Spiritual and Material Progress

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    Is Material progress possible along with Spritual Progress or is it mutually exclusive aspiration ?


    Ashish Dalela

    Before we talk about material progress, we have to define what “matter” is. In Sāñkhya philosophy, we can discern the following 7 levels: moral sense, ego, intellect, mind, senses, sensations, and body. In order to determine progress, we can talk about how each of these is getting better.

    Moral Sense

    • Are you becoming more truthful every day?
    • Are you becoming more sacrificing each day?
    • Are you becoming more disciplined each day?


    • Are you doing more duties without thinking about results each day?
    • Are you thinking about the greater good more now than before?
    • Is your understanding of your role in the world better now than before?


    • Are your decisions getting better and is there less regret over time?
    • Do you have a better understanding of reality with passing time?
    • Are you able to arrive at decisions faster now than before?


    • Are you getting more intuitive over time–e.g., reading others better?
    • Do you understand the significance of each situation better now than before?
    • Are you able to solve problems much faster with passing time?


    • Are you learning more skills with passing time?
    • Are you becoming more efficient over time–i.e., able to do more with less?
    • Is your productivity greater now than it was before?


    • Do you have a greater desire for milder sensations than stronger ones?
    • Do you need fewer sensory stimulations with passing time?
    • Are you able to focus on one task longer than you were before?


    • Are you getting stronger and healthier over time?
    • Are your sick days declining and immunity increasing?
    • Are you able to work longer without getting tired?

    I have just listed a sample of questions pertaining to the most objective measures of human progress. There are intersubjective measures and subjective measures too. But if we start listing them, then things will become very long. So, I have restricted them to a few questions.

    You can try to improve all these metrics individually, and I doubt if there will much headway even in one of them, because they are all interdependent. So, you can try to do all of them simultaneously, and then you will likely be stuck because you won’t know where to start.

    Therefore, it is recommended to focus on spiritual advancement, because by making spiritual advancement, you can make advancement in all of the above areas of material progress.

    In the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is stated that “Those who have unalloyed devotion to the Lord, also have all the great qualities of the demigods. On the other hand, what good qualities are there in those without devotion? They are simply running hither and tither seated on the chariot of the mind”.

    Your question about material vs. spiritual progress is contrived. You may be thinking that you are making material progress without spiritual progress, but that is not possible. At best, you might get better in one or two areas, but that will always come with a tradeoff in other areas. This is because material nature is duality, which means you get one thing and you always lose something else. Spiritual nature on the other hand is non-duality, which means that you can make simultaneous progress in all areas of material progress just by making spiritual progress.

    Material progress goes through a cycle when we overlook spiritual progress:

    • Bad times create good people
    • Good people create good times
    • Good times create bad people
    • Bad people create bad times

    In contrast, when we consider spiritual progress, then material progress is sustainable. That means, bad times create good people, but even when the times are good, people keep getting better. Those better people will then create even better times, and in this way, there is continuous progress. But if we neglect spiritual progress, then the moment you get some material progress, immediately you get bad people. And those bad people then create bad times, and everyone starts suffering.

    It is not either material or spiritual progress. It is both vs. neither. If spirituality declines, then material prosperity also declines. Cycles of rise and fall are the result of either-or thinking, which is also called duality. Sustainable progress involves spiritual progress that automatically brings material progress. This is called both or non-duality. So, the choice is very easy, isn’t it?

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