Spirituality and Consumerism – Irreconcilable Opposites?
Piyush: Pranam. Lots of you must be wondering what the hell I am doing here. When I was asked to be in this conversation, I said, “I will do it, but what are you calling this session? “Sadhu Aur Shaitan” [The Ascetic and the Devil]?” [Laughter]
This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn. I am going to try and see if we can get the maximum out of Sadhguru. I don’t know when he is going to be with us again.
Now, “Spirituality & Consumerism.” Is it versus or with each other? The first thing that I want to ask you – is consumerism actually driven by paranoia? People buy six saris because they are afraid that when they go to a party, someone else there is wearing the same sari. People buy a new mobile phone every three months because someone else also got a new mobile phone. When it comes to children’s products, I think the paranoia is at a phenomenal level.
When I was young, no one stopped me from climbing trees, no one gave me extra supplements with my food, and people allowed me to do things that I wanted to do. Today, we are feeding our children all kinds of things, which is paranoia to me. The next stage of paranoia could be that mothers will say to their sons, “Become a batsman; I want you to be a Tendulkar, but I don’t want you to be a bowler.”
“Why not a bowler?”
“Have you seen Muttiah Muralitharan? He puts his fingers into his mouth, bowls –the leather ball travels all over the ground before it comes back to him again, and again he licks it.”
The little guy says, “But Muralitharan is still living –he has not died of any germs.”
She says, “But I am scared of one more thing. Malinga is rubbing that ball on his crotch – I am paranoid that this is an act that falls under Article 377 .” [Laughter]
So how can spirituality and consumerism co-exist? Is consumerism driven by paranoia? One would love to hear your views.
Sadhguru: Whether it is consumerism or something else – any kind of “ism” will lead to a certain mindlessness. Mindless consumerism is definitely not towards human wellbeing. Consumption used to be a disease, you know? Even now, it is a kind of ailment. That is, we do not do what is needed in our lives –we do what is expected by others. People who expect whatever they expect out of you, they themselves do not know a thing about their lives. If you live to fulfil their expectations, obviously, your life will go off the track. Therefore, I feel the advertising industry should focus on creating a more conscious consumer rather than mindless consumerism.
Mindlessness means simply doing something. Once mindlessness sets in, society will go in cycles, not really getting anywhere. There will be nothing profound in that society. Everything will become profane. Right now, we are rapidly going in that direction. This used to be a culture where every aspect of life had a deeper rooting and meaning. Even simple things – how to sit, how to stand, how to eat –always had a deeper connotation. Because of this, no matter what kind of rigors outside situations offered us in the form of invasions, famines, or whatever came, the spirit of India lived on undisturbed.
If you take away this deeper rooting in human beings and make them live out of a mall, they will get shattered easily. Until about 20 years ago, the number of people who were psychologically deranged in this country was extremely low. You could say this is because it was not recorded, which is a fact, but still, for one billion people, the number of those who were psychologically deranged was extremely small because of this deeper rooting, that every simple thing had a deeper meaning and a deeper possibility. If you look at the percentage of the U.S. population who are on antidepressants, that is not a healthy society, which in many ways is a result of mindless consumerism. If we do not learn from that, we are for sure mindless too.
It is very important that human societies function out of their intelligence, not just out of external tendencies, which come and go. Pushing the majority of society into that kind of a mode clearly shows we are not interested in the wellbeing of human beings – we just want to sell something at any cost. And above all, if the over7 billion people on the planet consume at the same level as an average American citizen, statistics say, we will need four-and-a-half planets. But we only have half a planet left. This means you have to keep half of the world population in abject poverty so that others can go on a consumerism binge.
I think a more sensible way of living is possible. This does not mean you should not enjoy your life, or that you should not have things. Everyone should have what they need. But digging up the planet just for the sake of satisfying someone else’s opinion is simply mindless. I am not trying to render an ecological message. My concern is about human beings. This is like the proverbial story of a man cutting the branch that he is sitting on. If he succeeds, he will fall. In many ways, this is already happening. Especially in the Western world, the most successful people have really tensed and agitated faces. This does not mean success is suffering. It is mindless consumerism that leads to suffering.