Earthly Desires

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The Word by Libby Cagle

A common misconception of Buddhism is that of denying earthly desires and that to practice Buddhism, one must live an austere life by giving up possessions and spending a lot of time meditating. While that may be true of some sects of Buddhists, it is not of Mahayana Buddhists. Followers of Nicherin Daishonin fall into this group.

Shakymuni Buddha and Nicherin taught that to deny earthly desires is to deny life. Buddhism is reason. We must have earthly goods, if we are to help others achieve happiness. However, it is not the earthly goods that will make us or any one happy or unhappy. That comes from within. The goods themselves cannot bring world peace or happiness but, if harnessed properly, they become tools for those purposes.

Earthly goods include shelter and all creatures need some form of shelter. As humans in this society, we generally think of buildings (often, the bigger the better) to satisfy that requirement. I went to Peru a couple of years ago and visited the Uros tribe of the floating reed islands on Lake Titikaka. All the “houses” there were pretty much the same; about 8’ square, made of reeds, with a sleeping platform, and a little storage underneath. They cooked on a fire outside and most had no electricity. A few had solar panels that powered a light, a TV, and a radio.

Life was very much subsistence, but they all had a smile on their faces and greeted visitors with friendliness and respect. They made crafts using local materials to sell to tourists, to supplement their income from their fish farms. 

Even though most of us would have thought they were living in abject poverty, they had all the earthly goods they needed to be happy. They had shelter, food, clothing, family, friends, and a never ending stream of tourists to entertain and teach.

They are happy and peaceful people and I felt that, as soon as we saw them. I added to my earthly goods by buying a llama wool tapestry from a young lady. It hangs in my bedroom and every time I see it I remember that feeling of safety, peace, and tranquility.

It was my earthly desire to travel and learn, that took me to Peru. It is an earthly possession obtained there that reminds me how few things we actually need in life. I look around my spacious comfortable home and see all the things I have that allow me to create a path to happiness. They don’t make me happy, but they do contribute to my life state. Knowing I have everything I need physically, allows me time to practice, study, and help others.