Being Mindful of Spiritual Materialism
By: David Arran Anderson
Author of ‘The Last Avatar’
Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person? Why have you chosen a spiritual path? What do you hope to gain by living your life in a spiritual manner; and is doing so going to make you a better person?
Those who are sincere in their aspiration to walk the spiritual path often encounter a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding and expectation, so it’s necessary to be aware of some of the dangers. Spirituality is very subtle process; and it’s easy to get sidetracked, which leads to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality.
We often deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually, when instead we are only strengthening our ego through these spiritual techniques.
This fundamental distortion is called Spiritual Materialism. It is the belief that by becoming spiritual you will receive some kind of reward, or blessing. Another is to believe that you will become a better person. In both cases, when we can achieve an awakened state of mind, we let go of all the obstructions and garbage we’ve been taught. Then we can see that many of the beliefs we have are not necessarily true.
The awakening process is not about gaining more knowledge. Instead it’s about loving ourselves and releasing the past; and cutting through all of the clutter we have accumulated throughout our lives. In this “Age of Information” we live in, our minds are much too crowded, mostly with ego, and with constant chatter.
You may think that you are spiritual because you live on a small budget, or eat vegetarian meals; but the mind is still saying, “I want, I want, I want.”
I want more financial abundance, a new partner, a twin flame, a drama-free life, that all my needs will be met, excellent health, no more darkness, only light, to become a healer, to become a teacher, to laugh, to feel incredible and find joy in every moment, etc, etc, etc.” Good luck on that…!!! You may be proficient enough at manifestation to create it; but it has nothing to do with being spiritual. It’s just your ego showing off. Besides, anything that is created must sooner or later change, die, or disappear.
When you are on a true spiritual path nothing is created, it is simply discovered; like the sun that appears from behind dark clouds. It was always there, you only had to wait until the time came that you could see it.
True spirituality is not the same as religion. It’s not like Christianity or Islam, where people believe they will be rewarded in heaven for being good. There is no reward, either in this life or the next. The closest thing to a reward, if there is any at all, is to know that your soul has come into balance.
However, being in a physical form creates the neurotic pursuit of physical comfort, security and pleasure. We constantly try to surround ourselves with pleasure as an attempt to create a manageable, safe and predictable world. Ego wants, and is able, to convert everything to its own use and benefit, even spirituality.
If we don’t step out of spiritual materialism, then we find ourselves possessed by a huge collection of spiritual paths that we feel are very precious to us because we have accumulated a multitude of knowledge from them; when in fact this accumulation of learning has done nothing more for us than to create a spiritual junkyard.
Even after having that realization, how can we ever hope to let go of all that? Instead, we keep joining new groups, and learning new spiritual things. That itself can become an obstruction which prevents us from the discovery we seek.
Our vast collections of knowledge and experience are just part of our ego’s display, part of the grandiose quality of ego. We display it to the world; and in doing so we reassure ourselves that we exist as a safe and secure spiritual person who can overcome anything, even death. Once again, behind all of that is the feeling that we are somehow being rewarded; when instead, it is only the ego taking a bow.
After Buddha attained enlightenment he did not have the desire to teach, or not to teach. At first he spent seven weeks sitting under the shade of a tree and walking along the bank of a river. Then someone just happened along and he began to speak. The situation presented itself, and then the Buddhist teachings just happened, naturally.
Living a spiritual life is not about “becoming” anything. You are simply open; you simply are the “I Am That I Am” in each moment. As each experience arises you are open to it, and you are there, naturally. There is nothing fake about it, and the ego does not play any role in it. Instead, it is authentic, for everything simply is what is.
However, being spiritual is not at all like being an unfeeling jelly fish. Instead, we should feel this life to the fullest, and become passionate about making this our last lifetime. After being smothered with the trappings of ego over countless past lives, we should feel as if we have been water-boarded to death and are now gasping for air.
We are literally over it. Nothing else in the world matters, only to be able to breathe. We have no other choice, we choose to become spiritual beings, and do it for no other reason than that. We are not trying to get to heaven, or have expectations about receiving anything. We seek no reward, no better job, no abundance, or even a new soul mate to hook up with. We do it because the time has come for us to do it; and that’s what these times we are living in are all about, which is Freedom. Everyone wants Freedom.
But what does Freedom really mean? Is it just another “I want” scenario that is part of the ego’s game, or does Freedom somehow exist far beyond the realm of ego? Freedom, in the spiritual sense, is something you already have. It is innate within you. You cannot want Freedom, you can only discover it.