The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”
The teaching that the Buddhas have given us is that the cornerstone of our religion is generosity and giving. Celebrating Christmas as a cultural holiday could be a time when we Buddhists could practice the most important meat and bones part of our religion. We could be really generous. But it doesn’t seem to happen. It’s just become too materialistic. I think that that is a perfect example of some of the problems that we have as sentient beings.
As sentient beings we have this mistaken idea that we can satisfy ourselves through very gross materialistic means. And we can’t even see through the falsity of that idea. We can’t really understand how it is that we’re fooling ourselves, that we’re duping ourselves; and we never seem to understand why in the end we are never completely satisfied. Do we? We never really understand what has fallen through. Why is it that we‘re never happy? And why is it that we’re never completely satisfied? Or if we are happy, why does it not last? Why is that so? I think about the strange mental configurations that we can get into. It’s really odd. Depending on what kind of person you are, each one of us will express this mental configuration in a different way.
Here are some of the ways that I can think of just off the top of my head. Let’s say, for instance, that we’re eating some food. Well, you know, you might eat something that is very rich and meaty; and then after that you have to have something that’s very light and sparkly to cleanse your mouth. After eating something rich and spicy, then you have to have something sweet and mellow. And then you think that if you’ve had something salty, you must have something very liquidy and smooth to drink. And it goes back and forth and back and forth; and you must constantly build on what you have given yourself to complete the experience. Have you ever noticed that that’s true? Have you ever noticed that if you were to eat, for instance, some meat at a meal, then after that you would have to have something sweet? Or if you ate something salty, then after that you would have to have something cool and refreshing? And that if you ate something cool and refreshing, then you would have to have something salty? And it’s an endless cycle of things that you have to do that is based one on top of the other. It’s almost like a reactive phenomena that is circular and cycled, almost, in its shape.
Then let’s say that we go to the store and we see a dress that we absolutely must have. It’s a ‘must have.’ It’s a beautiful dress. It’s a beautiful dress. We try it on, and it fits us perfectly. Or if we’re a man, it’s a beautiful suit, and it fits us perfectly. I can relate more to the women’s dressing aspect. But anyway, if it’s a dress, well, you have to have the perfect shoes. And of course, if you have to have the perfect shoes, then you must have the perfect hose. And of course, if you have the perfect hose, then you must have nice underwear to go under it. And of course, if that’s the case, you must figure out exactly how to do your hair properly to make it just right for that dress. And then, what are the accessories that you are going to use? Well, the only earrings that you’ve found that are just perfect are going to cost you about $150.00. Ahhhh… So in order to make that practical, you have to buy another dress that they go with. Two dresses for a $150.00 pair of earrings? Nope. That skirt and that blouse would make it practical. They would make it worthwhile. But then, for each one of them, you have to have shoes and hose. Pretty soon it gets awfully darn complicated, doesn’t it? And you find that it never ends. Because every time you put a piece together, there has to be another piece.
Or with relationships. You always think, ‘Well if I could just find that perfect relationship, I could be happy.’ Then you find a relationship, and you talk yourself into believing that it’s perfect. Maybe it seems perfect at first. And then suddenly there comes that first, horrible day when you notice there’s a flaw.. You try not to think about it, but it’s really there. You try not to think about it, but it’s creeping up on you; and pretty soon you notice that it’s not perfect. And the moment that it’s not perfect, you fall through the cracks again, don’t you? Because little by little, that lack of perfection is going to build up. And if your mind is not stable, pretty soon it won’t be the one. And if it’s not the one, pretty soon you’re on the track again, looking, looking, looking.
It’s always like that. It’s always like that. It can happen with material objects. It can happen with relationships. It can happen with ways that you spend your day. It can happen with jobs. It can happen with ideas. And the thing that we always come out understanding is that nothing is perfect. We’re never completely content. There is no perfect relationship. None. There is no perfect object. None. There is no perfect circumstance. None. There is no perfect idea. None. Because each idea, each object, each relationship, can only be perceived by us according to the karmic patterns and habitual tendencies of our mind. We will create the kinds of relationships in our mind that are our habit to create according to our karma. And we will not even be able to register those that are inconsistent with the karmic cause and effect relationships within our minds, with the habitual tendencies that are within our minds. We will not even be able to cook up a relationship that isn’t part of the habitual tendency of your mind. Of our minds. That’s why they’re all alike. That’s why, even though some relationships seem different, and some people seem different, our friends and our experiences within the context of relationships eventually all have a certain common denominator. They have a common denominator in some regard. They are the same. They leave us in the same way; they affect us in the same way. And it’s due to the fact that we cannot even perceive a relationship that is not part of the habitual tendency of our mind. That is what we are doing. We are looking in the mirror and seeing the habitual tendency of our mind. And it’s the same way with any object that we have ever owned. They all have a certain common denominator. They all excite us for a period of time, and then they leave us. They either get old, or they break down, or they’re no longer in fashion, or whatever it is that happens.
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