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A 'Materialistic' Case for Spirituality

By Arun Goel

In yoga, States are classified into Tamasik, Rajasik and Sattvik. Accordingly, personalities are characterised by Tamas - meaning, sloth or inactivity; Rajas - activity; or Sattva - purity.

That all seek happiness is a universal truth. Yoga, through the experiences and teachings of the Masters, offers a pathway to lasting happiness uncluttered by desires, aversions, attachments, fears etc. This pathway guides us from Tamas (ignorance, sloth) towards Rajas (activity) and onward to a Sattvik nature (purity) for lasting bliss.

Materialism is good in that it helps one to transcend from Tamas to Rajas, so let us not classify materialism as anti yogic. It is often a necessary tool for our onward journey towards bliss. A person consumed with ignorance and laziness can never achieve Happiness, because contrary to perception that "ignorance is bliss", in reality an ignorant, lazy person is a prisoner of his sloth. Ignorance and sloth act as chains that actually suppress the inherent desire to be free, blissful.
So, it is necessary to motivate ourselves, maybe with material goodies to 'lure' us into a life of productivity, activity. That is the first stage.

Rajas leads to activity of the whole system, both physical and mental and it ignites emotions. With increasing material and sensual pursuits, the Rajas rises correspondingly.

The problem arises on account of unbridled Rajas. The heightened mental and physical activity creates its own tensions in the mind. As this happens, inner contradictions are aroused - excitement, depression, anxieties, fear, sensual pleasures. These rise and fall intermittently and without control like waves, thereby tossing about our boat (mind-body complex). It is here that we must make the transition from a rajasik to a more sattvik nature. Why?
Because just as an economist would say - the law of diminishing utility takes over…

While on the one hand we are accumulating material gains for apparent physical comforts, we hope that this will help us buy the emotional comfort too. Funnily, what happens is just the opposite. The other component of our being - the mind (which in the true sense is really guiding our physical body as well) - starts becoming increasingly agitated. This nullifies much of the material gains and in fact, sooner than we realize, the tables are turned.

Being wedded to materialism does not also make good "business" sense. As any businessman would agree, one must strive towards more 'bang for the buck'. The maximum value for your wealth is had when you deploy it for gains that are still untapped / unrealized. In this case, the material wealth earned forms the insurance which can safeguard your family and you as you set out to explore the uncharted territories for gaining inner peace, bliss, freedom from pain - a remarkable opportunity to aim for high returns. Needless to say, this is also in perfect consonance with the risk-return paradigm that a businessman thrives upon.

But more importantly, as any intelligent and perceptive being would realize, wealth accumulation beyond a certain limit is only the result of an addictive behaviour with no real need for it. In some cases, this is so because the person really does not know what else to do. So he continues the cycle of wealth accumulation as an escapist way under the garb of 'the need for business growth', the need to support family, the need to improve the stock of the World, the need to prove himself, the need to be successful, the need to be secure - the list is endless. A perfectly intelligent and dynamic person should actually view the whole game of competition, financial one-upmanship, success etc. from an elevated, vantage viewpoint where he sees all of it as a game being played out by harried rabbits, running around - more in the nature of compulsive behaviour - with some imagined victory posts when in fact there are none. All they end up doing is only to remain at the base of the mountain. There is a bigger, arduous climb that we all must undertake with far greater gains that can be got along the way. That is the way for an 'ambitious' intelligent man.

And what is this journey? The journey to understand who we are, why are we here, what are we actually doing and what should we be doing, how should we be doing it, what is to be had by this. This is what we mean by spirituality and when we start to do this, we move closer to bliss. This is what all beings ultimately seek - some seek answers while they are young, others when they face burn-outs, many while on their deathbed and for the remaining, they have future lives (for the believers of karma) which will throw up these questions.

But despite these obviously practical and intelligent reasons for venturing out towards a more spiritual approach, why do we remain in the rut of material accumulation and sensual pleasure? Quite simply, because of the grip our senses have upon us. We are, in fact, slaves of our senses; we cannot see the possibly of there being something beyond, far deeper and capable of giving us far greater pleasure, so we trudge along on our 'addicted', sense dominated ways.


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