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the rocky road to happiness

An on-line news magazine from Germany reports that a 50-year old baron (“I’m the black sheep in the family”), who inherited $100 million when he turned 25, is now suing for his “rightful share” of the family’s $6.6 billion. His step-brothers rank among the world’s richest people (#50 and 67) and lawyers are gearing up for an expensive battle.

The Buddhist view holds that greed is one of the Three Poisons (along with hatred and delusion). A dictionary defines greed as “an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.” 

Christmas is a time when some of us buy things that we don’t actually need. Credit cards get maxed out and unhappiness arises when a desired item is sold out or the wrong one ends up under the tree. The boxing-day-week blow-out sales rev up the engines once more by telling us to buy things simply because they’re 50% off.

For most poisons there’s an antidote. To overcome greed, we can cultivate generosity, detachment, and contentment. We can give away things we would keep or practice acts of service and charity … without recognition or compensation. Through meditation we can see into the impermanence of the objects of our desire.

There is in fact nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasures of objects in a material world; greed only arises when we make ‘stuff’ the source of happiness. 

source: on poisons and antidotes.


6 responses »

  1. I’m so enjoying your posts… the Buddhist wisdom of which you speak is so perfect for the season… and reminds me how much work I need to do, especially in regards to detachment! Biggest blessings to you, Peter.

    • dear april, the work continues and may take more than one life time to achieve — that’s why it’s called pratice. be gentle with your/self, dear friend. loving kindness begins right here.

  2. what a wonderful message….one that all too often gets lost in the “rush to buy”.

    Christmas joy is time spent with friends and family, not the material goods exchanged.

    • hello nicole, thank you. since my immediate family lives in Europe I was able to surprise several people at dinner: a simple phone call. joy in their voices, warmth in my heart. Easy! May you be happy! p

  3. My husband and I now live far from family and friends so our Christmas celebrations are usually simply sharing a special meal on Christmas just for ourselves. But for many years before that, our family practice was to only give consumables at Christmas–usually small food delicacies, bottles of wine, or special bath soap. But never ‘things’. We would enjoy the consumables and think of the giver when we used them up… it was a way of keeping the spirit going all through the year!

    • what a lovely custom: a quiet meal and gifts that give pleasure. a friend is coming over (by ferry) tomorrow, bring her 7-year old son and their christmas tree. so they’ll have two celebration, the tree keeps giving, and i’ll have today in silence and tomorrow in fine company. Best wishes to you and your family, Maringouin.


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