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Posted by Mac Mani on March 14, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Paradoxically, it is our remarkable ability to change our world that has led us into this sorry state. We have fallen into the belief that if we are not at peace, then we must do something about it. We think we need to obtain something we don't yet have, get others to respond as we would like, enjoy a new experience, or, conversely, avoid some circumstance or person that is causing us distress. We assume that, if we could just get our world to be a particular way, we will finally be happy.


From the moment we are born our culture reinforces this assumption, encouraging us to believe that outer well-being is the source of inner fulfillment. As young children we learn from the example of our elders that it is important to be in control of things, that material possessions offer security. As we grow up, much of our education focuses on knowing the ways of the world in order that we might better manage our affairs and so find greater contentment and fulfillment. As adults, the daily deluge of television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and advertisements reinforces the belief that happiness comes from what happens to us. The net result is that we become addicted to things and circumstances.


Our material acquisitiveness may not look like a drug addiction, but the underlying pattern is the same. With drugs-whether they be alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tranquilizers, cocaine or heroin-people take them for one simple reason. They want to feel better. They want to feel happy, high, relaxed, in control, less anxious, temporarily free from some suffering. In this respect drug-takers are seeking nothing different from anyone else; it is just the way in which they are doing it that most societies find unacceptable.


Similarly with our addiction to having and doing, we are seeking a better state of mind. And, in the short term, it may appear to work. But any pleasure, happiness, or satisfaction we do find is only temporary. As soon as one "high" wears off we go in search of another "fix". We become psychologically dependent on our favorite sources of pleasure -food, music, driving, debating, football, television, shopping, whatever.


When this fails to bring any lasting satisfaction we do not question whether our approach may be mistaken. Instead we try even harder to get the world to give us what we want. We buy more clothes, go to more parties, eat more food, try to make more money. Or we give up on these and try different things. We take up squash, or look for new friends. Yet true peace of mind remains as elusive as ever.


We live in what Indian philosophies call the world of samsara, meaning "to wander on". We wander on, looking for fulfillment in a world which provides but temporary respites from discontent, a momentary pleasure followed by more wandering on in search of that ever-elusive goal.

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