Thursday, February 7, 2019


Addiction is at the top of the news feed. Today I listened to radio programs on addiction concerned with three different variables—gambling, social media, and drugs. This post is thus particularly relevant in light of the present day problem of addiction to a wide variety of a host of objective “stuff.” Our common-coin manner of understanding addiction is too limited. When we think of someone addicted we see images in our mind of drug addicts or derelicts who were unable to overcome excessive opioid consumption. Maybe we’ll even go so far as to include someone who can’t control his or her consumption of food or sex. Whatever object is chosen—another person, drugs, alcohol, food, the greed for money or sex, becomes the god we must have to fill a sensed emptiness. Rarely, however, do we consider the average person exhibiting expressions of addiction, and that’s a problem.

Addiction, properly understood at the fundamental level is craving: an excessive desire. Everybody falls victim to that. We either crave what we like or resist what we hate. Both are forms of craving (excessive desire). To get to the bottom of this dilemma we need to ask, “which part of me is craving and why?” Someone who is complete doesn’t crave anything, so it must be the incomplete part of us—the part of us that says, “I need that to experience myself as complete and satisfied, and without getting that I will suffer.”

Meister Eckhart said, “To be full of things is to be empty of God. To be empty of things is to be full of God. Man’s last and highest parting occurs when for God’s sake he takes leave of god. St. Paul took leave of god for God’s sake and gave up all that he might get from god as well as all he might give—together with every idea of god. In parting with these he parted with god for God’s sake and God remained in him as God is in his own nature—not as he is conceived by anyone to be—nor yet as something yet to be achieved, but more as an is-ness, as God really is. Then he and God were a unit, that is pure unity. Thus one becomes that real person for whom there can be no suffering, any more than the divine essence can suffer.”

A while ago I heard a man say, “I can understand how Christ can be in me, but how is it possible for me to be in Christ?” Clearly, this person had a rather limited view of both himself and of Christ and apparently didn’t believe what his own scripture told him about the nature of God. Christian scripture says that the nature of God is omnipresent. If this man truly believed this, the answer to his question would be clear: there is no place that God is not, so how is it possible for anyone to not be in Christ? The entire sea in which we swim is God. Fish are in the water and we are in God.

In our ignorance, we imagine that we are separate from the fullness of our creator, that we are not a unit and this, in turn, leads to a deep desire to become what we are already, thus we suffer. The Buddha also spoke in the Nipata Sutra about what happens due to ignorance.

“What is it that smothers the world? What makes the world so hard to see? What would you say pollutes the world and threatens it the most?’ ‘It is ignorance which smothers’ the Buddha replied, ‘and it heedlessness and greed which make the world invisible. The hunger of desire pollutes the world, and the great source of fear is the pain of suffering.” 

All people fear the pain of suffering and this makes us blind to the suffering of others. While locked in the grip of our egos, we think we’re the only ones at risk, and in that state of mind, we become greedy and uncaring. At the center of suffering lays this idea that we are separate and incomplete and that leads to the craving for what we have already.

The ancient Daoist admonition applies here, “Resist nothing and embrace everything today. The perfect day and night are within you. Let it all unfold like a blossom.” Picking and trying to retain only the good, while resisting what we imagine will darken our day, is the true addiction and that leads inevitably to suffering.

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