Tiger Woods, Craving, And Buddhist Principles


Mid-February, 2010, legendary golfer Tiger Woods stood behind a podium, in a small room full of close family and friends, and apologized for how his behavior (Tiger had been cheating on his wife with multiple women) had affected his wife, his family, his fans, and his work colleagues.

While speaking, Tiger talked about becoming a better person. Woods mentioned that part of the reason why he was in the situation he’s in is because he fell away from his Buddhist practice and principles. According to the transcript, he said this:

Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint.

“Buddhist principles” does not equal meditation

I wrote this article because as I was browsing the web, another article somehow turned this quote into an angle to promote meditation. I doubt I would normally care about an article such as that; but for some reason, this time I did care.

One reason might have been because of a past discussion on secularizing Buddhism. This article, in my opinion, clearly did that. It was as if the writer said “Hey look! Tiger mentioned Buddhism, I can write about meditation!” Essentially let’s not study the religious roots of that statement; instead, let’s make it a nice way to promote meditation which is now mainstream enough that it can be promoted without making people think of the Buddhist religion (philosophy).

Secondly, by Tiger mentioning Buddhist principles, a golden opportunity to understand the meaning of what he said had presented itself to the world. I say “golden” because Buddhism is like a religion of cognitive psychology. Most ideals that are practiced are based on how one operates in their thinking and how those thoughts cause stress for the individual. The ideals in Buddhism also help one work on purifying and neutralizing those thoughts that cause stress a.k.a life drama. It’s a golden opportunity.

So here we are, there is a mention of Buddhism in the media and instead of exploring the quote, we get another article about doing meditation. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot people a.k.a “you’re doin’ it wrong.”

So what does “craving” mean in Buddhism?

Well craving, is the source of everyone’s suffering. We become attached to an idea, an object, a person, etc, so much so that it causes us to do and be dumb things. The nature of craving is taught in one of the most basic teachings in Buddhism called The Four Noble Truths, craving is the second truth.

Now what is the noble truth of the origination of stress? The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

Craving for sensuality, here, means the desire for sensual objects. Craving for becoming means the desire for the formation of states or realms of being that are not currently happening, while craving for non-becoming means the desire for the destruction or halting of any that are.

Access to Insight Organization

So Tiger was craving sensuality and desire to such an extreme that it caused him suffering. And he’s not alone in his craving: people on Wall Street desire money, people around the world desire what others have or what they see on TV, kids almost desire everything if you don’t teach them restraint. These are all from the same well of suffering that Tiger got his suffering from.

Essentially, Tiger forgot how not to crave, which is explained in the third and fourth truths. In this situation, meditation is one aspect of a solution but it not the entire solution. It would be like giving someone the parts of a bicycle without giving them the instruction manual. “Go meditate and learn not to suffer.”

Learning to be with your craving is not so much about detaching from your suffering or craving as much as it’s allowing your suffering or craving to exist without it controlling you, which is what Tiger meant by this.

It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint.

And this statement, I’ll deal with another time.

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