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Sunday Oct 12, 2008

The Shapes of Poverty

Poverty is mostly associated with having little money and few material possessions—anathema, especially in western ‘civilized’ society. Poverty, anguish, and hunger on a mass scale in ‘developing’ countries cannot be comprehended—but often traced to egregious politicians, superstition, and tribalism more than draught. As the Buddha instructed, humankind’s ills are mostly the result of ignorance, which includes poverty. Knowledge that does little for the crying baby who is hungry. 

But our definition of poverty when arrived at through mindfulness might also describe an itinerant yet content sadhu (holy man) who has peered through the veil and weight of possessions, denies himself nothing, knowing that he takes everything of value with him as karma.

Then, there is another poverty—a poverty of spirit. What good is having this and that, eating to fullness, and procreating if marketing has replaced meaning and the soul is ‘starving’ to death? Buddha cautioned about the distractions, the illusions taking root in the fertile garden of our minds like weeds—choking the flowers of dharma and right action for mindless gratification that can never be satisfied.

There is always more or less.