foreign meditators at Suan Mokkhabalarama
7 May 1986
Translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu
Now we'll observe further that the happiness based
in the satisfaction of hunger is hopeless and can never be satisfied. The many
things which arouse hunger are always changing. Whatever satisfies hunger
changes, making that satisfaction fleeting and illusory, and so hunger returns.
Hunger itself changes and, hence, can never be satisfied. This situation is
eternal. The world today is stuck in this happiness which comes with fulfilling
desires. The modern world is trapped in this endless problem.
Imagine, if you can, that you are the sole owner
of the world, of the universe, of the entire cosmos. Now that you're the owner
of everything, does hunger stop? Can it stop? Would you please examine this
carefully with and in your own mind. If you were to get everything that you could
possibly desire, to the point that you owned the whole world, would your hunger
cease? Or would you hunger for a second universe? Would you want a third?
Consider the fact that hunger never ends by our
attempts to satisfy it. In spite of this, the world today continues to develop
in education and evolution that seeks merely to produce things which are more
lovely and satisfying. Modern technology and science and slaves of hunger. Our
world is falling into this deep hole of endlessly producing increasingly
seductive things to try to satisfy hunger. But where are you going to find
happiness in such a world?
I'd like to make some comparisons to illustrate
how the worldly happiness of common sentient beings advances from phase to
successive phase. The new-born infant is happy when it is cuddled in its
mother's arms and sucks milk from her breast. This satisfies the infant until it
grows a little older, a little bigger. Then the mother's arms and breast aren't
enough. It learns about other foods and delights. Now its happiness depends on
ice cream, candy, and junk food, on playing little games and running around the
house. Then it grows older and those games don't satisfy the child any more. It
wants to play football or play with dolls. These two are outgrown eventually and
the teenager's interestes and happiness revolve around sex. The previous kinds
of satisfaction are of no more interest. When they become young men and women,
don't expect them to be satisfied with the old types of happiness. Now, all they
think about is sex and dates. Finally, the human being marries, becomes a wife
or husband, and has hopes and wishes tied up in a house, money, and possessions.
There's no way they can be satisfied with childish happiness (unless they
haven't really grown up). The human being changes from stage to stage, and
happiness also changes from stage to stage. It is continuous and endless. Hunger
develops from stage to stage until death. After that, many believe, there is
rebirth as a deva (celestial
being); and still there's hunger, heavenly hunger for the happiness
of devas. It never stops. Even in heaven
with the gods or in the kingdom of God, should such things exist, hunger doesn't
stop. In Buddhism these all are considered to be examples of worldly happiness
that only deceives and confuses.
WHERE DOES HUNGER STOP?
I'd like to ask if in the Kingdom of God, or in
whatever place God is, whether according to the scriptures of Christianity or
any other religion, when we're with God can hunger and desire stop? If the
Kingdom of God is the end of hunger and craving, then it's the same thing as
Buddhism teaches: nibbana, or the happiness
that is beyond the world because hunger has ended. But if we understand the
Kingdom of God differently, if it is a place where we still hunger, then
Buddhism isn't interested. Endless desire for better and better things to take
as one's own is not the goal of Buddhism. Buddhism takes the fork in the road
that leads beyond the world.
As for this thing we call "the world,"
in the Buddhist description it is divided into many levels, realms, or
wanderings. There's the common human world, with which we're most familiar, and
its human types of sukha. Above this are the
various heavenly realms where the devas
supposedly live. First, there are the sensual
wanderings, the kamavacara,
of those who have sexual desires. These are supposed to be "good," at
least better than the human realm. Next, there are the Brahma
which there are two categories: those dependent on form (matter) and those
independent of form. These are better than the normal realms of existence, but
they aren't the end of hunger. There is no more sensual hunger in the rupavacara,
the fine-material wanderings, but the
"beings" there still hunger after material existence. The
"beings" of arupavacara, the
non-material wanderings, are hungry as well. They hunger for non-material
things rather than material. On each of these worldly levels hunger persists.
The wants of the self don't stop. There are always things which the self wants.
These highly refined states of happiness utterly fail to transcend the world.
Even the highest Brahma realm is caught within the world, trapped below the
power and influence of desire.
How are we going to finish hunger? We must turn
around and destroy it. We don't need hunger. We must take this other path where
there is no hunger. The essence of this path is the absence of the feeling of
self, of "I" and "mine." This point is very profound. How
much knowledge must we have, how much must we see, in order to stop this
illusion of self?
It is necessary to realize this connection between
the end of hunger and the cessation of the self illusion. In worldly situations
there is always a self or "I" who hungers and strives to satisfy that
hunger. Even if this self is on the highest heavenly level where hunger is only
for the most refined things, nonetheless, there's a hungry self trying to get.
Hunger persists as this self seeks to acquire things for itself without ever
truly succeeding. By examining the many levels of getting and of happiness, we
see that hunger is hopeless. Why? Because "self" is hopeless.