The Culture of Craving

In this topsey turvey time when everything seems to be coming to pieces, I often feel shadows of doom and despair creep over me. Some days it is hard to just stand upright in tadasana, so instead I crawl into a little ball in child’s pose. Fires, hurricanes and drought prevail. In the four major epochs in Indian lore that describe the cycle of time, we are in the Kali Yuga where it is said fear is rampant, righteousness dwindles and few recognize the inter-being of all life.

As our global resources are diminished, it is clear that people, and I mean to say specifically Americans, have taken for granted all that we have. Not only do we assume to always have fresh water, clean air and available food, but take for granted that we can have anything we want at any time. Amazon and Door Dash deliveries. Shop at Wal-mart for Smart LED TVs, Headless Quadcopter Drones and yoga mats. We are a society that feeds off its own cravings. To fill the gaping hole of our souls, we also look to be entertained all the time. Entitled by an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we seek satisfaction.

During each of the political conventions this past week, I listened hard for the voice that advocated to protect the oceans, waterways, soils and air. The cry is always health care for the people and economic prosperity. We strive to maintain an absurdly high standard of living (albeit not everyone has access to the high standard) without owning up to the fact that global warming and a lack of environmental protection threatens our life sustaining prana.

Native American traditions believe that water is sacred and that the rain, stones and critters are sacred. What will our quality of life be like when our natural resources are depleted?

Materialism makes us myopic. How can we see the Big View? This big view is reflected in this verse from Psalms, one that celebrates the earth’s natural resources: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.” Undoubtedly the global Gaia is our shepherd and it is right to protect her. And is it possible to “restore the soul” of the planet or shall we follow Elon Musk’s grand scheme and buy real estate on Mars?

At the outset of yoga path, greed is seen to be ruinous to the spirit. Called aparigraha in Sanskrit greed leads to grasping and grasping to greed. Due to craving, the hungry ghost of the soul consumes everything in its path. Look, we all fall prey to wanting fulfillment. I want access to Netflix, to buy my Haagen Dazs Vanilla ice cream at Whole Foods and to have the World Wide Web at my fingertips on my iphone each morning. But wait, are we gorging and gratifying ourselves today while failing to see that three or four generations from now (in parts of the world read, today) there won’t be water at the faucet, clean air to breathe and enough rain to grow crops?

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