A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Happiness is not material objects

The last couple of days lead into a pit of a deeper topic. That our everyday lives are precious. All human life is precious; for it gives us a chance o liberate ourselves. Our lives are not measured by material progress, rather by the actions we take towards others. If we have shown compassion, understanding and charity to others, we exhibit signs of having taken some of the key first steps towards true wisdom and liberation. If we live our lives according to these principles, we have realized the initial requirements of spiritual understanding. To use driving as a metaphor, we have passed our learners exam. We should use this state to contemplate our motivations in life. The vast majority of people in the world today use material objects to determine if they have a good life. This materialism does not bring lasting satisfaction or happiness; in fact the opposite is true. We see people who have to have the latest mobile phone, even though the one they have is only a few months old, ask them why they want the new one, and they will require its better. Sadly most of those new features may not be used more than a few times, however for a few days that couple hundred dollars bought a feeling of superiority. Materialism does not make us happier, in fact it adds to the stresses we already face, and excessive consumption of the earth’s finite resources means our children and their children will be deprived of what we have. Technological advances need to be weighed, against the environmental and monetary cost of implementation. Does it add to making our lives significantly better or is it just a status purchase. Using mobile phones as an example again, country after country is now bringing in restrictions on using these while driving to prevent collisions. Note I do not call them accidents as these collisions are preventable. Mobile phone users rally against these restrictions, it means a loss of communication. Strangely it is only 30 years since the first commercial mobile phones appeared. How did mankind survive or do such things as travel to the moon without them? They are a useful tool, but when we start to risk injury or death to ourselves or others, the mobile phone has become a master to whom we must bow, rather than a helpful servant. Like fire, a mobile phone is a great tool, but a dangerous and potentially deadly master. AS Buddhism teaches us to live in the moment, try it while driving, you might find yourself less stressed when you arrive at your destination, and probably see less of those bad drivers that appear when you’re talking on your mobile phone while driving. Those calls return the important ones after you arrive, you will also spend less time on your mobile phone.

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