I was living the high-flyer’s life, taking business class flights to Europe and the U.S. several times a year for work. On these very comfortable trips, I also took time for excursions and more importantly, do lots of shopping! In every trip to the outlets, I could haul back a dozen branded handbags. I also bought diamond rings each time I saw a fancy design. I was ‘high’ on spending and bargain hunting. At the end of every trip, I would begin planning for my next shopping trip. That is when it dawned on me.
The happiness I felt when I was shopping was real of course, and that same feeling continued for a month as my colleagues and friends marvelled at my new purchases. However it was not enough. Time and again I would feel restless after some months and NEEDED to ‘scratch my itch’ again. Is that what life is about? Wanting, gaining, only to want more? When would I ever be happy? I did not have an answer.
A colleague brought me to her Dhamma centre, and I remember being surprised to find that Buddhism was taught in English. How ignorant I had been in my life! I was so enthralled by the Dhamma talks and how much wisdom is found in the Buddha’s words that I made time for three to four talks a day. I did not realise the many defilements within myself – anger, impatience, greed, pride and ego. More importantly, I have the potential to overcome them by following the teachings of the Buddha.
I could remember thinking, “This is what I have been searching for my entire life!” I saw no permanent happiness from my shopping habits and easily gave it up. I was contented. When errant drivers swerve carelessly on the road, I no longer get angry; instead I wish them to be well and safe. I have become more patient and understanding with my children, and they in turn have become kinder and more loving.
We do not need to accumulate luxuries to make our lives complete. These items clutter our lives with insatiable craving and discontent. Our lives are made whole through wholesome actions, speech, and thoughts. I used to scoff at the word ‘contentment’, but now it defines me. By applying myself to the Buddha’s Teachings and serving the Buddha-Sasana, I feel peaceful, energetic and happy. Buddhaṃ, Dhammaṃ , Sanghaṃ Saranaṃ Gacchāmi.