There are two ways to approach anything in life: through need or through greed. This applies to all things, for example: money and objects that money can buy, relationships, career/work, food and other sense pleasures, spirituality, etc. Here’s the thing about greed: it’s unending and hence a life lived through greed can never lead to any kind of satisfaction. And satisfaction is a must in order to find lasting peace and happiness. The happiness that a greed based life brings in only temporary; it lasts only for a short while i.e. until your greed starts disturbing you once more!
Let’s take an example to explain this very important concept. We have been eating 3-4 times a day for our entire lives. We must have consumed several tons of food till date and yet in a couple of hours we will be hungry once again! The same applies to many other things in our lives. Billionaires who have loads of money are still hungry for more. The millionaires are hungry for more as well but are thinking: once I’m a billionaire I will no longer feel any greed for money – how wrong they are, because those poorer than them are thinking exactly the same thing! Therefore, one thing is clear: there is no end to this. But then, both food and money are needed for day to day living! How can we live without them? We cannot. So then the question now becomes, how can we live in such a way so as to minimise the greed factor and maximise satisfaction, which then leads to peace and happiness.
Here is one way of doing it. In every situation ask yourself the question: am I doing this out of need or out of greed. For example: Do I need 6 cars? Do I need to have the latest I-phone? Do I need to spend 5 hours a day on Facebook? Do I need to have an extra serving of my favourite food item? If the answer is: I am doing this out of need then please go ahead and do it. However, if the answer is: I am doing this out of greed, then please stop! Apply this to everything in your daily living. And please be honest – remember, if you’re dishonest then you’re only deceiving yourself.
In the beginning it will be demanding but soon enough you will get used to it and it will become a habit – such that it will become effortless. This practice is very powerful – it has the power to change your life! It will bring peace and contentment, which then quite naturally leads to happiness. And happiness as we know is all that we humans are ever looking for*! Furthermore, as you continue with this practice you will find Vairagya, which is a prerequisite for Enlightenment.
This repeated questioning & subsequent correction in your daily behaviour will lead you to reduce your greed based existence – which is somehow the default setting for 99.9% of humans! And since it’s the default setting, it’s considered to be the “right” way of living. For example: the media constantly bombards you with suggestions about how “more” is always good for you! Your family and friends always admire those who “have” while looking down upon those who “have not”. This have and have not distinction is not limited to money but also extends to beauty, power, success, charm, ambition, intelligence, academic qualification, marriage & kids, etc. However, tell me this: how many people do you know who are truly^ happy? The only people I know who are truly happy are the ones who are Enlightened, the others are only temporarily happy. Superficially they may seem to have it all but their inner happiness is regularly interspaced with misery & suffering. I know this sounds too good to be true but it’s possible to be unconditionally happy i.e. happy all the time! However, in order to reach this paradise you will have to exert yourself – it’s not going to happen on its own! There are several paths that lead to it; this essay shows you one such path.
One final point: some might argue, if there were no greed, everyone would be satisfied with what they have and hence there would never have been any movement towards more and hence no progress! This is a valid argument. However, it has one fatal flaw: it assumes that greed is necessary for progress and that satisfied humans are lazy and inactive. This is incorrect! One can be satisfied and grateful for what one has and yet continue to strive for improvement/excellence in whatever one does. Only this time, the striving is not born out of unsettling feverishness! But instead out of calm self control.
A short summary of the path that this essay suggests can be represented as:
Need based living Vairagya Enlightenment.
* For a full discussion on happiness please refer to the essays on this website titled “Happiness I
” and “Happiness II
^ The word “truly” here implies Unconditional Happiness i.e. happy all the time.