Greed (mental element 14, Gr)
Greed is grasping. It functions like glue, in this case one that bonds or attaches the mind to an object. Due to its stickiness, greed primarily manifests as attachment and not letting go. It is synonymous with lust (sensual greed) and craving (trans-sensual greed). Sensual greed is predominantly physical (lust for food, sex, entertainment, and other sensual pleasures). Trans-sensual greed is predominantly mental. Craving existence or non-existence is its manifestation. In its subtlest form, trans-sensual greed is the same as the ego. It exists until the last stages of mental purification because it is extremely strong and resists being removed. A state of egolessness arises only when trans-sensual greed (and not just sensual greed) is eradicated.
Greed is at the root of all unwholesome mental activities. Because it is an unwholesome root element, greed provides maximum support to unwholesome consciousness and contributes significantly to generalized unwholesomeness. It is present in every kind of ego-related desire, lust, passion, hunger for achievement, wanting more and more, possessiveness, and so on. Greed is the ego’s best friend because it supports and protects the ego. In fact, greed is the ego’s biggest benefactor. In this sense, greed tops the list of unwholesome elements.
In the business of spiritual evolution, there is nothing more subtly unprofitable than greed. Why? Because without being obvious as unwholesome it bonds, knots up, clings, ties up, hinders, and defiles the mind. When it arises, it is like a flood that sweeps the mind away from perfection and into an ocean of imperfections. The flood of greed is hard to cross even for a highly trained and developed mind.
Greed is like a yoke that bonds the mind to superstition and ignorance and knots up the mind with covetousness, ill will, and religiousness, because of which strong beliefs are created. It fills the mind with clinging desires because of which dogmas and all kinds of -isms are formed. It hinders the process of mental purification by generating obstacles in the form of laziness, restlessness, remorse, doubt, and delusion. It afflicts and torments the mind by dragging it to immoral, corrupt, evil, and depraved conditions. It ties the mind to cycles of suffering.
We tend to escape greed by suppressing it or fighting it. In truth, it is better if we simply befriend non-greed and thereby see the fault in greed. We must develop will for non-greed in order to deal with greed. In a way, my whole effort is really about sharing with others the way to achieve freedom from unwholesome elements, such as greed.
Meditation is the foremost tool first for becoming aware of greed and its evil functions and causes, and second for developing non-greed to counteract it. In addition, we need to stop engaging ourselves in the activities, relationships, tasks, goals, and so on, which lead to bondage. Whenever we take up a task or enter a relationship, we should try not to get attached to it. As much as possible, when we are dealing with others, we should act with loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity to eradicate craving, apathy, and indifference.
Each time we sense ourselves getting attached, we should simply let go. We should basically not cling to anything, any person, or any feeling even if it is delightful. I am not saying we should not be happy and enjoy ourselves. We should. However, if we cling to anything—even happiness—we eventually suffer, because nothing lasts forever.
We should simply let things, situations, relationships, and experiences come and go. We should let pleasant experiences cheer up the mind and not let them lead us into wanting more. We should not allow them to grow into desires, goals, achievements, and so on. Instead, we should use them to develop the attitude of contentment.
Letting go is not the same as giving up, rather it is the equivalent to going beyond, transcending. It is like graduating from elementary school so you can go to middle school and high school. Unless you let go of the fifth-grade classroom, you cannot enter the sixth grade. This does not mean you abandon or give up what you learned in elementary school. That level of education stays with you forever.
When we let go of happiness and enjoyment, we actually allow the mind to experience higher and higher states, such as ecstasy, joy, and bliss.