the carrot make the ass* happy?
readers: If I had meant what you think, I'd have written it with an R
and an E, but with only one S]
Everyone knows the
carrot-at-the-end-of-a-pole trick, just before the ass's nose, in order
to force it to go forward.
The other day, seeing a kid screaming "I
want!", in front of the window of a one euro shop reminded me of a
similar incident of the same ilk with a nephew, and here I am back on
the three poisons subjec: greed, anger and ignorance.
It would really seem that greed be one of the
main motors of the human being. According to D.
Loy (and I
agree), such greed is intimately related to No-Self.
We know that the Buddhadharma teaches
No-self, i.e., that nothing exists in itself, that is independently from its context,
that is still, without relation to the rest. Now, if such principle is
relatively easy to integrate, as for things and objects, for instance
that there are no books without paper or ink, that there is no ink
without the produces which compose it, just as there is no paper
without the trees or paper plants, without the vegetative process, and
so on, without mention that the author cannot be done without. All this
is all right, but it remains much more difficult to admit that very
same process for oneself.
And even if one wished to admit that for the
body, our physical necessities, our origins, etc., there remains a
littlekeep for which we won't admit of any No-Self, and that is our
conscience. Man has therefore imagined an eternal soul jailed into a
temporary body, after which there are a few options, amongst which the
Christian, with a choice between eternal hell and eternal heavens, plus
a temporary purgatory before eternal heavens.
This scheme includes quite a few variants,
which may be found even within Mahayana Buddhism; with it competes the
metempsychotic scheme, where an eternal soul flits about from one
existence to the other, with or without animal existences, the basic
idea being fundamentally to reward the good and punish the evil.
But the fundamental idea of Buddha Dharma is
that the human being knows, deep down inside, the reality of No-Self
and tries by every means to demonstrate the opposite, especially
through possession. "I possess, therefore I am." The general idea being
that "I'm worth something, since I own so much," or, "since I have so
much power," or still "since so many people worship me."
On a smaller scale, this can be manifested
through one's car, one's watch, clothes, or one's partner. To exist in
other people's eyes, since it is so impossible in one's own.
Therefore, getting back to our carrot, if I
don't get what I desire, it's my own existence that gets threatened!
One of the most typical cases is that of
carnal desire and jealousy. The domain of passions where the latin verb
(suffer) has such a large part, that some will go as far as to commit
suicide ("annihilate themselves") in some extreme cases.
Those most tormented by this problem tend to
throw themselves in a policy of endless acquisitions: be it in material
goods, power, or sexual conquests, they'll never have enough. The
Prophet Muhammad (upon him peace, upon him salvation!) said that, if
the Son of Adam were given a mountain of gold, he'd ask for a second
As what counts is actually the acquisition
process, and not the acquired itself, the process is endless and hence,
despairing. Exactly like the carrot hanging in front of the ass's nose.
It's in this sense that we ought to renounce.
Not necessarily to all mundane possessions (that too can be done, it's
what monks do, but it is a supplementary stage), but much more to the
attachment that we have for them. This is the surest way that our
happiness won't be wasted too much by the accidents of existence. Ass,
renounce thy carrot.