Religion and Spirituality

"He who knows he has enough is rich."
-- Tao Te Ching

Overview & Connection to a New Dream

In an October 1998 Listserv Conversation, we asked participants "To what extent does resistance to the dominant commercial culture require a spiritual path?"

The overwhelming response - not only is such resistance necessary, but it will naturally lead to a rich spiritual experience, and vice versa. A participant from Quebec said a "chosen spiritual path takes up so much of my time and energy that I don’t have room for the dominant commercial culture." Others assessed the experience as more grandiose than simply escaping commercialism. A Floridian participant alluded to Gandhi who "lived a life that was ‘resistant’ to the dominant culture but not out of seeing it as the enemy; rather, out of having a vision for something else."

Whether involved in organized religion or their own personal spirituality, more and more people are rediscovering the importance of achieving a spiritual balance in their lives. It can be difficult when the dominant culture seems to scream "MORE IS BETTER," but then again its hard to dispute that humans have non-material needs, such as the deeper needs for relationships, love, beauty, and a sense of purpose, which can hardly be fulfilled by a trip to the mall.

Though not the norm in late 20th century’s high-paced commercial culture, these notions are hardly groundbreaking - nearly all major religious and spiritual traditions have been teaching them for centuries (see below).

In 1992, a prominent group of international scientists convened to urge religious leaders to readdress these teachings and confront ecological degradation. The scientists wrote:

The environmental crisis requires radical changes not only in public policy, but also in individual behavior. The historical record makes it clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are able to influence personal conduct and commitment. We hope this appeal will encourage a spirit of common cause and joint action to preserve the Earth.

A collection of religious and spiritual organizations heeded that call, many directly addressing the core issue of consumption. Groups such as Earth Ministry and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment stress that we need to reassess our consumption patterns for environmental reasons, as well as personal and spiritual, reasons. The materialistic worldview that dominates our society leads us away from our religious or spiritual selves. By consuming less, we can devote more time and energy to the true meaning in our lives.

Teachings of World Religions and Major Cultures on Consumption
Religion or Culture Teaching and Source
American Indian "Miserable as we seem in thy eyes, we consider ourselves… much happier than thou, in this that we are very content with the little that we have." (Micmac chief)
Buddhist "Whoever in this world overcomes his selfish cravings, his sorrows fall away from him, like drops of water from a lotus flower." (Dhammapada, 336)
Christian It is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23-24)
Confucian "Excess and deficiency are equally at fault." (Confucius, XI.15)
Ancient Greek "Nothing in Excess." (Inscribed at Oracle of Delphi)
Hindu "That person who lives completely free from desires, without longing… attains peace." (Bhagavad-Gita, II.71)
Islamic "Poverty is my pride." (Muhammad)
Jewish "Give me neither poverty nor riches." (Proverbs 30:8)
Taoist "He who knows he has enough is rich." (Tao Te Ching)

sources: compiled by Worldwatch Institute as cited by Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough?  p. 144

Copyright (c) 1999 CNAD
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