Monday, February 23, 2004



I consider myself lucky that I'm not addicted to TV. One could say that I am missing out on a lot of interesting entertainment but I guess I can do without it because TV is a big gobbler of time. I am also less addicted to the Internet as I used to be--two years in Jakarta with a slow Internet connection sort of cured me of that.

I used to be addicted to movies too; at one time in my life I was even going to the movie theatres everyday. Thank God, I'm now free from this addiction. I still have other addictions: books and reading for instance. Maybe it is not that bad to be addicted to reading; but if one starts looking forward to meal times because they are an opportunity to read, then I think that is probably not very healthy. Since coming back to KL, I rarely get a chance to eat alone and indulge in some pre and after meal reading, so I suppose I'll be cured of that too.

Can one be completely cured of addictions? I think only the perfect soul is free from addictions. We all crave for certain things in life; we all have our likes and dislikes. It is perfectly natural for us to pursue our natural inclinations. However inclinations can easily degenerate into addictions if left unchecked.

Addictions develop when we constantly reinforce the pleasure that we get from our simple cravings. We rave about our favourite food and allow the memory of its pleasures to constantly occupy our mind. A footpath through a jungle is formed if people trudge across the same track over and over again. When we constantly reinforce certain patterns of thoughts in our brain, our neurons become "hardwired" and we end up repeating the same sequence of thoughts everytime.

Addictions, once they have taken root, are extremely difficult to eliminate. As long as the same conditions are present, the same sequence of thoughts result. We become mere automatons. A person is not really free unless he is free from all his addictions.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have likes and dislikes; a man who is free from addiction is not controlled and limited by his likes and dislikes. He can enjoy what he likes to the fullest but he is also strong enough to let it go without regret. Every enjoyment is celebrated with a sense of gratitude. He frees it from his mind until Providence presents the same pleasure to him again.

Gary Zukav's book, The Seat of the Soul has a good chapter about addiction. Buddhists typically use the term "attachment" rather than addiction to describe the same condition. Any pleasurable thing in life is a potential source of addiction. One must always remain vigilant to prevent them from taking root.

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