Greed is a condition in which desires go unfulfilled – a state of spiritual starvation. When we are hungry or thirsty, we are in the world of Hunger. In addition, when our main objective is the pursuit of desire, and we are controlled by our desires, like a thief who is compelled to steal whatever he wants, we are also in the world of Hunger.
We naturally pursue many desires in the course of living. Throughout history the pursuit of unfulfilled desire coupled with the wish for a better way of life has led individuals to improve themselves and caused entire societies to advance. Desires are a driving force behind today’s material and technological civilization. On the other hand, when we are overwhelmed by our desires, we will suffer and cause pain for others as well. We need not look far to find many examples of a person whose desire for alcohol leads to excessive drinking may find his health endangered and his job in jeopardy. Such a person not only makes himself unhappy, but causes sadness for his family, trouble for his employers and grief for those who may be unfortunate enough to encounter him on the highway.
Today we can easily see the effects of the world of Hunger in our environment. The strong desire to escape from day-to-day worries and pain through a seemingly pleasurable “high” leads many to squander their money on drugs, thereby ruining their health. And as we have recently seen, money-hungry drug dealers may stop at nothing, even murder to protect their incomes. The unchecked desire to own more and more often leads generally honest people to fall hopelessly into debt. The ugly desires of whole societies or nations, from which the tragedies of war and environmental pollution arise, are themselves born of the desires of individuals.
Thus the world of hunger possesses the potential for both good and evil. Desires for growth and development, such as the hunger for knowledge or the wish to strengthen one’s body through sports, are far preferable to desires that lead to self-destruction.
If we work with all our might to save enough money to buy the house of our dreams, we will naturally be overjoyed when we are able to move in but when our friend or relative buys an even nicer house, we may no longer feel satisfied, now wanting something better.
In this sense, desire has no limit. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by or become slaves to desire, we will remain perpetually in the world of Hunger. True happiness lies not in the accumulation of material wealth or the fulfilment of all desires. To lead a most fulfilled, humanistic way of life, we must neither deny our desires nor allow them to control us. Rather, we must learn to control them and tap them as a source of growth and improvement.