By Vinay Kumar Dutta
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people may be rethinking how to converge materialism with spiritualism. Why is this thought pervading in their? Are they intimidated, or truly inspired to embrace spiritualism?
Humans are materialistic by nature. Greed to acquire and obsession for possession is rooted in their minds. Highly materialistic individuals strongly believe in amassing wealth to fulfil life goals. Materialistic values breed greed in them and, at times, they get thrill in displaying their affluence and/or arrogance. However, money cannot buy happiness.
On the contrary, people with a spiritual perspective try to find the true meaning of life through spiritual intelligence (SI), a term used to indicate spiritual parallels with intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ). SI helps people understand the purpose of existence.
Wealth and the fulfilment curve: The word ‘wealth’ is an amalgam of words ‘weal’ (well-being) and ‘th’ (the condition), meaning ‘the condition of well-being’. Well-being includes family life, social participation, leisure, health, financial security, work-life satisfaction, etc. As per ESRC Research Group on Wellbeing in Developing Countries, “Well-being is a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue one’s goals, and where one enjoys a satisfactory quality of life.” This definition is compatible with the spiritual aspect of materialistic life.
The fulfilment curve originally described in the personal finance classic ‘Your Money or Your Life’ tells when enough is enough. The idea is that after satisfying basic survival needs and spending money on comforts and luxuries comes a point in one’s life where more spending does not increase happiness. Actually, beyond this point, life-purpose, peace of mind and giving back to society bring contentment. In this way, the fulfilment curve too reinforces the spiritual facet of individuals.
Spiritualism is often confused with religion. Religion is a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion, by a group of people. Religion refers to communally held beliefs and tends to be associated with an institution. Spiritualism, on the other hand, tends to be more individualistic. Spiritualism gives emphasis on individual practice and extends to all facets of a person’s life, economic as well as psychic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the pursuit of spiritualism in those with materialistic tendencies. They are realising that materialism and spirituality can coexist. People have become less conspicuous and wasteful in their consumption, and willingly share their possessions with those in need. There are ample examples of people sacrificing their wants (desires) during this pandemic to satisfy the basic needs of the weaker sections of society.
Covid-19 is an eye-opener for people with materialistic inclinations. This virus is likely to change the existing belief systems of people. There is a realisation that life is much beyond accumulating wealth and fulfilling material goals. There is no pleasure without conscience and compassion.
(The author is professor, FORE School of Management, New Delhi.)