Thursday, November 27, 2008

Differentiating Among the Four Urges to Have

Continuing from my previous post on Calming the Mind from Master Sheng Yen's book, I Send You My Blessings, this post deals with the Four Urges to Have as he further dissected the social psyche that has muddled our value system despite the advances we have made on the technology front. The flourish of materialism and the rapid upheavals in social structures result in our poor understanding, bordering on ignorance, of the four urges to have: need to have; love to have; able to have; and ought to have.

Instead, oneupmanship and herd mentality become the order of the day. The ensuing social ills are already a foregone conclusion. And in his lucid style, Master Sheng Yen went on to elaborate on the right frame of mind one should bring to bear on each of the urges: the courage, the wisdom, and the serenity to know their differences with clarity.

Need to Have versus Love to Have
Need to Have is meeting a genuine need the absence of which will compromise our continuing existence. It includes both material provisions such as the basic means of food, cloth, and shelter, and equally important, spiritual endowments such as happiness, peace of mind, and compassion, to name just a few.

On the other hand, Love to Have is nothing more than the expression of greed, our covetous nature coming to the fore. In a word, such wanting is superfluous, pandering to our vanity for cosmetic luxury at best. These wants are numerous, and the temptation is formidable. Then again, there are certain wants that are appropriate in the context of etiquette such as presentable attire and technological enhancements that help us to continue functioning in a modern world such as computers and mobile phones. The key word here is aptness in consonance with social norms but not flaunting.

There are really not too many needs that would make a life meaningful. Often it's subjectivity that makes us feel empty, unfulfilled, when we are devoid of them. When faced with a decision, it's easy to confuse the Need to Have and Love to Have. A simple example will suffice here.

When we are well to do, the natural inclination is to acquire things based on our perceived taste like purchasing a new model of shoes even though the ones we have are very much wearable, elevating a Love to Have to becoming the Need to Have. However, when we are financially strapped, we realize that life goes on as usual without having to keep up with the Joneses.

Able to Have versus Ought to Have
Able to Have is met through our efforts, earning and deserving the fruits of our labor. It's well within our capability, and is distinct from forcing the issue with chasing after fame, status, power, and the like. No doubt such social recognitions can be enticing, and have driven many up the social ladder. But wait a minute, do we really have the wherewithal to deserve such accolades? If we have not earned them, or the enabling conditions are inadequate, but we continue to delude ourselves as deserving, we will only end up being miserable and hurt.

As to Ought to have or not, it can be put into context when quoting a popular refrain among the youth of today: I like it, so I ought to have it. This is muddled thinking at its height. Our likes are boundless. Therefore it's imperative to ask ourselves instead: Do I ought to like it? Do I ought to have it? Fame is illusory when it's not due, and wealth is mere ill-gotten gain when it is not earned. Conversely, a deserving case can serve as an motivation.

How to balance these four urges to Have? Master Sheng Yen advised us to start from the environmental protection of the mind, insulating our mind from external pollution and strengthening our inner immunity against encroachments from without. At the same time, rid ourselves of envy, anger, second-guessing, selfishness and similarly negative thoughts that would only aggravate our predicament, and learn to monitor and introspect each arising thought, understanding our Need to Have, and dissipating our Love to Have.

If and when we are able to differentiate among these four urges to have, we will have a clear direction in life toward peace of mind and harmony.


Lee Wei Joo said...

Thanks dad always for your spiritually satisfying accounts/translations of Master Sheng Yen's anecdotes and lessons. The landscape drawing accompanying this blog entry is beautiful, is it Mom's?

Say Lee said...

Duh, Joo. That has always been Mom's sole enclave.

Lee Wei Joo said...

Well, that was one of the most beautiful landscape paintings I've seen. Kudos to Mom!