UNIVERSAL DHARMA

This Too, Will Pass ~ LOOK BOTH WAYS

WHEN WE THINK OF IT, it is easy to see how we are influenced, conditioned and taught to be greedy and covetous, to always try to satisfy our desires; we live in a world gone mad with greed. We are pressured in school to get good grades and 'succeed' so we may get well-paid jobs and respect in society. TV bombards us subtly, blatantly and incessantly with countless appealing images, wheedling, inviting and persuading us to acquire and own, and if we don't have the cash or don't want to pay then, we can 'charge it' and pay later.

It is nice to have the latest fashions and models in clothes, cars, appliances, etc., and lots of them, too, but at the same time, what happens? By continuously giving way to our desires and indulging ourselves in whatever we want—but often don't need—we weaken our will-power, become discontented, and easily fall into the negative habit of complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves. Surrounded by things that even 20 years ago we might not have dreamed of, are we happy? When we buy something new we are happy with it for a while, but when its novelty has worn off or we see something better, our happiness fades, too, and it becomes just another possession.

Don't get me wrong, however; I'm not suggesting we should eschew modern things, but that we should understand what happens to our minds in regards to them, so that we remain in control, and avoid becoming possessed by our possessions. We would be silly to wash clothes by hand if we have a washing-machine, for example; there is no need to do things the hard way when we have the means to do them easier and better. To refuse to travel by motorized transport because it's 'unnatural' would be rather extreme and neurotic, would it not? The problem is that we soon grow used to things and take them for granted; then, when they break down or are lost or stolen, we feel helpless and don't know what to do.

The old analogy of a bottle with 50% of its contents is still useful; would we say it is half-full or half-empty? We could say either or both, could we not? But what we said would reveal something about us; an optimistic would say it is half-full, while a pessimist would say it is half-empty. The situation—here, a bottle with 50% of its contents—is the same, but the ways of looking at it are different. There are always at least two ways of looking at everything.

Some years ago, while traveling with a friend on a highway in Malaysia, we were passed by a motor-cyclist doing probably close to 100 mph. As if prophetically, I said: "We'll see him later." Sure enough, about 15 miles down the road, there was his bike in the middle of the highway while he was sprawled on the grass verge, as if dead. We stopped to render assistance and found that he wasn't badly hurt, so while some villagers undertook to look after his bike, we lifted him into the back of our car and drove him to the nearest hospital. He had been eager to return to his home in a distant town to celebrate the Muslim New Year the next day, and so was sad that he would not make it in time; he probably felt he was unfortunate, so I tried to console him but telling him he was lucky, as he could easily have died. As he couldn't undo what had happened, this would have been the best way of looking at it.

Some people regard philosophy as being somewhat out-of-fashion today, which is a pity, as we all need the support of it at times, and the nearer the philosophy is to reality, the more efficacious it is.

We often compare ourselves with others, and measure our 'success' besides theirs. But in our comparisons, we usually look at those who have more, and not less, than us, so consequently, we become envious and dissatisfied, and feel sorry for ourselves. If we looked at those with less than us, however, our situation would appear quite different; it all depends upon how we look at it. Always there will be people better-off or worse-off than us, richer or poorer than we are; we are always somewhere in between, and no-one is 'top' in every way. If we must compare ourselves with others, let us look in both directions, like before crossing a busy street.

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