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Strong attachment to desire

Strong attachment to desire

Man sitting on floor, meditating.
Meditating can help us see how the mind becomes attached to objects of desire.

In this excerpt from a letter to Dianne Pratt (now Venerable Thubten Jigme), D. D. reveals how he feels four months after being released from prison.

Sometimes I whine a lot, for example when I get frustrated because things aren’t going my way (which is just my self-centeredness acting up). I start reverting to old behaviors and become paralyzed with indecision and inaction. When I watch my mind, I see how easily I revert to old ways of thinking and feeling and start to wallow in self-pity, “Poor me. Poor convicted felon, who nobody will hire.” You were right, of course. I just have to keep trying until I find an employer kind enough to hire me. Thankfully I have. I was honest about my past and sincere about the changes I’ve made in the last six years, and I believe my employer appreciated my openness. I’ve been there almost two months now and it’s working out quite well. They are pleased with my work and professional attitude, and I’m grateful to them for giving me the opportunity.

During meditation I’ve begun to see how my mind becomes so strongly attached to objects of desire. For example, wanting so badly to have the perfect girlfriend or the motorcycle I want to buy. I kept asking, “Where is this obsession coming from? I know these samsaric pleasures are not going to provide me with happiness. In fact, ultimately they’ll just cause more suffering.”

Finally I realized there’s no need to keep grasping at these things. Why? I already have everything I need! I came to understand that I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes on my back, and that they’re all due to the kindness of others. So there’s no need to keep grasping and most importantly, due to the kindness of others I have Dharma. I have Dharma friends and kind-hearted teachers who can give me advice and even the antidotes to gross disturbing emotions. I shouldn’t take these things for granted! It’s a matter of learning—and this is a process—to be content with what I have and of relying on my Dharma practice to guide me.

I was shoveling snow the other night after I got home from work. I realized how sometimes I take my freedom for granted. There I was on a beautiful, crisp winter night, with large lovely snowflakes floating down, moonlight illuminating the blankets of snow. I just had to stop, take a deep breath, enjoy the scene and the silence, and smile at the miracle of life and of being alive. This is something I should not forget. After all, last year at this time, I was restricted from even going out at night because I was locked down. What a remarkable difference!

Later that night I was reading a transcript of Venerable’s teachings and she mentioned using nature as an analogy and inspiration for our practice. Right on! I could dig that. Anyway I’m glad to be alive and to be able to join you, my Dharma brothers and sisters, in doing retreat from afar. With my palms together I bow to you and everyone there with sincerity and humility.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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