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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lama Surya Das: Craving, Desire and Lust in a Consumer Society

Lama Surya Das
"Craving, or lust, as it is sometimes called, is one of the primary five hindrances, or challenges, that Buddha warned seekers they would meet on the path to awakening," observes Lama Surya Das. "When Buddha Dharma speaks about craving, it implies psychological hunger and thirst, unhealthy desire, longing, attachment, and psychological fixation."

"Who among us," he asks, "is so completely filled that he or she is above "wanting" of any kind? Is there nothing wanting in your life right now? As we try to purify and refine our actions, we need to be aware of the myriad ways by which our desires create pitfalls on the spiritual path."

"Purifying oneself of craving and desire," Das notes, " is a complex and subtle process. The analogy of a misguided moth being consumed by the candle flame to which it is fatally attracted is a good one. Sometime," he observes, "we want something so badly that we think we can't possibly let go of our goal."

"Judge the moth by the quality of its candle," Rumi advises. For even our spiritual thirsts can prove a fatal distraction from true attainment. Wisdom traditions in all ages are rife with stories of great achievers who have been distracted by the sensual, the occult or other powers they have achieved, only to allow their final liberation to slip by the wayside.

"Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight," Rumi points out. "Be a connoisseur and taste with delight. Any wine will get you high," he cautions. "Judge like a king and choose the purest."

"On the spiritual path," warns Surya Das, "be prepared to confront compulsive desires again and again. Watch what you desire," he advises, "observe what attracts or repels you most. Notice what buttons are pushed in you by external stimuli, and how you respond to each of them. We have all invested emotional intensity and energy in wanting, achieving, accumulating and grasping," he points out.

"How does it happen? What is it for?" he asks. "Just round up the usual suspects and look them over - love, ego gratification, sex, sensual pleasures, money possessions, fame, security, power."

Looking at the proliferation of all these desire objects in our modern consumer society, Surya Das rightly asks: "Are we making Faustian deals with the devil?"

"It is said," Das points out, "that a thief's vision is so distorted that even when he meets a saint, all he can see is the saint's pocketbook. Ask yourself: Is there anything or anyone you crave so much that it clouds your judgment and vision? What do you hunger for? Is there anything that engenders feelings so intense that your pursuit of it becomes a substitute for furthering your inner development?"

"It has often been said," Das notes, "that everyone has a price. What is yours? Don't sell yourself short," he advises, "or you'll pay for it."

[Lama Surya Das, "Awakening the Buddha Within," pp. 219-220.]

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