Posted On 25 Aug 2011
Wants are pathological. Surprised?
There are two ways to live life: We can either be like sages or be like most people. In other words, we can either apprehend Becoming from Being or apprehend Being (if at all) from Becoming. [For the Becoming / Being distinction, click here.] The former means living a life pervaded by inner peace; the latter means living a life pervaded by dissatisfaction.
The good news is that, although normal is pathological, it doesn’t have to be.
Everyone, including sages, has preferences; we all prefer some states of affairs to other states of affairs. Sages, though, have either no or very, very weak attachments to their preferences; they can take them or leave them.
Wants (desires, cravings) are preferences with attachments. They are positive when their objects are gains; they are negative when their objects are losses. The way of the world is to spend life trying to gain what we like and to avoid or lose what we don’t like.
Why does The Buddha advise bluntly: “Don’t follow the way of the world”? Why, in other words, should we give up our desires?
A pathological condition is caused by a physical or mental disorder. ‘Pathological’ comes from the Greek word ‘pathos,’ which literally means ‘suffering.’
To desire is to suffer. Assuming that we don’t desire to suffer, we should give up our desires.
This is easy to understand. Suppose you think, “I want X” where ‘X’ refers to something you desire. So X is something you lack. If you didn’t lack X, you couldn’t desire it. (If you had X, you could desire to continue having it, but, since you already have it, you could not desire to have it.)
Therefore, there is separation between you and X. Suffering is caused by separation. So, to desire is to suffer.
There’s nothing original about this. Spiritual teachers have been saying it for millennia. What follows is an almost random sampling.
The Buddha: “When you have neither likes nor dislikes, you will be free . . . There is no fire like lust, no sickness like hatred, no sorrow like separateness, no joy like peace. No disease is worse than greed, no suffering worse than selfish passion. . . They are true followers of the Buddha who rejoice in the conquest of desires. . . He is a real monk who has extinguished all selfish desires, large and small.”
Lao-tzu: “The sage does not take to hoarding. . . There is . . . no greater curse than desire.”
Epictetus: “Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to. . . ”
Jesus: “What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self? . . . You cannot serve God and Money.” [Money, of course, is good for satisfying ordinary wants. I interpret ‘God’ as ‘Being.’ So staying attached to what money can buy blocks realization of Being (union with the Divine, entering the kingdom of Heaven).]
Jianzhi Sengcan: “[H]ave neither aversion nor desiress . . . Though one Dharma differs not from another / The deluded self desires each.”
Rumi: “[S]eparate yourself from the house of desires. . .”
St. John of the Cross: “Want to possess nothing.”
Thich Nhat Hanh: “If you are not satisfied with what is available in the present moment, you will never be satisfied by attaining what you think will bring you happiness in the future.”
Eckhart Tolle: “Many people never realize that there can be no ‘salvation’ in anything they do, possess, or attain.”
Realizing Being is now. It cannot be other than now. Desiring always involves thoughts about what is not now. So desiring obstructs realizing Being.
Realizing Being is impossible without letting go of thoughts. To be stuck in desires is to be stuck in thoughts. To be stuck in thoughts is to be stuck in Becoming.
Realizing Being requires letting go of desires, thoughts, Becoming. Letting go can only happen now.
As long as you think realizing Being is a goal you desire to attain in the future, you will be stuck in Becoming because you will be attached to thinking.
It’s not really a matter of techniques, because techniques take time to master. Still, if you want some free help from me to get started (even though I’m not a sage), click here for help with zen meditation or click here for help with aliveness awareness.
By all means, take encouragement and reassurance from sages.
They, though, cannot realize Being for us. We each must find the Way for ourselves.