Materialism’s common wisdom makes us commonly unwise

During ragging in colleges, senior students often push their juniors to drink alcohol with the wise-sounding rationalization, “Babies don’t drink – adults do.”

Obviously, drinking has nothing to do with initiation into adulthood. But as drinking is prevalent in colleges, many students mistake its commonness with its wisdom. And they end up becoming commonly unwise, joining the ranks of the millions who squander health, wealth and time in the name of pleasure.

Just as drinking alcohol gives a temporary high, parading material possessions too gives a temporary high – the feeling “I have arrived” when heads turn and eyes widen in admiration.

Alcoholism’s common wisdom may not fool us, but materialism’s common wisdom often does. Today’s materialistic culture portrays getting more and more material goodies and gadgets as happiness. We certainly need material things for living, but we are essentially spiritual beings and can find real happiness only in spiritual love for Krishna.

Material aggrandizement is as (un)necessary for happiness as alcohol is for adulthood. Just as drinking alcohol gives a temporary high, parading material possessions too gives a temporary high – the feeling “I have arrived” when heads turn and eyes widen in admiration. But just as alcohol’s brief high pushes one into a much longer hangover, so too does materialism’s fleeting high push one into a network of complexities, anxieties and miseries.

Materialistic propaganda, however, is so seductive that the pursuit of material things is not just common but is also considered wise. The Bhagavad-gita (02.69) cautions us against being misled by such common wisdom when it indicates that the values of the wise are different from those of common people. Gita wisdom helps us see that the common wisdom of materialism will make us commonly unwise, sending us into the ranks of most of humanity that is perpetuating its sentence in miserable material existence.

By wisely choosing scriptural wisdom over materialism’s common wisdom, we can find a healthy balance between our material and spiritual sides and thereby attain real fulfillment.

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