Three roots 3 – greed

Greed, hatred, delusion
Generosity, loving kindness, wisdom

I want to emphasize that the reason I’m bringing up this triumvirate of unwholesome roots and their opposites is to provide a helpful framework for thinking about and recognizing elements of our experience. This is not a theoretical exercise. If you look through this lens, you will see greed, hatred, and delusion, and you will also see generosity, loving kindness and wisdom – both in yourself and in others. For me it’s an essential tool for clarifying experience so I can direct (or at least nudge) my thoughts, words and actions in a more wholesome direction.

All of us who are not fully awakened have elements of the three roots within us. Some people have more greed, some more hatred, and some are overwhelmed with delusion to the point where they have real difficulty making (even minor) decisions.

Greedy types are inclined to scan the mental horizon for something appealing to one of the senses, i.e., beautiful, tasty, nice-smelling, soft to the touch or giving a pleasant hit in the mind. These stimuli are gratifying enough to make us want more of them – and more and more. Some people are greedy for new experiences or inquisitive to the point of agitation. Is this you, a lot of the time? Or just rarely?

It happens that I was in a room with a Buddhist teacher the other day, and he drew a diagram on the chalk-board. You have to imagine that this is in a spiral format: “desire #1” (then an arrow pointing to) “temporary satisfaction” (another arrow pointing to) “boredom” (another arrow pointing to) “pursuit #2”. Pursuit #2 could be an attempt to repeat the experience of desire #1, or it could be something different. It could be a desire for one more handful of jelly beans, or it could be for a change: a movie clip, or a walk, or to talk to someone, or to check a Facebook page…

These things in themselves are not evil. It’s the unconscious attachment to very temporary sensory satisfactions that can get us going in a non-productive loop. If we’re being pushed along by short term desires, it’s hard to think strategically, even about what’s wholesome or not wholesome.

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