av·a·rice [av-er-is] noun
insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.
Avarice is a form of greed that’s so extreme, it disables our ethical sense and causes us to do active harm to ourselves and other people. It seems to have an addictive quality, a driving energy that undermines our generous-spirited thoughts.
Avarice is lumped together with greed as one of the seven deadly sins in Catholic thinking. [from Wikipedia]: As defined outside of Christian writings, greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth.
Let’s distinguish “wanting anything” from “avarice”. We naturally want to have food, drink, shelter, and a few other basics for comfort. Wanting things that we need to function is not a form of greed at all. When our need for things that are clearly not necessary for well-being becomes an overriding goal, then we have lost our balance.
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
The quality of insatiability is the key to understanding avarice, in ourselves and others. It’s opposite might be renunciation; the clear knowledge that our needs are few, and that reduced wanting will bring us freedom and a quiet joy. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu has said, renunciation is like trading candy for gold.
Let’s just keep an eye out so we recognize avarice if it passes through our mind, and recognize that it is not our friend, but a danger to be avoided.
Imperfections that defile the mind:
(1) covetousness and unrighteous greed
(2) ill will
(6) a domineering attitude
(13) conceit (mana)
from MN7, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi