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On Desires and Happiness
One day a guest came to the Master’s house for advice. He was a distinguished and rich man. He brought refined treats. And there was a festive table for everyone who lived in the house.
To the simple yet delicious food, which was always served in the Master’s house, the delicacies, brought that day by the guest, were added in abundance.
The guest knew that both Master and his disciples were strict vegetarians, and therefore the treats that he brought were appropriate.
Our young men from poor families, who only recently began to live in the Master’s house, were so amazed by this luxurious treat that they could not stop eating, barely listening to what Master was saying.
Such an abundance they had never seen: they had previously lived in poverty all their lives.
And they ate as much as they could! The food was so delicious! And, in fact, no one considered, how much they ate! And no payment was charged for the treat!
The rest of the disciples and the guest were engaged in conversation more than the meal.
Master in conversation, glancing several times at the beginners, hinted that excessive food can be damaging, even if it is clean and nutritious. But the young men were so fascinated by the treats they had never seen before that they missed these words and continued to focus on delicious delicacies.
Master spoke with the guest and disciples about whether the satisfaction of earthly desires brings happiness:
“Earthly desires lead the lives of many people for a long time.
“Yes, there are natural needs: such, for example, as a desire to eat; and they must be satisfied. But life only to satisfy our own selfish desires — does not bring happiness!
“If a person experiences joy only from getting pleasure of something material — then he or she easily gets used to this way of life. For example, the habit of having fun with wine drinking can lead to drunkenness. Man wants more and more joy — and, as he or she gets used to it, he or she uses more and more spirits. So it happens also with other substances that temporarily change the state of consciousness. And, if a person begins to want to receive more and more pleasure in this way, then he or she becomes a prisoner or even a slave of these desires. Such man can no longer resist drinking, smoking, gluttony, or other ways to appease oneself.
“How much people invented to get satisfaction from the material — you can not count! This is not only food made from the bodies of killed animals, not only stupefying and destroying the ability to think up things that can be either drunk or smoked, or taken otherwise.
“Objects of passionate desires are also jewelry made of gold and precious stones, palaces, ships, lands... And, if one wants for oneself more and more such, it always leads to sad outcomes.
“And this never leads to true happiness! Only a brief moment of satisfaction... — and a new desire seizes the soul!
“True joy can be born only from love, directed from the spiritual heart — outside: to other beings! It comes from the presence of God in the spiritual heart!”
“But, if a person is not yet ready to renounce the material world, what is to be done?” — the guest asked the Master.
“That’s exactly what we are talking about.
“Pleasures from delicious food and drink, from a clean and beautiful home, from harmonious sexual relations — are not harmful at all. They even give benefit, if moderation and harmony are observed.
“Agree that such satisfaction is incomparably better than poverty and a constant feeling of dissatisfaction because of it!
“There is also nothing wrong with having and bringing useful desires and intentions. But all such goals and desires should be pure and directed to benefit for this particular soul, as well as for other beings.
“And, if the implementation of such intentions brings good and joy not to oneself, but to other people — this makes a person even more happy!”
... Looking carefully at his guest, Master continued:
“There is nothing destructive or sad, if man, for example, inherited huge treasures or power. But it needs to dispose of what has been received — reasonably and for the benefit not only to oneself but for many.
“After all, everything, we own here, is temporary. It is given to us to improve ourselves and help others.
“It is not easy to use wealth wisely. But this should be learned.
“If you want, I will tell you, friends, the parable of the ‘lucky’?”
... All, anticipating the interesting, asked Master to begin.
“Once upon a time, there was one man who always and in everything was lucky!
“If he played cards or dice, he always won. If there was a disaster, he alone remained unharmed, while people around him received wounds and injuries. And everything, whatever he wanted, was very quickly implemented!
“For a long time, this man rejoiced at his luck and thanked God for patronage.
“But one day he thought about those who lost, when he won, about those who were injured when he was unharmed, about those who were close and yet could not find what they wanted...
“Good luck continued to fall on him, as from a cornucopia, but now it no longer pleased him the way he was before.
‘Maybe my luck can be used more profitably than just winning cards or dice, or achieving fame and success for any of my whims?’ — he thought.
“And the man decided to change his life!
“He came to the ruler of that country and said:
‘Apparently, I was born under a lucky star! I’m lucky in everything!
‘Great ruler, give me any difficult task — and I’ll try to fulfill it!
‘It’s not good that luck, falling on my lot, gives benefit only to me, and not all worthy!’
“... And he began to serve the good of the ruler and the whole country — as the ruler and his associates understood it.
“For a while, the ‘lucky’ was happy that he had found a worthy use of his life.
“But then he began to see and hear that winning in the war for one country — brings misfortunes to people of another, or that, because of his luck and success in the affairs of the state, some people get benefit — but others suffer from disaster and misfortune...
‘God, Who has created and loves all beings, does He want what I do? For what has He given me luck?’ — he thought...
“And then the ‘lucky’ left the civil service and decided to find the Sage who would explain to him: how best to spend the rest of life?
“Many people tried to stop him: ‘Are you not happy with your beautiful position in society and are you tired of your luck? It is said that people are not looking for good — from the good! Why are you otherwise, when all desirable is given to you so easily?’
“But the man decided to continue searching for the meaning of his life.
“He walked from one teacher to another — until he has found the True Teacher.
“The ‘lucky’ asked Him:
‘Why is my life full of luck, but the more I get, the less satisfying is what I achieve? Perhaps the purpose of my life is in another, if luck has ceased to satisfy me?’
‘You were righteous in your past life and did a lot of good then. Now you are reaping the fruits of those good deeds. That’s where your luck comes from!
‘And in this life you, from some time, wanted to share your luck and happiness with other people. And so success did not leave you!’
‘What is it for?’
‘Perhaps, in order for this moment to come — and so that you would have the thought: where should be directed my main efforts in this life?
‘There is the true happiness, which is called Nirvana, Liberation, or Enlightenment. This happiness consists in obtaining the Unity with the Divine Consciousness. Then, when you achieve this, your help to others will become wise.’
“’Lucky’ decided to test his luck on the Path to the Divine — and stayed with the Teacher.”
“And what happened to that man? Has he attained the Perfection?” — the guest asked Master.
“He studied — and became the real Teacher himself!
“He, Who has cognized the Highest Happiness, always seeks to give it to others!
“But this, unfortunately, does not happen often. Usually — only illnesses and other misfortunes lead people to understanding how they should change their lives...”
* * *
At night — because of the excess food — both young men had stomachaches...
One of them said to the other:
“It is for shame to Master: could not He have guessed what would happen to us?!”
His friend answered:
“We ourselves are to blame... We should not have attacked food so greedily! But Master during lunch just said that everything should be respected in every way. And about food — he also spoke!”
“But he did not tell us that!”
“Why do you think that he did not want to warn us specifically?”
... The next morning they were pale and could not eat anything.
Master gave them a drink of decoction from medicinal plants.
He did not scold them, but said:
“It’s not enough to hear useful advice! But it is necessary to apply it in practice in your life!
“Do you know about the great Chinese Sage Lao Tse? He said: ‘Excessiveness in everything — brings trouble!’”
“Then, I think, you should read something in our library.
“If you continue yesterday’s conversation about desires, then the most useful are the desires to know and act.”
Master asked one of the disciples to take the young men to the library. One of the rooms in the Master’s house was reserved for this. There on the shelves were stored in a special order books and manuscripts in different languages.
Seeing such a huge number of books, the young men were upset:
“We will not have enough life to read and understand all this! And then — time to implement the Teachings in practice will not be at all!”
“You do not have to read everything. But there are some books that every man must know, if he or she wants to cognize the Truth. It is important to have knowledge about different religious directions and to study the best books that set forth the Teachings of God. And it is very useful that the Teachings were set out in different books — in different words.
“And still — it is necessary to know a little about the device of the human body: about its internal organs, also about what diseases are and how they should be treated.
“Today you will have a very successful day for starting such training! Because of the frustration of digestion, you will not have enough strength to practice meditation.”
“How do you know what happened to us?”
“It’s very easy to see from your pained appearance. And today I have prepared for you, at the request of Master, a decoction, which is good and quick to help in such cases.
“But do not worry too much about what happened: after all, the experience of mistakes teaches us just like the advice of other people. The main thing is to try to avoid repeating mistakes twice!”