The materialism of spirituality

If you expect rewards from your spirituality, may be you should think again

Woman praying

Chogyam Trungpa in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism wrote that there are three ‘Lords of Materialism’—physical, psychological, and spiritual. In each case, the Lord is an illusion. The illusion being that possessions, a way of understanding, or a belief system can, in any way, bring sustainable happiness.

Spiritual materialism is particularly insidious, because it’s pretty common to think that devoting oneself to a set of spiritual principles, or to a particular religious understanding, ‘ought to’ lead somewhere.

Myth: Spiritual Materialism is about getting something—some reward

I was on Facebook today, and saw a graphic go by. It read, “I am Buddhist. I am proud to say that. LIKE if you agree—and SHARE if you’re proud of it!” I almost did. But then I slowed down, and asked myself, “What’s going on inside me about this?” I realised that my reason for ‘clicking’ would be for gaining attention. There was no other reason I could come up with. I remembered that my practice, in and of itself, is enough.

My wife Darbella and I taught meditation to injured workers. They too wanted to know why we thought meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, and Zen living would help with their pain. Some of the workers did the exercises, and low and behold, their pain levels were reduced. Or, perhaps, their attention had shifted off of 24/7 focus on their pain. So, that’s a ‘reward’, right? They got something for their efforts, right?

Yes and no.

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A version of this was first published in the June 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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