Like water on a lotus leaf,
Or a mustard seed on the tip of an awl,
Whoever does not cling to sensual craving,
I call a Brahmin.
Dhammapada, v. 401, translated by Gil Fronsdal
How long does a drop of water stay on a leaf? How long can a tiny seed balance on the tip of a sharp tool? Not very long. These images convey the difficulty of letting go of, or stepping back from, our compulsive cravings.
The world is not divided into those who cling to sensual craving and those who don’t. Our lives are all made up of millions of actions, millions of moments that can be driven by craving or not.
How can we increase the ratio of our wholesome to unwholesome actions? The first step is to notice what motivates our words and deeds. Slowing down our activities will make this easier to see. If we hesitate before speaking, we have time to notice whether the words on the tip of our tongue are meant to help or harm. Will they please or annoy? Is there a better approach?
We can be inspired by the actions or stories of others. Hearing and remembering inspiring stories can move us to actions motivated by generosity and even renunciation.
When I was in Myanmar last year, the retreat center I was staying at hosted a big celebration. The entire village lined up in the morning, empty canvas bags in hand. When the gates opened they poured into the center and their bags were filled with rice, vegetables, eggs, sweets and other foods. They left in a happy stream, and the uplift is something I’ll never forget. I resolved in future to make my own celebrations occasions for giving, in as generous and appropriate a way as possible.
What inspires you to let go of craving?