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Fruit from the Garden of Wisdom
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 16: Spirituality and Materialism

It seems that the world is moving away from Spirituality towards materialism. Will we be able to reverse this trend? Why this has happened?

The need for material prosperity and acquisition, when it is over-emphasised, takes a person in the direction mentioned. Does it mean, then, at least from the point of view of such people who are in this condition, that working for material comfort and acquisition is more important than working for the spirit? If anyone thinks like that then there is something basically wrong in the very outlook of that person. He is totally misconstruing the very structure of life. To put it shortly, he requires a fresh education altogether.

India has the blessing of God, somehow. It has not died like other nations and it does not appear that it is going to die easily. India has suffered due to one mistake that it has committed. It lost its independence for some centuries because it discredited the value of earthly existence, and gave too much credit to a transcendental existence. That is, your love for God was not equally commensurate with your duty to the world. This is what Sri Aurobindo says (in his book 'Foundation of Indian Culture'). So the worldly forces attacked, and God did not come to help because people segmented God Himself into two parts – the Creator and the created. The country suffered economically, militarily, and even in its concept of spirituality. Yet, in its aspiration for the transcendent, though it was not conceived properly in an integral fashion (it was segmented because it was separated from world's existence), the intensity of the longing for the transcendent was such that its soul is still surviving, though economically, and from the point of view of defence forces, it is not possessed of much that can be admired.

Most of the religious people in India asserted the importance of the transcendent Creator, and it was not so easy to bring together into a state of harmony the world and God. The two always appeared to be different things, and they will appear to be so always, as long as the mortal brain thinks in a mortal manner. The total thought of the integration of Being, wherein the Creator and the created become one – that was the true spirituality of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. But nobody in India lives in the spirit of the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita.

All that you call Hinduism today is conditioned by the dictates of the Puranas and the Epics, with a lot of ritual and mythology. The One God has become the many gods, and we worship all the gods, not necessarily knowing that all these gods are aspects of the One God. The concept of the One Absolute cannot easily enter the mind of the human being because of the dichotomy created in the mind between man and the world, and between world and God. At one time only the extra-cosmic Soul was emphasised, and the body was neglected. Now, we are taking care of the body very well. We have all the requirements for it. But, the soul is perhaps going under the cloud, which we hope will not be for all time to come.

Mostly, people who are not properly oriented are enamoured of the external facilities available by contact with a Western way of thinking. This overemphasis that they are laying in their life is due to a misconstruing of the nature of the aim of life, which should not happen, especially in an Indian, who is supposed to be living in the cradle of ancient culture.

Externals cannot make a human being. It is the total that makes you what you are. I do not say that external facilities and comforts are unnecessary, but you are not made up of mere externals. Though externals are necessary, they are only an appendage to your total personality. Emphasis excessively laid on one aspect of the personality alone will be like thinking of one side of human nature and completely ignoring the other side.

You are a physical body, a social unit, a political individual, a biological structure, a psychic entity, and intellect, a reason, a spirit. All these aspects of the human personality have to be fed properly with their own required diet by what we call real education. Any aspect which is ignored will set up a reaction and make life miserable.

Education, which is actually the way in which you live in this world, should be the procedure that you adopt every day, every minute, every moment of time, taking into consideration every aspect of your relationship to the world. This is to see that you are integrally growing from the lower level of your personality to the higher dimensions of it, until you reach the highest dimension of your being, which is Universal Existence. This is my concept of real education, and of the aim of all life.