Dao Du Jour II, Day 47: Ghostbusting

Chapter 46: Wanting Less

“The greatest evil: wanting more

The worst luck: discontent.

Greed’s the curse of life.

To know enough’s enough

is enough to know.

Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, trans. Ursula K. Leguin (Shambhala, Boulder: 2019)

In Wall Street 2, investment banker #1 (Shia Lebouf) asks investment banker #2 (Josh Brolin), “What’s your number?” How much money, in other words, would it take for you to walk away from the game of high finance dollar bill fuckery.

One word issues from Brolin’s granite rictus: “More.”

The investment banker is the stock image our minds summon when we hear the word “greed.” This makes it easy to assure ourselves that we ourselves are not greedy.

Buddhism warns us of the three root poisons: greed, hatred, and ignorance. Why these three? Because they correspond to our three centers—head, heart, and hara (the gut)—and how they get mixed up. Suffering is produced when one center thinks it’s running the whole show, and fails to recognize the intelligence in each. 

We can become greedy, not just for food, but for recognition and knowledge. 

We can come to hate not just other people, but our own bodies and the truth.

We can be ignorant not just of the way things are, but of our own feelings and bodily needs.

The Tibetan tradition offers a powerful image of greed: the “hungry ghosts” that occupy the lowest level of existence, cursed with tiny mouths and distended bellies, floating about forever empty. We all have a little hungry ghost—and a little investment banker—within. The question is not whether we are greedy, but into which form of greed we most tend to fall. That is the place to begin.

New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”

What Do You Think?