How Do We Handle Earthly Desires in the Pandemic?


I hope you all are staying healthy and have been able to use this time of reflection to good effect.

Finally we’ve managed to work with my husband’s computer to get this video up.  I apologize for the inconvenience. We need to give him kudos for figuring out all  of the work arounds he had to do to edit this video.  I couldn’t do it without him.


This week I had a question about earthly desires. I’m going to discuss how the two different traditions of Buddhism view them. Then we’re going to look at what we know and see how we can apply our practice to the re-opening of our states and countries.

Earthly Desires

The Dictionary of Buddhism says that earthly desires is the “generic term for the workings of life that cause one psychological and physical suffering and impede the quest for Enlightenment. They are the fetters or bonds, binding us to the realm of suffering and delusion. Buddhism regards them as the fundamental cause for affliction and suffering. “

There are five delusive inclinations, greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt. Then there are others that arise from them. for example irritability, the tendency to bear grudges, and the desire to inflict harm, derive from anger.

The Hinayana and the Mahayana traditions agree that earthly desires lead to suffering, but fundamentally disagree on how to handle them on the path to Enlightenment.

Views of The Hinayana and Mahayana traditions

Hinayana Buddhism teaches that earthly desires and Enlightenment are two opposing factors and that the two cannot co-exist. This path teaches that you must extinguish all earthly desires, before you can become enlightened.

Mahayana Buddhism, upholds the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Buddhism is in the Mahayana tradition. This tradition teaches that earthly desires are one with and inseparable from Enlightenment, because all things, even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of the unchanging reality or truth and are one, non-dual at their source.

It seems to me that practical experience would say that it’s impossible to eliminate all desires. If you did that you would die, because you wouldn’t care about supporting life.

Are earthly desires rooted in our deluded or enlightened nature

Daisaku Ikeda says that the real issue is whether the desire is rooted in our deluded nature or in our Enlightened nature. When rooted in our deluded nature, we look to the desire to bring us happiness and we are attached to it. We are looking outside of ourselves for something to make us happy.

These attachments give rise to suffering. If we want something badly and lose it, we suffer. Let’s say you want a certain house and are quite attached to living in it. Wouldn’t you suffer if the house burnt down, or you couldn’t afford it due to a job loss? On the other hand if you weren’t really attached to it and had the attitude that it could be this house or something better, and you lost that house. Then you wouldn’t suffer. You could let it go easily.

When earthly desires are rooted in our deluded nature, then the actions resulting from them stem from delusion or ignorance and give rise to negative results, bad karma and more suffering.

Chant & transform a deluded impulse

Even if our desires are rooted in our deluded nature, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we can transform any deluded impulse, any suffering, any karma into Buddhahoood, wisdom, and benefit. Through this kind of prayer, our earthly desires not only cease to cause suffering, but become the impetus to bring out immense wisdom and absolute happiness.

This is why we say that earthly desires are the steppingstones to enlightenment. If we chant daimoku each time we face a problem, overcome it and elevate our life condition as a consequence, this is the path to change earthly desires into enlightenment. Our sufferings become the raw material for constructing happiness.

“Daimoku is like fire. When you burn the firewood of earthly desires, then the fire of happiness – that is of enlightenment burns brightly.” FIA 143

Letting go of Attachments Naturally

In my experience, letting go of attachments to earthly desires happens naturally over time, as the rock of the unshakeable happiness of the Mystic Law grows in our lives. Through transforming one suffering after another into happiness and bringing out our Buddhahood to do so, we build faith and confidence that we can rely on that rock no matter what happens around us. When the sun rises in our hearts then the outer attachments fade, just like the stars fade when the sun rises in the morning.

Handling Earthly Desires in the Pandemic

I would imagine that many of us are dying to get out and about. We have many earthly desires we want to see satisfied. So how do we know whether they have arisen from our deluded nature or our enlightened nature. When you are contemplating doing something such as going to a restaurant or store, it would be a good idea to chant about it so you make the decision using your Buddha wisdom and not just rush into it because you can. To heedlessly go out, and mingle with others, could result in suffering since the virus is still active.


Today we discussed the Hinayana and Mahayana views of earthly desires. Hinayana says you must eliminate desires to become Enlightened. Mahayana says that both earthly desires and Enlightenment grow from the same unchanging reality. So you don’t have to eliminate desires to become enlightened. This path says that we can transform our sufferings into happiness by chanting Nam-Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and bring out our Buddhahood and its wisdom to give us the answer to questions and concerns.

Let’s apply our understanding to the pandemic re-openings and chant about any place we’re thinking about going. Then our Buddha wisdom can guide us.


1. Did You Know That Your Life is Your Curriculum?
2. Is it Possible to be Too Attached to a Goal?
3. You Are Never a Victim of Your Circumstances


Thank you for your suggestions about topics and your questions. You have encouraged me to delve deeply into study. So keep them coming. I’ll see you in two weeks

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  • Frazer Goodman says:

    very helpful

  • Nitin Ghuliani says:

    Thank you soooo much Margaret for making all the efforts to share this wonderful guidance. How amazing and mystic are the workings of this Law in our daily environment of “earhly desires” can be fully experienced once we make the Gohonzon the “centre” of our lives.. Please stay safe 😊🙏

  • Cat Selvaggio says:

    Great post!!!

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