Wherever you go, wherever you look, there it is! Stuff.
Whether you live in a remote mountain village or in a sprawling metropolis there is stuff all around you. Not only old, “I already know about you stuff”, but new stuff, all the time, coming at you! Whether it’s on a donkey coming up the mountain or whether it’s being flashed at you from one of the buildings on the Ginza, there is stuff being produced every moment of every day so we can consume more and more of what we already have.
Apple have made and sold 500 million smartphones but why do we throw away 155 million a year. So they can make more so we can buy more, sounds crazy, well yes it is, isn’t it?
The newly built Super Brand Mall in Shanghai has 13 floors over an area of 250,000 square meters. What can you buy there? Anything, everything! Any brand name of anything made or produced can be bought there. You name it, from the lowly bag of potato chips to an expensive racing car, you can buy it.
We all want stuff. In fact we are convinced that if we don’t get stuff we will somehow be inferior to others. We will be considered to be one of the less fortunate people on the planet. I am not sure who it is that we hold this imaginary yard stick up against but it drives us to work so hard so we can have enough money to purchase things that we don’t need, so we can be considered equal with people we don’t really care about.
But it is all relative, it isn’t just the rich wanting more or the middleclass wanting to have a better station in life, it is the poorest person in the poorest village who also wants stuff. Often their desire is based on lack of food or housing which is a lot different from someone like Imelda Marcos who, on leaving the Philippines, was found to have accumulated over 3000 pairs of shoes, not to mention the thousand handbags and the fifteen mink coats. But once a poor person has some more stuff then they also get caught up in the relentless drive to accumulate what the rest of us have, houses, cars, clothes, shoes, jewellery, TV’s, smartphones, IPods, sports equipment, money in the bank and every other imaginable piece of stuff that we purchase in the millions every year.
How can we eat a three course meal, leaving the table groaning from over consumption but on the way home when we pass the Chocolate Patisserie we feel compelled to enter and purchase a slice of the Black Forest Gateaux?
In the US alone 30% of all food is thrown away which equates to $43.3 billion a year. The wealthiest countries waste 222 million tonnes of food a year compared to the entire food consumption of the Sub Sahara African area which is 230 million tonnes. How can this be, that we, the wealthy nations throw away almost the same amount of food that 51 countries with a collective population of over 1.1 billion people consume, but who still struggle with some of the highest poverty figures in the world.
Why do we do this? Why do we want new shoes and new clothes even though we have wardrobes of these already? The sports fiend always needs to upgrade the golf clubs, the surf board, the racing bike or the latest Lycra ensemble. Why especially in the western world are we driven to obtain more stuff than we can ever need in a lifetime? What drives us to spend our entire lives working in jobs we hate, for long hours for small rates of pay just so we can purchase the next IPhone, computer, flat screen computer or car?
Every 15 seconds an IPhone gets thrown away! Why do we absolutely have to have the next one and the next one? And where do these and our other ‘must have’ electronic gadgets go when we toss them away? The Chinese village of Guiyu knows very well what happens as the inhabitants have made their living from, dismantling, stripping, smeltering and recycling these very objects. But the toll of our excesses reaches very far and the lead content in the blood of Guiyu’s children is 54% higher than that of children in the nearby town of Chendian. The environment is absolutely polluted and the soil has been saturated with lead, chromium, tin, and other heavy metals. Discarded electronics lie in pools of toxins that leach into the groundwater making it so polluted that the water is undrinkable.
In the Western world in general, we are educated to think that once I obtain certain things I will be happy. On every piece of advertising that comes into our sights this is confirmed. If you smoke this brand of cigarettes you will automatically attract a very buxom female who just happens to come draped over a very expensive car. Coca Cola advertising most probably reaches the height of false promises. From slogans such as ‘The Real Thing’ to ‘Open Happiness’ they promise that if you consume their product of syrup, sugar and water you too will be able to leap in the sand with beautiful young men and women and dive into turquoise waters on an exotic island where the sun always shines.
Coca Cola sell 1.8 Billion servings of this formula every day and although the research varies to produce one serving costs the company between 2 and 6 cents.
A personal experience of mine here in New Zealand is of refugees whom upon arriving in New Zealand, felt so unbelievably fortunate that they could afford Coca Cola so easily, were putting it into their babies bottles instead of milk.
Coca Cola uses approximately 3 and a half million litres of water every year. 1/3 of this goes in their product and the 2/3 remainder for factory and industrial usage. When we, the planet is short of water who will want to drink, bathe or cook in Coca Cola?
What are the things we really need to sustain our bodies so we are healthy? Most of the people I know would say fresh water, clean air, and good healthy food. These things will keep my body healthy but what about that part of my existence that cannot be seen?
Society’s leaders put forward the notion that if I get things for my body I will be happy. Such misguided guides do not make any distinction between the physical and spiritual needs. They cannot because they do not have this knowledge.
Yes, it is true that my physical self does require food, clothing, housing and all the other items necessary to function in society, but not this excessive, disproportionate drive to acquire more and more stuff.
What about me? Me, the self within? I am the person inhabiting this particular body. I am separate from the body and mind and I am made from a different substance. I am a spiritual being, everlasting, not temporary like the flesh and blood I am dwelling in.
I, the self yearn for spiritual connection and being uninformed as to my real nature, I falsely identify as the body. Try as I might none of the things available for the body will give me the happines or peace I am yearning and searching for. I need spiritual food. I need to congregate with people who are aware of their real identity and who are willing to curb the flow of incessant desires that misdirect us to try and satisfy ourselves with the impermanent.
I need to regularly take spiritual food in the form of spiritual sound and to stay close to the practitioners of spiritual practices who are able to step back from all the false promises and see them for what they really are. Immerse yourself in these sacred sounds sung by Jagad Guru in this calming video.
There is not one earthly item that can guarantee me peace of mind. These things belong to the temporary, they will not last and if I go searching for long lasting satisfaction in them I am undertaking a fool’s quest.
If we look back at our own lives at all the plans we have concocted in order to become wealthier, more comfortable, happier it is obvious that once having obtained the desired object and after the newness, the rush has worn off, we are once more empty, wanting yet again another experience, another thing, another hit of stuff. We are left with that same yearning for a change, desiring some lasting peace and contentment, longing for something to fill our hearts.
The things we are striving for are not available in the temporary. When we come to realise, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, which means ‘I am not this material body or mind, I am a spiritual being’ then we start to know within ourselves that we will never be satisfied with the impermanent things of the world.
The inner world of the self is ‘Sat, Chit, Ananda’, eternal, full of knowledge and ever blissful. This is our real life. There is a world, where real happiness and love are to be found, not like this transitory existence. A world that has no fear or anxiety. This is what we should put our energy into seeking.
None of the Coca Cola, the new apartment, the new car, the next lot of stuff, none of this will be give me what I am looking for. It is limited in its lifespan and it becomes worn out all too soon. As the great sages tell us, looking for happiness in this world is ‘Chewing the already chewed.’ Like picking up an old piece of gum that has already been chewed and trying to extract something from it. The sweetness we are striving to taste is just not available there.
I believe there is a quote from Corinthians that advises us, ‘Do not put our minds on those worldly things that can be seen but to look to those things that cannot be seen.’
If we want to be happy, if we want the longing in our hearts to be fulfilled, we need to stop trying to fill up the gap with material stuff but instead take shelter of the sages and saintly persons who advise us to seek out spiritual goals.
“When you seek me, you will find me available to you.”
‘But for one who takes pleasure in the Self, whose human life is one of self-realization, and who is satis?ed in the Self only, fully satiated – for him there is no duty.’ ~ Bhagavad Gita