I am sure all have heard quite a bit about Western Materialism
and Eastern Spiritualism
. The progress of the west is often attributed to its materialistic view point. Contrary to this the East has always focused on understanding human nature, looking inwards, treating this external world as false and thus shunning materialism. Western materialism has an inherent belief that human wellbeing and hence happiness is the result of material wellbeing. Pursuit of happiness is suggested to be synonymous to pursuit of materialistic wellbeing. Contrary to this, Eastern Spiritualism has an inherent belief that any happiness drawn from materialism is temporary and true happiness is through detachment and through an inward journey of knowing thyself.
Today, for many reasons, the east has decided to embrace western form of materialism and has moved down that path, hoping for prosperity, peace and ofcourse happiness. Now that people have gone
down that path how could we reconcile these two thought processes? Or is any form of reconciliation, a futile effort? This whole reconciliation process has led to a tremendous sense of dissonance within me. I could not place my finger on exactly what was bothering me – but definitely something was. Self-help books after Self-help books promote materialism yet, they draw inspiration from religious scriptures. Strangely though,when one looks towards religious scriptures of the east it leads towards seemingly irreconcilable differences.
Such irreconcilable dissonance, as a theory states, could lead to one of the following three things. Either a permanent alteration of belief, or suppression of any information that could lead to aggravated state of dissonance or lead towards a hope of getting a sufficient incentive to carry on with the dissonance. This human need to resolve dissonance in one of the above ways, has created a situation where there is a shift in the thought process of the younger generation of the east. Infact, any or all of the three situations explained above don’t augur well for Eastern Spiritualism. Also the extraneous flaws that have plagued eastern spiritualism also make it difficult to consume for the younger generation. The comfort that western materialism brings, at the very outset, appears to outweigh any tangible benefits that eastern spiritualism has to offer. So, have we heard the death knell for Eastern Spiritualism?
Interestingly, the glimmer of hope almost always comes from unexpected quarters and as odd it may sound, I think, the possibility of revival or survival of eastern spiritualism comes from the materialistic west. While talking about this revival I am in no way indicating towards the thriving presence of many eastern spiritual organizations all across the occident. Nor am I pointing towards the westerners who find their way to spiritual hubs in the east either out of curiosity, adventure or other tangible reasons. I would rather point towards three stalwarts of Western Materialism who, strangely, through their action have demonstrated that eastern spiritualism would continue to survive no matter whether we identify it or give it any new name.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. Three individuals who came into this world and have definitely changed it from the way they found it. Yet all three demonstrate certain characteristic which echo much of the sentiments embedded in eastern spiritualism. All three in a process of knowing thyself realized what they were good at and dedicated their lives in working on that one idea that they found to be their true calling. The reward that they really hoped for was more work and excellence at work. It was work for work sake, not getting disappointed with failures or getting over joyous about success. Also all three managed to demonstrate a unique detachment with the results or outcome of their efforts. Despite the personal valuation that runs into Billions and billions of dollars, they lead a largely frugal and unaffected life. They continue to strive to give back to society and improve things around them and all of them demonstrate and untiring energy in whatever they decide to focus on. Simple living, high thinking and high level of performance seemed to be their motto for a cause that was much larger than them. They derived happiness from what they did rather than what they could buy.
Have they in this process managed to bridge this gap between Western Materialism and Eastern Spiritualism? While most of us struggle through our mundane lives, have they shown the path towards true happiness through a life of purpose? Or am I reading too much into? The dissonance has by no means disappeared but definitely there is sufficient food for thought here and a possible come back against the materialistic west and a chance to state that your mascots are actually championing our cause? I know not – but I wonder still.