For most people, the list of things they want can probably go on forever; in contrast, the list of things they need is probably quite short. We have a hard time limiting our wants because we do not know the limits of our satisfaction. We do not know what it means to be completely satisfied, and therefore we constantly strive to attain more.
We know what are the necessities in life, yet for most of us, having the necessities is not enough to be happy. Shelter is a necessity, so we buy a house. But having a house to satisfy the necessity of shelter is not enough. We want more things to entertain us when we are at home, things to beautify the house, things to impress others with. To want these non-essential things is not necessarily bad in itself, because it is unrealistic in our modern world to expect people to live in a bare house. The important point is to be aware that these are wants, not needs, and we must know how to curb our excessive wants, so that we do not overindulge in our desires.
Consider an art collector. He has run out of space in his home, so he buys a second house to store his collection. He puts in an alarm system to guard against thieves. He buys insurance to protect against floods and fires. He makes regular visits to the house to check on their condition. All of these add to his stress, which erodes the happiness he should be deriving from his collection.
The age-old question remains – what do people really want? An immediate answer for this is “happiness”. Other questions may follow. “What is real happiness?” Does happiness mean having a big house or a lot of money? Does it include travelling around the world or paying off one’s debts? “What do people really want?” is the question that has remained unanswered for a long time. Some search for happiness by hunting or fishing, and some enjoy the night life, drowning themselves in alcohol and ruining their health without even realizing it. They think that they are happy, but they are merely deluded. Their “happiness” can turn into misery in an instant, such as when their health fails. We all know that we want happiness, and we all try to look for it, but most of us are looking for happiness in the wrong places.
When we travel, we often encounter various obstacles. Sometimes the flight we want is fully booked. Sometimes we have excess baggage and insufficient funds. Sometimes bad weather ruins flight schedules. We can compare our lives to that of a traveler. Whether we reach our destination quickly or slowly depends on the number of obstacles in the way. Obstacles may be financial, physical or emotional. Obstacles may be external or internal. No matter what form they take, obstacles all do the same thing, they hinder our progress towards our goal. If we can find a way to overcome all obstacles, our path to true happiness will be much faster and smoother.
From Chapter 3
Golden Age of Inner Peace