Archive for Discipline

Downsides of desire

Western psychology often leaves untreated the downsides of desire. In truth, desire is an extremely dangerous emotion that can drive one to despair. The problem with desire is that it is rooted in unreality. We believe that the object of our desire will bring us happiness, and because this belief is wrong, we waste our lives pursuing the wrong things. When we do get the object of desire, we may be temporarily happy. However, this happiness is not because of the object itself, it is because for a moment we are free of desire. Our unhappiness did not come from our lack, it come from our desire.

When we feel down, we naturally look for something to cheer us up. Because of this, desire can be an escape. It gives us something to focus on, something to want. The thought of having no desires seems depressing to some. It seems that there would be nothing to hope for, nothing to look forward to, no way to cheer oneself up when misery strikes.

The truth is that neither our desires, nor the objects of our desire, bring happiness. Happiness comes from training the mind to be at peace, from forgetting oneself and looking out for others, from removing destructive emotions. Desire is the root of attachment and greed, of discontentment, of anger and irritability. Be very careful to avoid taking it to excess.

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Action and belief

Many religious traditions have beliefs about vegetarianism. They teach that killing animals for food is wrong. Others see carnivorous behaviour as a natural part of life and eat meat cheerfully. However, there is also a large group of people who believe that eating meat is wrong, and yet continue to do so anyway. Similarly, there are people who may be against sweatshop labour but continue to buy clothing produced under these conditions, and so forth.

It is up to each of us to decide our stance on vegetarianism, sweatshop labour, and the like. Each issues has its set of pros and cons. However, once we have made our decision, it is very important to follow through with our beliefs. Otherwise we lose our integrity.

In addition, we must be ready to change our actions and beliefs should our original premises prove false. For example, we may buy fair-trade coffee, believing this to be beneficial to Third World countries. Then a new study may show that it is somehow harmful to their economy. If this were the case, we would have to change our beliefs. There is no point in stubbornly clinging to a belief if it is proven invalid.

In short, our beliefs have little meaning if we do not act upon them. Furthermore, they will soon become flawed if we are not courageous enough to change them when new evidence comes to light.

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