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Transform the Demon of Greed

Over the last few days at various gatherings, I have been talking to or thinking about, several young people just into their early 30’s. Two had a strong interest in Buddhism, one in Hinduism and one had no apparent aspirations.

One young person in my thoughts today, died very recently. He was kind and ethical but had no strong feelings about where he wanted to go or do with his life. He seemed to have little greed for material things which might sound like a good thing, but it was clear that that lack of greed also tied in with a lack of ambition of any sort; religious or secular. We had many conversations about what he could do and what was within his grasp, but he found it hard to overcome the conditioning that he had received from family and school. A conditioning that made him accept the lowly fate that had been proscribed by many around him, a simple life of sorts, simple in the fact that it just blindly accepted the norms of society. I saw in him a great potential that appeared asleep, that had been deluded into thinking he had to accept much less than that which could be achieved. He represents to me the vast majority of those who reach maturity within our society and accept that material greed is the only goal.

One young person is an aspiring Hindu who I have known for many years. They were desperate to speak to a person about their interest in this ancient faith system. Their knowledge up to this point had been mainly theoretical, learnt from YouTube and Wikipedia during lockdown. They asked me many questions ranging from the nature and purpose of Puja, Karma and rebirth; also the distinct views of Buddhism and Hinduism on various topics including Enlightenment or the ultimate goal of these religions. Although their knowledge so far was from YouTube they have been impressively meditating and doing Puja every day for the past 2 years. I could answer all of their questions, at least to their satisfaction. But I did ask them to find a community in which they could really practice and experience, in Buddhist terms, Sangha. It is only in these collective situations that you can deepen your direct understanding of your spiritual path.

The final group of young people I met at the Meditation in the Park, and immediately I was impressed by their enthusiasm for the Buddha’s dharma and what it could offer them. What was offered was not just meditation, but a comprehensive way of life. How coming along to our classes, only for a few weeks had made a big impact on their lives. Each of these young people were pursuing something that they hoped would answer their existential needs.

But please bear in mind that these are only examples from my recent conversations. All of us, whatever age we are, exhibit the tendency to greed. As we get older we may try to excuse it in complex ways but eventually, with awareness, we will come to understand that it is just simple greed that is fuelling our behaviour. And that greed, however entrenched in our behaviour, can be re-purposed and used for the good of all.

In this age, with climate change and other large social issues created by the greed and thoughtlessness, the need for change is clearly being felt by the young people growing up in this world with an uncertain future for them and the following generations. Human greed is an innate quality or force that we all have, so that means we all individually need to change. This greed can be seen as a demon. Maybe a little figure whispering in our ear, pushing us to want more for ourselves in every situation. But we can transform that ‘Demon of Greed’ into something for the ultimate good, something for the good of all (all beings) not just for ourselves. This is a Bodhisattva aspiration. It was good to see that aspiration alive and well in the few people I have met recently. It will always only be, a handful of people who deeply see that this Bodhisattva aspiration or ideal, is really the only way to lead a worthwhile and meaningful life.

A life that is spent just in the accumulation of material possessions gives only a hollow temporary satisfaction. But if that human force of greed can be tamed and transformed for the benefit of all then those who achieve that, and have that noble vision, can show and lead others to the joys of that pathway.

There is something very magical about meditating outside under the protective canopy of some ancient trees. The Buddha sat down in a similar spot, only separated from us by five thousand miles and two and half thousand years, to achieve Enlightenment for all, not himself alone. We too have that opportunity and sitting under a canopy of trees does make it seem an achievable possibility. Especially, as a collective practice we can achieve something that is beyond even our self-limited spiritual ambitions.

Our Meditation in the Park sessions have now stopped for this year. But the doors of the Centre are still open to all those who wish to explore that Bodhisattva spirit and find ways it can be realised in aspects of their own lives. A way of behaving that thinks more of others than oneself, where others and oneself are not felt as separate. Where ones greed can be shared amongst, and in the service of all and for the good of all.

Again if sitting outside seems a long way off then it is also worth bearing in mind that you can also meditate under the same tree, in the same spot, the Vajrasana, upon which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Early next year a few intrepid members of the Ipswich Sangha will be going on a Buddhist Pilgrimage to India, and we will be meditating under the Bodhi Tree. If you are interested then do come along to our Pilgrimage meeting at the Centre on Saturday 4th August at 4pm.

This theme of looking at and transforming our base drivers, which Buddhism categorises as the drivers of: greed, hatred and delusion. Transforming them into something for the good of all, is the topic that we will be exploring on our next Sangha retreat, coming up in September.

But of course you don’t have to wait, as the month of August is now upon us and there is even more on offer at the Ipswich Buddhist Centre.

See you Soon

Bodhivamsa