Is materialism a bad thing? I’ve been thinking about that this month as I participate in the #Moms30for30 capsule wardrobe challenge and as I buy, use, and sell Jamberry nail wraps. There was definitely a time in my life when I would have said that materialism is evil and to be avoided at all costs. That was when I was a lot more rigid in my thoughts and behavior. I’ve mellowed out a lot in my thirties.
Now I have a different take on materialism. I think the problem is in attachment. I’ve come to think there’s nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying the stuff in life. The problem comes in when you need it, when you are having negative emotions and behaviors associated with attaining stuff, when your relationships are suffering because of stuff.
I could be wrong on this one. I realize that I might be heading in the wrong direction from a soul-developing/moksha-achieving point of view!
But I think if you can enjoy hobbies and collections and the stuff of life without feeling stressed or upset when you don’t have the stuff then it’s probably fine. I enjoy playing around with clothes, I enjoy having pretty nails, I enjoy cooking and food, I enjoy having my hair long and luxurious (there was a time when I would cut my hair simply because it didn’t feel fair that I had hair I loved and other people didn’t). I think that I enjoy all these things without attachment. Maybe I’m just telling myself that!
I admire my father-in-law’s hedonism. That word used to mean nothing but bad things to me. But seeing how he fully savors and enjoys all the good things in life is inspiring. When he is enjoying a meal, he is fully present, and immersed in bliss. It is spiritual in a way. He is measured and balanced. Because he eats the finest things, he is satisfied with the right portion.
Here is an interesting article in The Hindu about this subject. I particularly like this quote:
No religion preaches against material success gained the right way. Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The Sikh gurus encouraged hard work, paving the way for the prosperity of Punjab. The Semitic religions see prosperity as a gift from God. At the same time, all religions recognise that our attitude to wealth is crucial to our personality. When affluence is idolised, it enslaves the individual and lures him away from the meaning and purpose of life.
After all, artha (material wealth) is a goal as part of the Hindu marriage ceremony. It is not a bad thing to have nice things. It’s a bad thing to think that is the whole point and focus only on that. It is also a bad thing if it leads you to get into debt or to be cruel to other people. Being wealthy isn’t bad, but one must also be generous!
I’m not an ascetic and I don’t think I ever will be. A lot of times in Hindu tradition people are encouraged to be householders until retirement age and then dedicate themselves to spiritual development once their obligations in the world are wrapping up. Some renounce the world early, of course. I don’t know what the future holds for me and maybe I’ll feel the urge to become an ascetic when I am older, but I’m not worried about it now.Right now I am fully enjoying everything life has to offer and letting things come and go as they do. Nothing but the Self lasts forever and as long as we remember that I think we can enjoy the material things in life.
What do you think?
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