A couple of weeks ago, I tried to explain the teachings of Gautama Buddha to my class at the University of St. Francis. Buddha lived 2600 years ago in India and taught that life was misery and suffering. What causes us this discomfort is "tanha". Tanha means to crave or desire. We are always looking for something more, and as a result, we create a life full of anguish pursuing that for which we long. Buddha's solution to this suffering was to disengage from the world of wants and strivings. The person who is able to do so reaches nirvana.

Since no one in my class is Buddhist, they had some trouble fully understanding the folly of striving from the Buddhist viewpoint. I restated the theological point several different ways without feeling comfortable about their understanding-until I remembered my recent trouble with my computer.

Those of us that use computers every day crave increased memory and desire increased speed. I covet the newest and fastest computers. If I had the latest model, I would be in nirvana. However, I don't want to spend a couple thousand dollars to get a state-of-the-art model. An inexpensive way of increasing your computer's speed is to increase your RAM (random access memory). I decided to double mine by adding an additional 32-RAM. With that added memory, my computer would work faster, and I could cut down processing time by a couple of seconds.

To insure that I could satisfy my computer craving, I consulted my owner's manual to find out what type of RAM I needed. After returning from a local computer store with my upgrade, I soon discovered that it didn't work. I called my computer's customer service toll-free number. I got through to a pleasant sounding machine that presented me a menu of options. I made a selection that enabled me to listen to another menu. After making the appropriate choice, I heard the voice of a real person who asked for my computer's model and serial number. He told me that I would have to call another toll-free number-which I did.

Another option menu came from an articulate machine. This time, I thought that I was really going to get service. I heard a human voice that asked me how he could help me. I said that I wanted the part number for my computer's memory chip. At least, the voice at the other end understood what I needed. He put me on hold while he looked up the number. By now, I had been on the phone for at least a half-hour. Another ten minutes passed pleasantly while I listened to telephone's version of elevator music. Finally, the voice returned with my part number. I asked if I could order the part from him. He told me that he couldn't do that. However, he gave me another toll-free number to place my order. I dialed the new number only to discover that they had closed for the day and that I would have to call back the next workday.

The next workday found me again on the phone. I went through the standard option menu only to discover that I had been given an incorrect number. I tried another toll-free number and endured more minutes of waiting before I finally talked to an actual person in the correct order department. I told clerk what I wanted and gave him the part number. After a moment of silence, he informed me that the number that I had wasn't the number for a RAM chip.

Sensing my growing frustration, he connected me to another department for the part number. After another half-hour of transfers and option menus, I finally was able to order my chip. During those two days of attempting to order an upgrade, I had logged nearly two hours trying to satisfy my craving for additional speed so that I could save a couple of seconds here and there while I am using my computer. I shudder to think how long it will take me to make up the time that I wasted getting the additional speed.

As I recounted my troubles to the class, I wondered out loud what Buddha would have said about my trials. Perhaps my experience with my computer will be instructive to my class and also to you. We need balance in life. Buddha might have something to say to all of us.