Step 5A: Greed

Conquering Greed

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This step involves abandoning and rejecting our cravings in order overcome greed. We should abandon desire not because it is morally evil but because it is a root of suffering. To rid yourself of greed, focus on the antidote: generosity. Renunciation of desire is the key to happiness by turning away from cravings and becoming free from the hold of attachment.

Forsaking desire does not mean compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but changing our perspective on them. We remain in bondage to desire because we see it as our means to happiness but desire is actually a roadblock to happiness. Renunciation of desire is developed by contemplating the unsatisfactory nature of pleasures of the senses.

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Pleasure of the senses are like saltwater: A thirsty man who drinks saltwater in the hope of quenching his thirst only finds that it increases.

Sense pleasures can also be compared to a certain fruit that has an attractive exterior and is fragrant and tasty, but that is poisonous if eaten. Similarly, sense pleasures are attractive and enjoyable but can cause disaster and suffering. Therefore, to cultivate renunciation, you must consider the undesirable consequences of indulging in sense pleasures.

Consider for a moment the viscous, never ending cycle of desire:

  • First, at the moment desires springs up, it creates in us a sense of lacking, the pain of wanting.
  • Next, too end this pain, we struggle to fulfill the desire.
  • Then, if our effort fails, we experience frustration, disappointment, sometimes despair. Even if our efforts succeed, the pleasure of success is not unqualified.
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We worry that we might lose the ground we have gained. We feel driven to safeguard our territory, to gain more, to rise higher, to establish tighter controls. This all results is a viscous circle: result, action, result action.

It becomes an endless cycle rolling on and on. Whether a person is poor, a millionaire, a king, or a peasant, they are certain to experience suffering of one kind or another so long as they are caught up in this vicious cycle of desire. Taken a step further, do you know if your craving has any limits, i.e., at what point will it be satisfied? Is there such a thing as truly satisfying a craving? If you consider it, you will see that blind craving can’t be satisfied. It keeps on desiring more and more.

We also want physical things and our blissful moments to last forever. Ask yourself: What is there that you can get or be that will not bring distress and anxiety? Would gaining a high position and title give you inner peace or major obligations? Will buying a new fancy car not cause worry over payments, depreciation, insurance costs, chips and dents, etc? Such things always bring only burden and extra responsibility.

Whether it’s wealth, power or position, separation is inevitable, and the pain that accompanies separation is proportional to the force of the attachment. Strong attachment brings much suffering; little attachment brings little suffering; no attachment brings no suffering. To move from desire to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to grief, from abundance to destitution.

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How do we practice non-clinging? We practice simply by giving up clinging, but this non-clinging is very difficult to understand. It takes keen wisdom to investigate and penetrate this, to really achieve non-clinging. We should maintain an attitude of detachment from worldly pleasures rather than being selfishly attached to them. We should be selfless and think of the welfare of others. Renunciation of worldly pleasures provides exalted happiness, peace, fearlessness and joy.

The entire Path can be viewed as an evolving process of renunciation culminating in internal peace as the ultimate stage of relinquishment.  The changes do not come suddenly, but when there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will come.

Step 5B: Anger