Keep the Balance Between Spirituality and Materialism
The development of society should not be limited to increasing the GDP or other markers of material prosperity. Buddhism can, in its own way, serve the progress of society because it emphasizes the balance between spirituality and materialism and serves as a reminder that for a society to be healthy, material progress has to be supported by spiritual development.
I believe that the development of society should not be limited to increasing GDP or material prosperity.
In some countries, while skyscrapers are getting taller and taller, people feel less and less happiness, and their happiness index is dropping. So we may wonder whether it is a sign of progress or regress. You can also think more about it. Buddhism emphasizes a balance between spirituality and materialism. Material progress should be supported by spiritual development. With a lack of spiritual support, material progress alone could bring more sufferings to people.
The inner development addressed in Buddhism can hardly be found in science. Even today science still has a gap in this area. It is because science only has a history of two or three hundred years, and during this short period, scientists have rarely focused on the study of mind. So, if we want to learn more about our inner hearts, perhaps we need to turn to the ancient Eastern cultures and especially Buddhist philosophy instead of other subjects in science.
When we reflect upon history, we notice that in some countries there are many sovereigns who have used their power and wealth to exploit or suppress their people. This was very common in the past when we look back at history. So, I want to point out that when speaking of social progress or social development, please do not believe that gaining more money equates with progress, having more advanced cars equates with progress, or living in taller urban buildings equates with progress. These are not very wise thoughts.
With a lack of spiritual support, even if you drive the best car, you may still experience suffering. Or even if you have a fat bank account, you may not bring any benefit to people around you. Just like those very rich people in today’s world, some of them have been accumulating money that accounts for a large portion of the wealth of the whole nation. But if they won’t use it for the benefit of others, we could only say that what they’ve achieved is personal progress rather than progress for society overall. And even worse, it could lead to more corruption. Many social evils such as corruption and other issues result from the lack of inner values and the lack of awareness of morality, which cause an imbalance between materialism and spirituality. Such imbalance has become a global issue in today’s world.
In contrast, probably most Buddhists may not suffer from this issue. As I mentioned just now, most college students in your country seldom think about suicide. This should be a benefit of Buddhism. If one does not have a religious faith, one may choose suicide in the face of certain difficulties. And if someone were to commit suicide, no matter how much money they possess, it’s all useless because nothing is more precious than life. So, from this point of view, I think the inner development addressed in Buddhism is a much more essential part of social progress. If people don’t have faith and they lack the wisdom of Buddhism, no matter how much money they have, honestly speaking, I wouldn’t admire them at all.