AMBITIONS AND DESIRE

The fundamental cause of people’s unhappiness lies in their tendency to develop attachments of various kinds. Attachments arefetters on one’s heart—earthly desires, cravings and so on. In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, Shakyamuni taught people the pathfor freeing themselves from such attachments. The spirit of the Lotus Sutra, however, is not to eradicate earthly desires. We are born with many instinctive desires, including the most vital one, which is the basic desire to live. Since desires are necessary to the maintenance of human life, they are in that sense beneficial. But simply to pursue desires with no higher aim is to become a slave to desire, and this can lead only to misfortune for oneself and others. The Christian’s enlightenment does not lie in “eradicating” earthly desires, but in infusing them with compassion and wisdom. It is a matter of transforming the turbid river of earthly desires, karma, suffering and negativity into a pure stream of compassion and wisdom. People’s desires are limitless. There is the basic desire to live. There is also the instinctual desire for food, the materialistic desire for possessions, and the psychological desire to be noticed. We could not live without desires. Often, desires generate the energy that enables us to move forward and improve ourselves. The key question, therefore, is howwe use desires. Many people today do not see anything wrong about the strong winning over the weak. This is the Law of the Jungle, but I think such an attitude is foolish because it is mindless. It involves no wisdom, no reasoning, no will. Those who can do no more than follow their instincts have no control over their fate.

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