Why are we, Spirit Beings, Living in a Material World?
Imagine that since we want to be happy, not just some of the time, but all of the time, there is a place where we can be happy…all of the time…
Imagine that our happiness does not come from something outside of us, but that happiness is us…
Imagine that since we don’t want to grow old and die, leaving behind all of our loved ones and everything we cherish, that there is a place where we can live as an eternal youth…never getting old and never dying…
Imagine that since we are always eager to learn and know as much as possible so that we can make informed and careful decisions, that there is a place where everything there is to know is already known, and knowledge is us too…
Imagine if there were a place where all of our activities and relationships brought only joy and love, that there was no pain or suffering, either from our relationships, our body, or the environment. Imagine that we can go there and live there forever…
Well, there is such a place, and we can go there…
But for now we are here…
A man or woman, with friends and relatives, a job and responsibilities, hope and dreams, desires and plans. Here on this planet we call earth. Here in what is called the material world.
Here, in the material world, we must grow up, then grow older, then grow old, and eventually we die. Here, in the material world, our love relationships often cause us grief and suffering. Here, in the material world we get hungry and must work to get our food. Here we have to constantly learn just to understand what is going on, and here, in the material world, we the happiness we yearn for is ephemeral, a fleeting joy lasting only for a few brief moments before it slips into oblivion.
Which world would we prefer to live in? That one imagined, or this, our present reality? For the vast majority of people there is no question.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but that amazingly wonderful world exists and it is our birthright to live there. That is confirmed by countless persons who have seen it and gone there. In fact, one day all of use will be there. That place is
called the spiritual world—a world that is totally in harmony with our own spiritual nature. This material world, on the other hand, is totally contrary to our nature which forces us to ask “why are we here?”
Of course this is one of the fundamental existential questions of life, and every culture provides a different answer to that question. We are going to answer the question from the perspective of the Vedic worldview. To best explain that let us look at this world and our present experience here in some detail, using a simple comparison with the spiritual world.
Besides the differences mentioned above, there another difference of the greatest significance. What is that? One very important person is there but missing here. Who is that? God. Although everybody here knows about God somehow we don’t see Him here. Why is that? Is He shy? Even though so many people know about, and even worship Him, still we don’t get so much as a peep of Him.
Why do you suppose that is? Ever thought about that? The answer is not too difficult really, if we stop to think about it for just a bit, and it’s simply this—it would spoil our fun.
The jivas, that’s you and me, are expansions of God, having the same qualities as God but in minute quantity. That is, not God, but god. Infinitesimal samples of the infinite. Being samples of that truth we have the same nature and proclivities. God creates so we want to create. God has loving relationships so we want loving relationships. God is a person so we are also persons. God owns and controls everything and so we also want to own and control to the extent of our ability. God is powerful and we also want to be powerful.
Like children imitating their parents we want to be gods ourselves. The problem of course is that we have limited intelligence, limited ability, and are therefore limited in our attempts to be God. Still we try. And for that purpose this world is given to us as a place to lord it over as we please. Therefore in this world we want to be IT. We want to be the center, the most famous celebrity, the tycoon, the big man, the most beautiful, the richest, the most powerful, the best, the smartest, the greatest, etc., etc., etc.
But how could we do that if God were around? Not. The party would be spoiled. After all, who can surpass God in anything? No competition. Therefore many of us simply don’t want to so much as see God, to the point where we frankly declare His non-existence.
It is said that there is only one path in life, and like any path it has two directions—toward God and away from Him. As we move toward God we become more God-like, and many people are on this path. As we move away we become more degraded and evil. As we move away from God we want to be the supreme in every respect, increasing our illusion of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. We want to have it all. We want to own it all. We want to be all, be the Lord of this world. The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita explains these as the two classes of created beings—the divine and demonic.
After a certain point those moving away from God can only relate to something if they possess it, to the degree that they would rather lose their own life than to lose their possessions. The more they have the more they are. Which is why we have come to the point where a mere four hundred fifty people, not even close to 1%, but just the elite members of the Global Billionaires Club have total worldwide wealth well in excess of the combined GDP of 59% of the entire world’s population! And that is not enough it seems. They have increased their holdings by almost 25% since the 2008 recession began, as millions have lost their homes, with almost half of Americans at or below the poverty line, and a record number of poverty programs in the world’s richest country.
Take the Walton’s for example. America’s richest family’s private wealth is worth more than that of the poorest 30% of all Americans and twice the GDP of Bangladesh with a population of 127 million people and a per capita income of $260 per annum. That’s the wealth of just 6 people! They have garnered that money by squeezing their employees—46% of Walmart’s workers’ children are either on Medicaid or are uninsured, while their CEO earns 924 TIMES the average worker.
This is what I call the “economics of ignorance” all due to the overwhelming influence of tamo-guna and the Lord’s illusory energy known as maya. At a certain point down this path away from God all connection with the Lord in the form of conscience is lost. Psychologists call such people psychopaths. These people have no moral rudder, no sense of right or wrong, and no inner voice telling them when they have done wrong. And to the great distress of the world these people are running the banks as well as many corporations and governments of the world.
They will never be satisfied, since no matter how much one gets there is still more to be had. Greed not only knows no limit, but the more one has the more it increases. They want to own everything—the entire world! They suck the wealth out of the people at every turn while the public remains oblivious to the fact. Consider that all the city, county and state governments in America are for-profit corporations, and they have trillions of dollars, despite their claims of poverty. They claim to be broke so that they can suck more money out of our pockets. If you want to learn just how much money they have and how we are all being cheated read here and here and here. Beyond that they own us—every one of us! Every person born in the modern world is owned and collateralized against the debt of their government, as you can find out by watching this video and this one. We are slaves! But we think we are free.
As extreme and insane as all this is, underneath it all lies nothing more than illusion. Illusion that one can own anything in this world, because when the spirit is dragged out of the material body, an event we call death, it will all be left behind. All those billions cannot purchase one more second of time. So where is the reality of ownership? It simply does not exist. An illusion.
Pages and pages can be written documenting the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, which underscores the fact that this need to get more and more, regardless of from where and from whom, is a spiritual disease. Persons overwhelmed by greed are attempting to satisfy a spiritual need with material things. Impossible. No amount of material goods or sense enjoyment can satisfy the spiritual being, and the fever only increases as more is obtained. Like a fish out of water. No amount of sense objects can satisfy the fish out of water. It needs to be reinstated in his element, in the water, to be happy. Similarly as spiritual beings our happiness can only be had through genuine spiritual activity. Indeed, the test of one’s spiritual practice and growth can be measured by the degree to which they have lost their taste for enjoyment of material things.
This is possible by practices that can bring down the spiritual fever. I am not talking about religion here. This is not an attempt to convert anybody. It is an attempt to educate everybody to the spiritual realities of our existence. Understanding this and following genuinely spiritual practices one can achieve satisfaction and freedom from want. The yogis we find in the Himalayan caves are not there because they want to avoid the temptations of modern society, but because they are not interested in all of the things that make people mad for more and more. Why just a few yogis in caves? Why not millions and even billions of people freed from the fever of material lust and greed? It can be done! The means exists—engaging in genuine spiritual activity satisfies our spiritual hunger—the hunger of the soul. We must simply understand and apply it. If we are going to save this world from sure ruination we must create a spiritual revolution, a spiritual evolution, and with the understanding of Spiritual Economics create a culture of satisfaction to heal the world.