AMERICA 03-Mar-2014 Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon
There are two broad groups of forces that determine the life of man. Those are materialism and spiritualism. Materialism is going all out for pleasures of the world. It is also known as ‘Hedonism or Epicureanism ‘. A materialist thinks that everything that is on earth and being created is for the pleasure of man and that purpose of life is to enjoy comforts and luxuries as much as possible. We should amass as much wealth as possible, no matter through fair or foul ways .They don’t believe in the existence of super power, operation of moral or ethical laws. They don’t believe in the law of Karma or law of recompense that is the belief that people who do good deeds would be rewarded and those who do evil deeds would be punished by divinity .They allow their senses to run wild. They don’t believe in excising control over their senses. Those who believe in this Philosophy use Modern Science and technology to create more and more goods and services for human comforts which are wrongly believed to give man peace of mind and happiness . Man becomes slave to outside world rather than becoming master. His life is shaped by what is available outside rather than his life is directed by him. His whole life is spent in chasing comforts that lie outside like a tried traveler in a desert rushes towards illusory perception of water, the phenomenon is known as ‘mirage’. In materialistic life, man is neither aware of his inner strength nor develops it .He leads a life of animals with all their raw instincts, although human life is expected to be at a higher plain than that of lower creatures .
What is spirituality? It is certainly different from materialism. Is it being religious as common man understands? What is the concept of being religious held by common men? . According to them, being Religious is having faith in personal God, belief that there is supreme being in human form somewhere in heaven, who protects them and blesses them with longevity, health and riches, if they worship, singing his glories in unison with the accompaniment of percussion instruments or Bhajan, going to temples and making offerings called Vazipaadu ,in Malayalam language, in return for what God gives them in their earthly life .Here, God is considered as a trader .Though there is belief that God would punish wrong doers as part of their belief in personal God , it is not strong . With such shallow beliefs, they perform many ceremonies, to propitiate God, without attempting to lead a life of values and self- restraint as is expected of a true devotee .This leads to superstitions. Religious ceremonies become meaningless exercises and waste of time, energy and resources .This is because, common people do not understand the true spirit of Religion. They do not have proper concept of God .Obviously we cannot call such people as Religious or devotees of God .God is within us, rather with in every living being. It is life force within us. The fact that we breathe and all our inner bodily functions are carried out meticulously, when our body is healthy are the evidences of existence of God .The moment that divine power sheds the body, it is to be immediately buried or consumed to flame, less it deteriorates with in no time .Micro-organisms can make it as their pray . We see the difference when the life force which is God reigns in our body . Generally divinity expresses in our body only at the involuntary level such as for functioning of body processes such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion , functioning of our normal intellect and so on . It does show up at higher levels at which man might show his capabilities at levels much higher than what the best intellect is able to express .now . Thus we should understand spirituality is our control over our sense organs and desires that spring up in our minds by leading a life of virtues .In spirituality, we become masters and the outside world becomes our servant . In other words, we are able to make outside world to serve us in noble ways. It is the divinity within us, when we develop to make the world to serve us in noble ways. In the case of materialism, we are at the receiving end. we are lured by the comforts outside and the desire to create unending sources of personal experience, which is interpreted as happiness . Excessive attractions to comforts can lead to disastrous personal consequences. just like antelopes get caught in the hunter’s nest, when their minds are immersed in the sweet sounds of the horns blown by the hunters or fish attracted by bait in the hook get caught, Male tuskers get caught when they enjoy the contact with their female counter parts, the technique practices in domesticating elephants or fire flies attracted by flames go to flirt with it and get killed or monkeys get trapped when they struggle to pull their hands, holding peanuts in the pot with narrow opening, with their palms or seals mistaking the blood on the knives, smeared by the hunter as the bold from their prey, get attracted , keep sucking the knife and bleed profusely to death , without knowing that it is the blood from their bodies. In other words, we do many things, thinking that those are for our good, though, those lead us to silent and gradual death .For instance, taking intoxicated drinks. addicts lose their health gradually, being in suffering and ultimately collapsing .
Are spirituality and materialism are opposites? Don’t they go together? Should one be either a materialist or a spiritualist? Materialism, as stated above is our urge to seek more and more pleasures of the outside world. Spiritualism is control over our excessive indulgence in material pleasures..Thus spiritualism can control unbridled materialism . Materialism can be compared to horses yoked in a cart. Cart goes in the right direction, only when a cart man or Sarathi , in Sanskrit controls their movements of the horses .Village bullock carts are also examples. The bullocks are yoked to the cart and cart man directs the bullocks to move on the road. The horses or bullocks can be compared to our frenzy for seeking material comforts and going astray and Cartman, which stands for our spiritual personality. Spirituality, directs our senses in the proper direction. In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna the charioteer of Arjuna directs horses in the scene o f Kurushetra war. The victory of Mahabharata war by Pandavas was no less due to the skill displayed by Lord Krishna in directing the chariot than all other combined combat skills. This is symbolic. Lord Krishna is the supreme charioteer who directs the world along the righteous path and virtues and checks movements along the paths of vices and cruelties. Lord Krishna as charioteer also stands for our innate spiritual nature and the horses restless to move haphazardly stand for our senses and people competing with each other for outwitting each other for what is ever material gains that can be acquired is possible during their life time. The explanations given above show that materialism and spiritualism need not be isolated from each other. Both can co-exist, as master and servant. While on earth, human life is to be perpetuated by leading life of house holders and all cannot turn into Brhamacharis or those practicing celibacy. As house holders, we have to be materialistic, unlike in the case of saints or mendicants or those who have renounced material comforts or body-orientation and live for others. But the point is materialism should be moderated or guided by spiritualism or spiritualism should be the guiding force for material living. In such case, we live and enjoy our lives with minimum material comforts, instead of being preoccupied with material comforts or guided by selfishness .The quality of such a life will be superior and would result in prosperity , harmony and peace all around . The greatest satisfaction comes from living for others rather than from living for oneself and for one’s kith and kins. It is a life of absolute security and bliss. It is living for all as opposed to living for oneself.
The first lesion to develop spirituality as guiding force in our dynamic personality is to understand human /ethical values, recognize them as eternal laws governing healthy human life and live those values .Knowledge about ethics or human ideals can be learned by reading our ancient epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bagavad Gita, Manusmriti, Sutras, Puranas, Kavyas like Kumara Sambavam,Sakunthalam and others, Buddhist (Jataka Tales) and Jainism literature , Koutilya’s Arthasastra, Chanakya’s Neethisastra, Ashataga yoga by Pathanjali , stories such as that of Sri Harischandra , Silapathikaram-the powerful story of Kannaki and Kovilan, literature on Indian festivals which bring out their inner meaning and the morals , which they convey such as the Articles by this Author ( search in Google using the name of the Author of this Article ) , writings of saints of India such as those by Sankaracharya, Madhwacharya , Ramanuja charya, Ramana Maharshi, Swamy Vivekananda, Sathya Sai baba , Swami Chinmayananda , Amritandamayee Devi, Sri Sri Ravishankar , Autobiography and Biographies of Great People like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa , publications of spiritual organizations such as Shri Ramakrishna Math,ISCON and so on . Once we read them, we should reflect upon the values those writings convey and try to incorporate in our life .Temples are centers of spirituality or ethical values. Temple worship realizing this principle helps to develop spirituality. Just like we use gymnasium to build up our health, we should use temples to destroy our animal instincts and evil qualities and cultivate in their places good or divine qualities which constitute the real human nature .We must make materialism as servant and spiritualism as master, so that materialism would give us real happiness and enjoyment.