16.10 – The great achievement of materialism
Materialism is the belief system that matter is all that exists. Sometimes it takes a slightly more tolerant form as the belief system that matter is all that matters; non-material things like soul and God may exist, but they don’t matter.
Either way, materialism makes us believe that all our hopes for progress, success and happiness can only be fulfilled at the material level. However, everything at the material level is fleeting, whereas we all long for happiness that is lasting. Consequently, no matter how much we achieve materially, we remain dissatisfied and constantly crave for more. The Bhagavad-gita (16.10) states that believers in materialism become possessed by lust that is insatiable (kamam ashritya dushpuram). This insatiable craving sentences us perpetually to the cut-throat competition that characterizes the pursuit of material pleasures.
The futility of materialistic pursuits is most vividly demonstrated in the increasing number of people who are ‘worried well.’ These people are well in the sense of being in a far better financial and social position than most other people. Yet they are consumed by unhealthy mental emotions like worry that are an inevitable consequence of materialism and its attendant competition and dissatisfaction. So their material wellness doesn’t lead to happiness, as was the promise of materialism.
Thus, the great achievement of materialism is that it can keep people dissatisfied and unhappy, no matter how much they succeed, even when they succeed according to materialism’s own definition of success.
That’s why Gita wisdom urges us to not let materialism monopolize our definition of success. In addition to arranging for our material necessities and doing justice to our material talents, we also need to invest adequately in developing our eternal devotional relationship with Krishna.
Only when we succeed spiritually by diligent practice of devotional service will success make us happy.