Our material needs are like painkillers – necessary but not sufficient

Some people argue that our spiritual side is optional and superfluous – our material needs are what matter.

Yes, material things are necessary, but they are not all that is necessary. Consider the basic bodily need of food. Its paucity causes misery, but does its provision remove all misery? No, well-fed people have their own problems. For example, millions, despite being physically nourished, are mentally depressed.

Material things are not enough for us because we are at our core spiritual beings. We are eternal parts of the Absolute Truth, Krishna. As his parts, we can find lasting fulfillment only by harmonizing ourselves with him in spiritual love.

Consider a medical analogy. While treating a patient in pain, a competent doctor would prescribe an integrated program of painkilling medicine and curative medicine. Similarly, for us spiritual beings who are presently trapped in material existence, our material needs are like the painkilling medicine and our spiritual needs are like the curative medicine.

Pointing towards a painkilling role of our material needs, the Bhagavad-gita (06.16) urges us to avoid the extremes of excessive indulgence and excessive abstinence. Taking too little painkilling medicine keeps us in pain, but taking too much painkilling medicine creates an illusion of well-being while the disease worsens internally. Similarly, totally neglecting our material side causes misery, but indulging indiscriminately in it gives a temporary illusion of pleasure while our material entanglement and spiritual forgetfulness worsen internally.

In contrast, the spiritual practice of yoga, when combined with a regulated handling of our material side, frees us from misery.

Thus, we need to give due attention to our material side but not let it monopolize our attention. By simultaneously giving adequate attention to our spiritual side, we can progress steadily towards lasting fulfillment.

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3 Comments

  1. our material needs always remain unsatisfied

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  2. Hare Krishna Prabhuji,
    Rather than saying due attention to material side, can’t we say that we need to spiritualise our material existence. That would be more in line with the Parampara’s teachings.
    I have also read that devotional life in actuality begins when your material life is finished. That’s Brahma Bhuta stage. Otherwise it’s Jeev Bhuta stage. So whatever spiritualising of material life we are doing it’s to come to Brahma Bhuta stage. Without achieving that it’s impossible to enter Vaikuntha. Maybe a very strong dose of mercy from Srila Prabhupada, can give us the waiver in this regard.

    Ys
    Stoka Krsna Das

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