, clothing, and basic comforts could be easily met for all humans on the planet, were it not for the imbalance of resources created by the insane and rapacious need for more, the greed of the ego. It finds collective expression in the economic structures of this world, such as the huge corporations, which are egoic entities that compete with each other for more. Their only blind aim is profit. They pursue that aim with absolute ruthlessness. Nature, animals, people, even their own employees, are no more than digits on a balance sheet, lifeless objects to be used and then discarded."
Nevertheless, Tolle places the blame exactly where it originates - within the smaller "self" or "ego" by which the overwhelming majority of us blindly run our lives.
"The thought forms of "me" and "mine," of "more than" of "I want," "I need," "I must have," and of "not enough," pertain not to content but to the structure of the ego. The content is interchangeable," Tolle notes.

"As long as you don't recognize those thought forms within yourself," he points out, "as long as they remain unconscious, you will believe in what they say; you will be condemned to acting out those unconscious thoughts, condemned to seeking and not finding - because when those thought forms operate, no possession, place, person or condition will ever satisfy you."
It is time that we recognize this, individually and collectively, in order to live softly upon the face of the earth.  "Clad in the sky, with the earth for a pillow," as Gary Snider so poetically put it.
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