“People crave sensory stimulation. They enjoy this kind of external excitement. But I consider such craving a form of suffering. Sensory stimulation feeds on itself, grows larger and larger, and develops an ever-increasing appetite. People will destroy themselves and others, too, in trying to satisfy it. Pleasure derived from Dharma wisdom is internal excitement. Happiness grows along with the capacity to enjoy it. When given a choice between enjoyments, enlightened people always choose the Dharma.”
Han Shan is telling us an important thing about our cravings. A lot of times our cravings can’t be satisfied. We can just consume more and more forever. This is especially apparent in things like the accumulation of wealth. No matter how much money they have, people seem to always want more.
It also applies addiction to sense pleasures. I’ll use food as an example. A lot of us keep eating well after we aren’t hungry anymore. Our desire is more important than our hunger.
There’s another kind of pleasure, though. There is happiness in stillness, in setting our desires aside and just turning the light inward. The joy we get from our spiritual path might seem far removed from the joy we get from eating a big piece of cake or drinking a soda, but it’s not as fleeting. If we can dwell in stillness on the cushion, that joy follows us into our daily life.
The Buddha described that joy as, “Like a shadow that never leaves.”