06.16 – Beyond Captivity to Futility and Utility
As practicing spiritualists, we may face the question, “What should be my attitude towards the material world?” Let’s first look at the three broad attitudes towards the material world:
- Captivity: When we live primarily, or even exclusively, for material pleasures, our default attitude aims to bring the material world under our captivity. We hope to bend the world to our will so as to extract our desired pleasures from it. Paradoxically though, as long as we try to bring the world under our captivity, we stay under its captivity; we remain captivated by its seductive promises of pleasure. When we are thus captivated, we usually can’t even think of, leave alone strive for, anything higher than material pleasures.
- Futility: When we chase after worldly pleasures, their elusiveness, shallowness and temporariness thwarts us. Gradually we realize that these three characteristics intrinsically mar all material pleasures: they are elusive to get; even if got, they are shallow and unsatisfactory; even if we settle for them, time drags them away. The more we become realized, the more we reject material pleasures as futile.
- Utility: Gita wisdom informs us that we are souls and children of Krishna, and that we can relish spiritual happiness if we become pure by rendering devotional service. For serving Krishna, we can use all the worldly resources that are helpful in sharing his message and spreading his mission. The Bhagavad-gita points to this utility-based balance when it (6.16) urges us to avoid extremes in worldly activities like eating and sleeping.
Thus, our attitude towards the material world needs to go beyond captivity to futility and utility: rejecting as futile the material pleasures that make us forget Krishna, and accepting as useful the material resources that help us serve him.