I don’t know if you’ve tried to give away a TV recently, but unless it’s a flat screen, no-one’s interested. And even those, the TV repairman told me, are just being left out on the street. Must be a symptom of a well-to-do society. According to Bob Brown, Australians have never been richer than we are at present. If you take into account our country’s resources Bob says we are the richest people the Earth has ever seen. George Megalogenis reports that Australia is known as Treasure Island by international retailers because we still had plenty of money to spend during the GFC. And yet it seems we still don’t think we have enough. We all know people who are earning huge salaries, have many properties and go on international holidays and their kids will still tell you they’re poor because they don’t have any money! I’ve seen these same people anxious and worried as they try to keep up with the spending of their friends and neighbours. What is going on here? When is ‘enough’ enough? Why does our fear of not having enough distract us from being grateful for what we do have and make us unwilling to share?
Here’s an example from Mr Iyengar’s own life from his book “Light On Life” (pp91-93):
“I have always been a man of appetite and enthusiasm. In my youth I was often hungry, but on one glorious occasion I entered and won a jalebi eating competition. Jalebis are a rich, heavily sugared batter, deep fried in ghee (clarified butter). I ate seventy-six jalebis. While I can still stand on my head for twenty minutes, I don’t think I could eat seventy-six jalebis. Appetite for life is wonderful – for scents, for sights, for taste and for colour and human experience. You just have to learn to control it. Quality is more important than quantity. Take in the essence of life as you would smell the fragrance of a flower, delicately and deeply, with sensitivity and appreciation.
If appetite is a gift, and greed a sin, then waste is a crime. We waste our food, our energy, our time, our lives. We seek power from the accumulation of surplus; we are greedy for more than our fair share. In a finite world, we search for infinite satiation. Will more money than we can spend in a lifetime prolong that life? Can we eat a larder full of food when we’re dead? The villain is the ego. He has read the law of intensification, which says that more is better…Our planet groans under the intensification of this greed.
The ways in which our greed are destructive in our world are easy to see. The ways in which our greed is destructive in our lives is more difficult. When we are greedy, we are never satisfied, and we are never content. We are always afraid that there will not be enough, and we become miserly. Instead of seeing our riches and giving generously to others, we become nothing more than rich beggars, always asking for more. In yoga we consciously minimise our needs. We do this not to show how holy we are because we can live on a few grains of rice. We minimise our our needs so that we can minimise our attachments and to maximise our contentment. In so doing we are able to lessen our greediness. For one man a meal is slight; for another the same meal is a feast. Life is the same way. The fewer our demands on life, the greater is our ability to see its bounty….Our greed comes from our fear that we will not have enough – whether it is money or love that we grasp. Yoga teaches us to let go of these fears and so to realise the abundance around us and within us.”
Greed is one of the six emotional disturbances. The others are lust, anger, hatred, pride and obsession. Yoga can help us to identify these emotional disturbances within ourselves and give us a chance to be less ruled by them – to live in the solution, not the problem.