Let’s first consider what Materialism and Spirituality actually mean:
- A tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.
2. The theory or belief that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.
3. The theory or belief that consciousness and will are wholly due to material agency.
- The quality of being concerned with the spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
Just a brief analysis of the above definitions leads to the conclusion that materialism and spirituality are indeed poles apart, if not miles apart in terms of their qualities.
But that itself does not lead to a definitive conclusion since they do are inter-dependent to each other!
Lord Shri Krishna clearly explains it in Bhagavad Gita 7.4 about His various material energies that are considered inferior:
bhumir apo ‘nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakrtir astadha
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego—altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.”
Materialistic jurisdiction is restricted to just the above eight material energies.
In Bhagavad Gita 7.5, He explains His superior energy:
apareyam itas tv anyam
prakrtim viddhi me param
yayedam dharyate jagat
Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.
This superior energy is considered as the “spirit particle” or “soul” or “jiva”.
It’s clearly mentioned here that this spirit particle dwells in the material body and the actions performed through the material body sustains the entire universe.
The material body comprising of these eight material energies is a dull, inanimate one as long as the spirit particle doesn’t dwell in it.
Similarly the spirit particle is considered a ghost (or spirit) if it is unable to find a suitable material body for residence.
Thus, it looks like matter and spirit constantly tries to exert control over each other!
Materialism refers to material existence. It is how the material mind transacts its business in the material world.
This is done through:
– “Five knowledge acquiring senses”: the auditory sense, the sense of taste, the tactile sense (the sense of touch), the sense of sight, the sense of smell – Hearing, taste, touch, sight and smell.
– “Five organs of action”: the active organs for speaking, working, traveling, generating and evacuating – the mouth, the hands, the legs, the genitals and the anus.
– “Objects of the knowledge acquiring senses”: Sound, touch, taste, smell and form
– “Subtle Senses”: Intelligence, ego and false ego.
The spirit soul has nothing to do with these interactions.
The characteristics of the spirit particle mentioned in the 2nd Chapter Bhagavad Gita are as follows:
– cannot be cut by any weapon
– cannot be burnt by fire
– cannot be moistened by water
– cannot be withered by the wind
– cannot be burned nor dried
– eternally the same
– cannot be understood
Thus, it is due to the contradictory properties of matter and spirit that we are concluding that “Materialism and Spirituality are poles apart!”
Actually, in this material universe the physical distance between them is negligible because the soul is all pervading and dwells in every living being.
Despite its transcendental properties, the spirit soul is always in bondage with the material body since time immemorial. Why?
The reason is clearly explained in Shrimad Bhagavatham:
“The living entity who falsely identifies with his body, senses, life air and mind, and who dwells within these coverings, assumes the form of his own materially conditioned qualities and work. He is designated variously in relation to the total material energy, and thus, under the strict control of supreme time, he is forced to run here and there within material existence.” – Shrimad Bhagavatam 11.28.16 (https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/11/28/16/)
Human beings are endowed with advanced consciousness and rational thinking faculties to determine the reasons for their poor material existence.
Thus, it is possible only for life as a human being to give freedom to the spirit soul to reach its ultimate destination – back to Godhead through devotional service.
By indulging in materialistic pursuits or materialism, the purpose of human life gets lost and the cycle of birth and death becomes perpetual. This is when spirituality takes a back seat.
Under this circumstance, the sad situation of “Materialism and Spirituality are poles apart!” becomes inevitable!