A way to eliminate greed is to analyse its cost to our soul. An anecdote from the life of Abou ben Adhem illustrates this point. Abou ben Adhem (known as Ebrahim ibn Adhem) was the king of Balkh when an incident occurred that aroused self-searching about his aim in life. While sitting on his throne with his ministers on either side, he gave audience to the masses. Suddenly, a man approached him. He had such a terrifying expression that even the king’s ministers did not want to look at this stranger. “What do you want?” asked Abou.
“I am only stopping off at this inn,” replied the stranger. “This is not an inn. This is my palace. You must be a madman,” replied the king. “Who owned this palace before you?” asked the man. “My father,” said Abou. “And who owned it before him?” asked the man. “My grandfather,” responded Abou. The dialogue proceeded further with the stranger continuing to ask who owned the palace prior to the last one mentioned.
Finally, the stranger said, “To where have all these owners departed?” “They are all dead,” said Abou. ‘Then,” concluded the stranger, “is this not an inn in which one person enters and another leaves?” With this statement, the stranger disappeared. This exchange initiated Abou ben Adhem on his search for God, as he realised that the things of this world were transitory and that what was more important to him was finding his soul and God. In order to realise our self and realise God, we know that it takes time and attention. We need to spend time in meditation; we need to eliminate the various blockages by leading a positive life of love and we need to think about what greed will cost us in terms of achieving our goal.
Can we replace greed? The joy of giving can surpass the happiness of receiving. In return, we can receive far more than we give. The blessings that become ours for giving and sharing cannot be measured on earth; we are showered with God’s love and grace. When we find ourselves in the clutches of greed, we can consider doing a selfless act in its place. Over time, a new habit can form, and we can begin to look for opportunities for giving rather than taking. Whenever we feel we desire more objects and possessions, we are losing control of ourselves. To regain our balance, we can sit in meditation. As we contact the light and sound and venture above body consciousness, we realise the impermanent nature of this world and the permanent nature of our soul.
We experience our soul beyond the physical body. With that new perspective, we can look at the objects of this world as temporary bubbles that vanish in the twinkling of an eye. We realise that what is important is our soul and God. We come to see that what matters in the beyond is how much we give of ourselves to others selflessly. By developing a selfless, giving attitude we can find that the spots covering our soul due to greed begin to fade. Our spiritual progress can advance much further each time we empower our soul to give and share....