Vipul Agarwal, Delhi, 19 November 2023
“Why are human beings caught up in so much materialism despite many of them being associated with gurus and spiritual organizations?” was the question that was very close to my heart for a long time. I was lucky enough to be associated with many of these organizations. A close observation of different spiritual organizations has revealed quite a lot.
Just to clarify, when I am talking of materialism, I am not drawing any distinction between good or bad, right or wrong, pleasant or unpleasant, tangible or intangible. I am talking of all the worldly pursuits. To the best of my understanding, spirituality is about the realization of the temporariness of all the materialistic pursuits, whether they are approved by the society or not. I do not feel that spirituality distinguishes between attachment with kids and attachment with illegally acquired wealth.
The key reason for the failure of these organizations to motivate human beings along the spiritual path is their compulsion to marry their own growth needs to the needs of the devotees. The moment the “Gurus” form the organizations, they want to grow these organizations to the extent of competing with the other organizations. They need money for this growth. The growth gives them power. Most of the devotees coming to these organizations have one or the other problem in life. When they come to these organizations, they get social validation from their fellow human beings who are part of the organization. That validation acts as a major antidote to their worldly problems. On top of it, the “Gurus” also give blessings that act like a placebo to the devotees. I have seen that invariably each organization develops certain rituals that act like hypnotism and the devotees forget their problems at least for some time. Those moments of relief attract them again and again to these organizations.
Even if certain “Gurus” give nice lectures and explain what is written in the traditional scriptures, that hardly helps in the spiritual growth of human beings. Such lectures touch upon the human brain. They provide logic to move along the spiritual path. Most of the lectures of these “Gurus” are quite contradictory since they are themselves confused. Even if there is clarity, the human decisions are not ruled by the intellect. Mostly the intellect just supports the unconscious mind that rules our decisions like King Dhritrashtra ruling Hastinapur with the advice of Vidura. Finally, decisions are made by the unconscious mind.
The power of the unconscious mind can be understood if we look around with awareness. We can observe deep-rooted insecurities at the core of the outward behavior of most dictators. We can see deep-rooted deficiencies behind the most aggressive behaviors. We can see the powerful are most fearful of losing power. We can see that the most wealthy are always hungry. We can experience that the happiest appearing people in this world have deep-rooted emptiness at the core of their hearts.
It’s impossible to cure these deep-rooted impressions in the unconscious mind with nice lectures. One has to actually enter deep into the world of the unconscious. The world of the unconscious is beyond the reach of our intellect like Lakshmana being unable to reach Lanka. There is a huge ocean in between. This ocean is the ocean of “Maya”. This ocean can be crossed only by Hanumana. All of us have Hanumana within us in the form of our “Mana”. When we concentrate that “Mana” on the breath, we start our journey inwards. On the way, we find many demons in the sea that try to distract us from reaching the inner world. But, if we are determined, with concentration on the breath, we can get over all these distractions.
The inner world of the unconscious can be experienced in the form of different sensations in our bodies. When we start experiencing these sensations, we get to know how habitual we have become to react. The moment there is a pleasant sensation, we want more of the same. The moment there are unpleasant sensations, we want to get rid of them. If we stay connected to the breath and observe these sensations without reaction, we start experiencing our true nature. Our true nature of contentment and peace.
I do not think that the unconscious mind can be handled by the conscious. It is well beyond the reach of the intellect. The latest research in the field of neurology has very well proved the same. That is the reason why most spiritual organizations fail to bring peace and happiness to this world. It is only when the inner world of the unconscious is explored with awareness and equanimity, our true nature can regain the rulership of the kingdom. Till that time, our decisions will continue to be guided by cravings and aversions and the so-called spiritual organizations will keep selling the placebo of feel good in exchange for money and influence.
Probably most human beings also want just a quick fix short-term solution. The long-term solution comes at a cost which they are not willing to pay. The mushrooming of so-called spiritual organizations is just a reflection of the obsession of human beings with materialistic pleasures and the short-sightedness of their vision of life. On the positive side, if a human being is determined to experience reality and to live a life centered around his true self, each phenomenon of the materialistic world becomes our teacher. Death reveals the temporariness of life, wealth reveals its inability to satiate, relations reveal the fragility of support systems, and power reveals its uselessness to handle fear. Life is the greatest teacher if one is really willing to move along the spiritual path. We have a choice to make each moment: to continue to remain free or to get fixated on any of these temporary phenomena of the materialistic world.