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The Mansion on the Hill (and rejecting the help of nefarious spirits in gaining wealth)

Updated: Mar 8

You look at your home, but the mansion on the hill looks very inciting. It has furnishings and will provide for all your basic needs and more ! How can I get what I want, what spirits must I need to commute with, what sacrifices must I make ?

Reminisce on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Desire emerges, and suffering begins.

You need to manage your basic needs. You need to eat, but to fulfil this need, you need money. You could sleep in the cheapest bed, but your sleep will be affected, which means you will be more tired, and have less time for social relationships. This means you have to get a job. Now, you have more money, which means you can buy more things, but more things means more bills, which means you need more money. You then seek a better job, but, sometimes, to get a better job, you need more skills. Then, your material possessions quickly begin possessing you.

In the pursuit of desire, we realize how little control we have over our lives. Fulfilling them is a constant struggle that brings suffering. There are events outside of our control. The best plans of mice and men often go astray. But Eisenhower said that a plan is often worthless, but planning is not. This has been a struggle of humanity since ancient times. When you die, there is no grand cinematic; all you leave behind is a little tombstone.

Anthropologist Andrew Lang wrote in his book, The Making of Religion : A moral creator in need of no gifts will not help a man with love-spells or with malevolent sendings of disease by witchcraft, and will not favour one man above his neighbor, or one tribe above its rivals. As a reward for sacrifice, which He does not accept or as constrained by charms which do not touch His omnipotence. Ghosts and spirits, on the other hand, in need of food and blood, afraid of spells and binding charms, are a corrupt, but to man, a useful constituency.

I can’t bribe Him with sacrifices to favour me over my neighbour. He will not look kindly on me if I stole that which belongs to others by force to fulfill my Earthly desires (The police either).

  Some of us covet that fancy mansion on the hill, packed with the most expensive knickknacks, but is that what life has in store for us ? My generation was told when we were children, that we could be anything we want, achieve our every desire in life. But then reality came at us. The challenges of being an adult once seemed fun and exciting, but the reality of paying your bills is not. Playing is fun, overworking is not. The dreams of writing that great novel painting, or composing a famous symphony… For many of us, these wishes never materialized. Frustrated ambition turns into bitterness and resentment. Again, as Buddhism says : Desire leads to suffering.

This is also reflected in the Taoist teaching “to follow the course of nature”. We desire this expensive new piece of technology, or this new machine, but what we want might not be what we need. Desire turns into selfishness, and thus, it goes against nature.

You might be familiar with the Old Testament story of Moses, parting the Red Sea to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt,  the pursuing pharaoh and his army drowning when walls of water come crashing down upon them. But the original Hebrew, calls the Red Sea the Sea of Reeds. In Egyptian mythology, it is believed that when you die, your spirit must cross the Sea of Reeds to get to the afterlife. If you fail to make it through, you become part of “the drowned ones”. This story isn’t just a materialistic story of people fleeing oppression : It’s a symbolic journey, the story of a creator who isn’t bribed into giving you what you desire, but will lead you out of slavery from the clutches of your desire by taking you straight into death, suffering and hardship, and seeing you through the other side. If you approach life like that, it becomes a very different game.

But what if you chose to be happy with what you have ? What if you refuse to associate happiness solely on material gain ? You don’t need that mansion on the hill anymore. You broke the cycle, you win ! And with that inner spiritual victory, the escape from the slavery of your desires, inspire others with your austere lifestyle.

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