Material desires may seem sweet and pleasant at first but they actually have suffering hidden inside. Have a look at the article below to read what Thay has to say about breaking free from materialism to master ourselves.
We are living in a materialistic world. Technology and economy develop in a fast way, leading to the growth of our desire for material things. Seriously, material desires do not bring long-term contentment, genuine feelings of happiness and peace. Dear Thay, can you please teach me how not to be controlled by superficiality and materialism?
Answer from Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh:
According to Buddhism, there is a part called instinct or past karma in each of us, which manipulates us into following our material desires. This karma is not exclusive to humans but present in all sentient beings. Once born, we have already had our material desires whose root is ignorance, also known as the lack of understanding since past lives. In other words, ignorance gives birth to desire, especially material desires.
In this worldly realm, we have material desires. In higher realms of existence, beings there, like devas for example, also have desires, but more subtle. So, in Buddhism, desire is a karma present in all beings.
In order not to be dependent on the material world and its various attractions, we must master ourselves and muster up the courage. It takes learning and practice to become a self-dependent person. Without the process of learning and training, we can not become courageous and self-dependent.
Firstly, we must study to thoroughly understand the value of everything. The material things bring about pleasure, but is that a long-lasting and true happiness? Once you are aware that all those pleasures are just temporary, and precede suffering and regret; disillusionment will arise and you will be able to detach them. Then, we won’t be dependent on those pleasures anymore.
For example, we have a close friend whom we like a lot and listen to whatever he says. He often brings us joy but always leads us into playing games that end up in danger.
Now we must be aware that he is a bad friend. Even though he is really fun to be with, he will eventually lead us to suffering and sickness. When we are enlightened about that, we begin to avoid and stay away from him. Then, he has no more chance to tempt us and we will gain self-mastery. When we are close to him, we are dependent on him and can’t master ourselves.
Therefore, in Buddhism, we must be aware of the danger of material desires, then become disillusioned, and grow detached from them. Only then can we master ourselves. It is a very accurate and clear path – the path of our mind: studying, understanding, being aware of, then growing apart from desires. That is the path the Buddha showed us.