Guide to Buddhism: Step 6 – Conquering Greed

This step involves abandoning and rejecting our cravings and desires 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 cause of unhappiness and therefore roadblock to happiness.

Renunciation of desire is developed by contemplating the unsatisfactory nature of pleasures of the senses. 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.

The 5 Human Desires

You may think that your wants or desires are unique, but they are not – every single one fit into one of five categories:

All of these human desires are similar. We all enjoy these five desires and we all want more and more of these things.

We try our best to prolong these pleasant experiences and to get more and more. Yet they never fully satisfied us.

If you spend your life chasing your desires, then you are bound to suffer from depression, anxiety, distress and anger.

The Cycle of Desire

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 when we get what we initially sought, the pleasure of success not lasting. We worry that we might lose the ground we have gained and feel driven to safeguard our territory and to establish tighter controls.

Or we become bored with what we have acquired to gain more or to rise higher. This all results is a viscous circle: result, action, result action.

It then 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.

The truth is that your desires have no limits – there is no point at which indulging in your cravings will bring permanent sanctification. Blind craving can’t be satisfied.

It keeps on desiring more and more.

Separation From Everything We Cherish is Inevitable

We all want our physical possessions and our blissful moments to last forever.

Whether it’s wealth, power or position, separation is inevitable, and the pain that accompanies separation is proportional to the force of the attachment.

The greater your attachment to possessions, then the greater your burden.

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, but is a move from grief to happiness.

How do we give up our desires and be free?

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.

The goal is to develop an attitude of detachment from worldly pleasures rather than being selfishly attached to them.

Our aim should be to selfless and think of the welfare of others. Renunciation of worldly pleasures provides exalted happiness, peace, fearlessness and joy.

The entire path is 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.

The changes do not come suddenly, but when there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will come.

Next: Step 7: Overcoming Anger