Friday, November 22, 2013

WOMBS OF SUFFERING

Pleasures from external objects
Are wombs of suffering.
They have their beginnings and their ends;
No wise person seeks joy among them.
                                               Bhagavad Gita.

More and more people are giving up organized religion. As I often say in this blog, that is a very good thing in so many ways, for then those people are free to explore more enlightened, rational and less exploitative forms of spirituality. That is happening to some extent, but not as respects the majority of people---and that's a real pity.

I can speak only for the West, although I will say that I've witnessed this same phenomenon in Japan where I have spent some time. Interest and participation in organized religion wanes, only to be replaced by a new religion---consumerism. When I was growing up in Sydney, Australia, almost every kid in my street went to Sunday School on a Sunday morning. Then there was youth fellowship, CEBS, and other like activities. Not all my friends' parents went to church regularly, but many did. Few go down that route today. Instead, the family is much more likely to spent Sunday shopping---buying things. Well, at least they are more likely to be together---at least some of the time. Maybe.


Consumerism is, of course, good for the economy, even if it’s not so good for the planet. (Stupid neoclassical economics, with its malignant obsession with increasing economic growth each year!) However, whichever way you splice it, consumerism is bad for the ‘soul,’ for, as the Bhagavad Gita rightly points out, external objects are ‘wombs of suffering.’ They can never fill the void within. They are little, finite, transient things that do not last---especially these days, when most of the things we buy are, well, crap. It was the late American philosopher Eric Hoffer who said, 'You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.' That's brilliant, and it gets to the heart of the problem, for we do indeed get caught up in a vicious circle of spending and borrowing, only to be followed by more spending and borrowing, and so on.

Wise people look within to meet their psycho-spiritual needs. Yes, Jesus was right when he said, 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Mt 6:21). Of course, all truly wise people over the years have said that. (Note. 'Heart' means mind, and that to which, and by means of which, we direct our attention to some thing or another.) 

True religion binds people together---even people of different religious or spiritual traditions---and binds them all back to their ‘source.’ True religion empowers people---regardless of class, caste, race, gender, or station in life---to be the very best people they can be. True religion stands in objective contradistinction to consumerism, attachment, and materialism of all kinds. True religion brings joy and peace of mind---that is, spiritual 'goods.' That is the only sort of consumerism worth pursuing. 

Having said all that, I dare say few really care about what I have to say about the matter.

Now, where’s my shopping list? 'Coming, dear!'


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