How are material achievement and spiritual achievement different?
We all want to achieve something special. Does this drive to achieve need to be renounced if we want to grow spiritually? Not really; we just need to redirect it from the outer world to the inner world. That’s the defining difference between material achievement and spiritual achievement.
Material achievement usually centers on proving our worth to the world; we want people to know what extraordinary things we have done and to thereby recognize how extraordinary we are. Suppose a person achieves something noteworthy. If somehow they don’t get the recognition they expected, they feel enormously disappointed. Even if they do get some recognition, it hardly ever feels enough and it rarely lasts long enough — the world’s applause soon shifts to the next achiever. And all this applies to the few who achieve something special. What about the many who don’t? They often sink into depression, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.
Rather than struggling to prove our worth to the world, we need to first strive to realize our worth ourselves. That’s the essence of spiritual achievement. The Bhagavad-gita explains that we all are at our core indestructible, irreducible and inimitable; we are spiritual beings, pure, potent and precious. We are beloved parts of an all-attractive Whole, Krishna. When we practice spirituality diligently and realize who we are, we get such a sublime inner fulfilment that everything else, such as the world’s recognition, becomes pale in comparison (06.22).
As we grow spiritually, we also become more calm and clear so as to better understand our particular talent and temperament. When we learn to contribute accordingly, we increase the likelihood of achieving something substantial materially too. But even if material achievement eludes us, we will still have the ultimate spiritual achievement: enduring inner fulfillment.
Material achievement centers on proving our worth; spiritual achievement centers on realizing our worth.
Think it over:
- How does material achievement leave us dissatisfied?
- How does spiritual achievement provide us fulfillment?
- How does spiritual growth increase our chances for material achievement?
06.22: Upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty.