A bright and insightful person currently attending college and getting her first introduction to Buddhist thought asked me a question the other day that I thought required serious contemplation. She said, if the Buddha is said to have advocated and practiced a minimalist lifestyle, then why is it that I being someone who often speaks and writes with references to Buddhist philosophy, seems to enjoy much of what 21st century material life provides?
I believe the Buddha at his core, was trying to get across two key concepts: (1) The temporary and impermanent nature of all reality, and (2) That the elimination of all suffering is related to understanding concept (1) and in turn releasing oneself from attachment to the transitory states that make up our human lives.
The temporary and impermanent nature of reality applies to all its aspects – material things, the state of our bodies, our thoughts, emotions, and situations. There is only one “Ground or Source of Being” and that does not change. Everything else is a temporary phenomenon.
Given this, a Buddhist ethos of minimalism or “light living” would seem to be completely aligned with the impermanent nature of all reality. Hanging on too tightly to something that is constantly changing and not “real” can only lead to delusion and suffering.
Though I don’t like to label myself as a follower of one thing or another, if pushed, I would say I consider myself a New Spiritualist and someone living the Life of a Future Human – someone who has fully integrated into their being a post-religious mystical approach to life in the 21st century. This philosophy certainly contains many elements of Buddhism along with other tenets of a non-dualistic mystical approach to achieving Unity Consciousness or Oneness. So, from my perspective I think the question of can you be deeply Spiritual and yet enjoy the various aspects of the Material World, is a very important question.
The question at its heart asks – can you maintain a strong connection to the Divine Source within you and translate that in a creative and positive way into the material reality you choose to experience on a daily basis? Under what conditions can this be achieved?
Can Heart and Mind meld so that Heaven and Earth can merge?
I think there are several “operating conditions” which define a “positive approach” to experiencing the material world.
I have a simple five-point test:
- Does what I am consuming as a material good or experience help raise my energetic vibration – to help bring more Joy, Love, Beauty, and Happiness into my life and do so in a way that is life affirming and acknowledges and supports the interconnectedness between myself, others, and the planet?
- Does the product or service help me expand my personal creative potential or help me experience someone elses? The creative process is inherently spiritual – it is then, in the present moment, where we are most alive and connected to the Source. The creator or artist who is in touch with their higher self is able to channel the divine light into their work and embed that energy signature. When we consume their creation, we get to share in that divine energy as well.
- Did the making of the product or delivery of the service recognize the inherent divinity in those that created the item and those that will consume it? In other words does it come from a place of “service to others”, or mainly from an organization or person that is focused on “service to self” (no matter how cleverly disguised) and embraces the concept of profit maximization at all costs? Does the product or service “Do No Harm”?
- Does this product or service help me in my desire to be of “service to others”?
- Does the product or service create more unity among people or does it foster separation and exclusivity and reduce access for all?
*Notice that none of the questions talk about how much money the product or service costs. That’s because I believe money ends up distorting the true nature of something. It puts an arbitrary value on the item. It forces you to judge the merits of something on whether you or someone else can afford it rather than on the intrinsic benefits it provides. When we wake up to the reality that we are living in a universe of unlimited capability and abundance then we will realize anything and everything can be achieved and the economic cost of something will go away. We will create in ways that have no limitations. Money as a command and control mechanism which is meant to limit and distort our creative capability will disappear from this planet.
In addition to meeting our spiritual goals, if we don’t also enjoy material life, then it seems we would end up wasting a wonderful opportunity to experience the Divine emerging in Material Form. But clearly there are positive, creative, and life affirming ways to do so which recognize the inherent unity and oneness of us all. The types of products and experiences that elevate our human existence as close to divine consciousness as possible. It is those material pleasures that we need to cherish and support. And, if we continue to maintain the ethos of always seeking the Light, the Divine Essence in ourselves and Everything, then all of our choices will align accordingly in the material world and the material world will reflect back our thinking in the most wonderful ways.
At the root, however, I do believe we come into material form with one over-arching goal in every lifetime – to achieve Un-Conditional Love for all beings and the natural world. To achieve this level of Unity Consciousness, many obstacles are placed in our way and provide the catalyst for our growth. We learn through experiencing those contrasts (good and bad, light and dark), until we can see that they are all just infinite reflections of One Source. That is when we are no longer fooled and we achieve peace and reclaim our inherent Divine Creative Power. With this goal always in mind, it becomes very easy to choose what aspects of material reality one wishes to experience and support.
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