Do You Need What You Want?

In Tibetan Buddhism, there’s a marvelous concept known as “the hungry ghost.”  In case you’ve never heard of it before, a hungry ghost is a spirit damned by the excessive appetites that plagued him or her during life.  He or she has a big belly and a long, thin neck and a narrow throat, so that the food he (okay, or she) eats never satisfies him, so he always wants more, more, more, in accordance with the ego’s demands, as spelled out by Dante’s seven deadly sins, or the Bob Marley line from the song “Pimper’s Paradise” I once misquoted as “Every need has an eagle to feed.”  (Turns out it’s not “eagle” but “ego,” much as I like my version better; my apologies to Bob’s ghost, who I hope isn’t hungry).

You may know some hungry ghosts.  You may be one.  It’s a compelling concept, considering how coercive consumerism is in promoting and sustaining artificial desires.  As comedian and author of the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu says, “The farther one travels, the less one knows.”  (If that sounds like a song lyric to you, it is:  George Harrison used it in the Beatles’ song “The Inner Light.”)

It’s often hard to separate what’s essential from what’s extraneous.  For example, my wife often whines about wanting a car, even though it’s unlikely she’ll take the initiative to take a driving class and get a license (not that I’d want to be anywhere near her if she were operating a motor vehicle; I’d either end up in a sardine can or as road kill).  I deem a car unnecessary, since we live in a megacity bursting with buses, subways, and cheap taxi cabs.  Public transportation is one kid giving another a piggyback ride across the room in the kindergarten class we teach. (I realize that’s a non-sequitur, but I had to get it out of my system.)

Time to go back to bed for an hour before we both wake up to teach some slightly older children how to read my favourite language (the spelling of the F word should give you a hint as to which one I’m referrring to).

More on hungry ghosts later.

I hope you’re satisfied with this entry.  If not, I’ll cook up some more fast food for thought a little later.


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