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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
33 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Desire. ThaT’s whaT The BuDDha founD after six years of investigating the cause of suffering. Desire. at the end of a seven-day retreat my mind is clear enough to see it arise. i drive past a neon sign that reads “PiZZa,” and a voice in my mind says, “i want some. Let’s stop.” Then another part of my mind says, “But you just ate a big lunch. You aren’t even hungry.” oh, yeah. Desire, triggered by one word on a sign and unrelated to my actual needs. Desire seems to beget desire. i wanted an iPhone. i got an iPhone. now i want a newer iPhone. Caught by desire. it’s true of everyone, but somehow, it seems especially true of americans. if i want it, i am entitled to it—now! Banks have enticed high school students into signing up for credit cards, and i now know many distressed young people with $25,000 to $65,000 in school loans and credit card debt but no job prospects paying more than minimum wage. readers over a certain age will remember the quaint custom of saving money to buy something, or, if you didn’t have the money in hand, you put it on layaway, paying install- ments until it was yours at last. are we any happier now that we can buy almost anything we want and worry about how to make the payments later? i remember how liberating it felt when i was in Zen train- ing and living on a small stipend. Because i had so little money, i could enter a store, buy the one thing i came for, and leave. i observed all the enticing displays with detached amusement. i could see how the marketers were trying to incite desire in my mind, creating it out of nothing. They have to do this to keep the “we-must-produce-and-consume” wheel of samsara turning, which we’ve been told is essential for our economy to be “healthy” and keep “growing.” and so we have learned to stay in constant motion, chasing after desires, only vaguely aware of the chronic feeling of dissatisfaction and emptiness underneath. This treadmill of unending desire creates a nation of hungry ghosts. in Buddhist art, hungry ghosts are depicted with the huge swollen bellies of chronic malnutrition, but with necks so thin they cannot swallow one grain of rice without chok- ing. it is the realm of unending craving. hungry ghosts are not phantoms born out of the superstitious beliefs of medieval people. They are alive and starving here in america, which we often brag about as being “the most affluent society in the world.” we think we have the “goods” but actually, we don’t. we don’t have good public education, or good health care for Krispy Kreme Mind Jan Chozen Bays on the incessant desires that fuel our confusion and suffering. Finding Happiness inaWorld ofWants What Buddhism teaches us about working with our cravings and money anxieties—and the joy that comes from cultivating simple satisfaction featuring Jan Chozen Bays, Thich nhat Hanh, gaylon Ferguson, Carolyn rose gimian, and Laura Jomon Martin photo sTewarT MiLLer