Like possessions, you need some pleasures in the world. Whether it is possession of things, ideas or relationships, you need some of them. Yet, they need to be important. They need to yield something of real value to you, and the value that they yield must be greater than your investment in them. This holds true for any kind of pleasure that you find attractive or wish to pursue. Given the investment of time and energy—which includes money, of course, for this represents time and energy—how much does that pleasure yield to you? How great are its fruits? Pleasure is an investment. What does it yield? An honest appraisal of your own experience will provide genuine guidelines for this, as will the promptings of Knowledge within you, which will seek to engage you in those activities that are most beneficial, forsaking all others that merely rob you of your time, energy and attention.
Simple pleasures are valuable if the investment in them is not too great and if they yield something of real value. Let us give you an example. It may be a great pleasure to stand by a beautiful river as it passes by. That is a simple pleasure, small in comparison to the pleasure of Knowledge, but genuine nonetheless. However, if you must travel halfway around the world to have this experience, then the investment in this simple, momentary pleasure is clearly inappropriate. Yet, people travel halfway around the world to observe some natural feature or to see some spectacle in order to have a pleasurable moment. Their reward is very small in comparison to their great investment.
Most of the pleasures that are damaging to people are damaging because the investment is great and the reward is very small. In many cases, there is no reward at all. There is only investment and reinvestment. Here we have the contrast between fantasy regarding the pleasure and the real experience. How often have you been disappointed by the real experience of something because the anticipation was so great and so inflated and you had invested so much? Then the real experience came, and it really was not that fine after all. Observe little children around Christmas, how their anticipation and their expectations are so great. The investment of time, energy and attention is so great, but after the gifts are all unwrapped, there is disappointment. The investment is great. The reward is small. Consider how many times you were disappointed by things that you had hoped would be wonderful and magnificent. Why the disappointment? Because the investment was great and the reward was small. Recall experiences where you made an investment of yourself and there was no reward at all.
Often the cost of pursuing a pleasure cannot be accounted for at the outset because when the pursuit robs you of your awareness of yourself, of your interaction with life and of your appreciation of your own existence, such a great price goes unnoticed. Yet, people pay it because they are depressed and angry and lack value and meaning in their lives. They are paying the price all the time. They often associate their suffering with other things, so they seek greater pleasures, which exact great prices, and their dilemma and depression become deeper. In fact, their depression can become so deep that it is like a dark cell with no windows where no light can penetrate.