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© Nanabozho (Gichi Wabush)
This page updated October 5, 2004


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Can the carrot make the ass* happy?

[American 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 patire
(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 one.

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.



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