Spirituality Versus Materialism

For centuries you have been misinformed that materialism and spirituality are the opposites of each-other. You must give up materialism, potentially in old age and try to be spiritual, you have been told. On the other hand the argument is that if you cling on to materialism, you cannot attain spirituality.

This falsehood has messed up our society which is full of so called spirituals corrupt with hidden lust for consumption, aggregation, violence and other acts and suppressed impulses of material nature.

As regards the materialistic class, we now have three types. One is constantly in fear of anything spiritual that could rob them of normal material life; and therefore they shun any encounter with spirituality. The second type is that which constantly points to the fake spirituals as a reason for shunning spirituality. The last type is that which is curious about spirituality but citing their honest inability to divorce materialism, mistakenly assuming renunciation to be the path to spiritual growth.

Ishavasya Upanishad clearly and repeatedly tells us to be engaged in ‘both worlds’ named as avidya – materialism and vidya – spirituality, warning that avoidance of any one will lead you to darkness. To be balanced in both worlds you need to perfect your role while continuously reducing the violence, greed, fear, competitiveness, rudeness, aggressiveness and other stuff you already know is bad for you! Buddha called this the middle path.

When I think of shining examples in spirituality, my mind goes to the Blairfindy Grants of Glenlivet village in Scotland. They started their single malt whisky distillery in the 16th century and they proudly and diligently continue to own and run it. It is rare to come across such disdain for greed to grow the business, or such indifference sell out to a multinational company and hope that the next generation will become bankers in the City of London. The cobbler who has been around my street corner for last 20 years, always sharp in his art, never seen frustrated or unhappy in his limited income seems to be in the same class as these Grants.

When I think of spirituality, come to my mind countless middle class men and women toiling hard day and night to buy an apartment, send kids to a good school and construct a solid family structure over 3 to 4 decades that will spawn other happy families.

Spirituality is not about rich v. poor or catch phrases found in the speech of a guru. It is not about giving up a Ferrari and becoming a monk. If you have a Ferrari, by all means do enjoy it, but do not get a heart attack when you lose it. Being indifferent to changing times is spiritual. A friend of mine often says that he hits the bed at 11pm and within 10 minutes he is fast asleep, whatever may be the happy or sad happenings of the day. That sounds spiritual to me.

When I think of what is not spiritual then it is the greed to own a Ferrari by hook or by crook and burning yourself and your family out to achieve that goal. M&A bankers working 18 hours a day is certainly not spiritual. Young traders eager to sacrifice anything and anyone for becoming ‘masters of the universe’ are not spiritual. Middle class folks using credit cards and personal loans so that they can live in a posh apartment or post pictures of a European summer vacation on Facebook are not spiritual. A poor guy resigning to his fate and not putting up a fight to emerge from poverty is not spiritual.

Spirituality is the balance that will keep you internally happy and physically healthy. It is not about reciting a holy book, going to pilgrimage. It is also not about donating money (it is certainly good) as you get closer to death. It is nothing to do with giving up your traditional lifestyle and food habits. It is about who you are at the core of your being. If you see wisdom in my thoughts borrowed from the rishis of the Upanishads, do evaluate yourself and find your spiritual quotient. Wish you a happy and steady journey to spirituality.

About the Author

Anahata Ananda
Anahata Ananda
is an investment banker moonwalking as a thinker