The Riddle of Desire

Introduction Mark Matousek
Working With Desire: Three approaches Matthieu Ricard
You Can't Always Get What You Want Ken McLeod
For A Mouthful Of Grass Shantideva
Drink and a Man Joan Duncan Oliver
Making Room For Desire Tara Brach
Six Small Meditations On Desire Jane Hirshfield
Sex-Loving Monk Ikkyu
The Merry-Go-Round of Desire: Interview with Mark Epstein
Immeasurable Depths: The love poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama

Shantideva, Tibet's eigth-century Buddhist master, on desire's trap

Some, under the influence of desire, work like slaves.
They tire themselves out working long days
And, when they return home in the evening,
Their exhausted bodies collapse like corpses.

Some have to experience the disruptions of travel
Or suffer from being far from home.
Although they long to be close to their partners,
They do not see them for years at a time.

Some, confused about how to earn what they desire,
Effectively sell themselves to others
Even when they do not get what they want
But are driven without meaning by the need of others.

Then there are those who sell themselves into servitude
And work for others without any freedom.
They live in lonely, desolate places
Where their children are born with only trees for shelter.

Deceived by desire, people become fools.
Some think, “I need money to support my life,”
And, although they fear for their lives, go off to war;
While others enslave themselves for the sake of profit!

Some, as a consequence of their desires,
Suffer cuts to their bodies
Or are stabbed, impaled,
Or even burned.

We should realize that a preoccupation with wealth leads to endless problems
Because acquiring it, protecting it, and losing it all involve pain.
Those who allow themselves to become distracted out of attachment to wealth
Will find no opportunity to escape from the miseries of samsara.

People attached to a worldly life
Experience many such problems, and for little reward.
They are like a horse forced to pull a cart,
Who can grab only an occasional mouthful of grass to eat.

Those who are driven by uncontrolled desires
Waste this precious freedom and endowment, so hard to find,
For the sake of a few petty rewards that are in no way rare,
For even animals can obtain them.

Our objects of desire will definitely perish,
And then we shall fall into the lower realms.
If we consider all the hardships we have endured since beginningless time
In pursuing meaningless worldly pleasures,

We could have attained the state of a Buddha
For a fraction of the difficulty!
Worldly beings experience much greater suffering than those who follow the path to enlightenment—
And yet they do not attain enlightenment as a result!

From Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by Shantideva © 2002 by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and New Kadampa Tradition. Reprinted with permission of Tharpa Publications,

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