Konsum, weniger ist mehr

Less could be more

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“There’s enough for everyone. Nobody has to live in misery. People wouldn’t have to work as hard as they actually do. There could be more time for education and culture, for example, or for other nice things. After all, overproduction is already destroying the planet.” [1] This quotation from the German newspaper DIE ZEIT indicates a bundle of unresolved questions and problems, caused by factors ranging from personal motivation through lifestyle to globalization. Questions of global trade and equity aside, we – as members of the so-called “middle class” – might ask ourselves calmly if we can’t cut back. Work less, consume less, have more time for… what?

The continuing exploitation of our planet and climate change demand an answer from everyone. Part of the answer might be a lifestyle of sufficiency, of renunciation – in particular: consuming less. No new car every five years, no very latest smartphone, no mountains of clothing, choosing to leave the car in the garage as often as possible, maybe travelling less, residing in a more moderate space. The facts are well known, but there is little movement in this matter. Is it possible that the utopia of less doesn’t go too well with our egoistic drive towards expansion? Is it also possible that we aren’t fit to use the freedom that comes along with a cutback on consumption? Work less – more leisure time, less pressure, time for myself, finally getting to read all these books, more time for family and friends, for sports, for the things that matter. In principle, most people would agree to this. But within ourselves there is a hunger for more, for grandeur, for crossing frontiers, which usually manifests itself by material means exclusively. Humanity has adopted an attitude of styling ourselves the “crown of creation”. Consequently, we use, consume, and destroy everything on this planet.

However, it would be helpful to see oneself as a child of this world, made of the same matter as everything else, dependent on all the complex life cycles of this nature. It’s about respecting nature as our source of life, about dealing with the empty space emerging when we stop regarding nature as huge amounts of merchandise, when the desires otherwise quickly converted into consumption and drain start to fade. But then what? This new requirement entirely transcends our usual “same old, same old”, which we have merely clad in an ecologically enhanced attitude. Humanity faces a challenge which can be solved only spiritually, because the problem lies within our own selves.

It is not in vain that many spiritual teachers start by placing humanity before a great negation. Buddhism is such a teaching, considering what we call “our self” as mainly the result of interaction between form (body), sensual perception, feeling, will and conscience. It is mistakenly nourished and fostered as if it were an eternal self, constantly feeding on ephemeral things. Buddha asks man to break free from this self so that the truth may be disclosed within himself. This possibility only opens up when the rat race of making money, of sorrows, of wishes and of egoistic expansion comes to rest, at least from time to time, and if one manages to cope with the subsequent emptiness felt inside. Without desire or knowledge – but by attentively exploring the depths of the innermost urges. Buddha says: “The truth is the immortal part of mind. (…) The truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.” [2] Buddha did intentionally refrain from providing an easy-to-follow recipe for dedicating oneself to this truth and to Nirvâna (fading, dissolving), simply because it is impossible for the mind to “bag” something so entirely beyond the grasp of reason.

The modern Rosycross confronts the temporal self with an eternal – yet unrevealed – self. Whoever wants to approach the eternal self finds themselves confronted with the task of allowing complete inner stillness, gradually bringing to rest all intentions, wishes, concerns and thoughts. This is a stillness in which the whole mortal being eventually places itself at the disposal of a new process – not as an exercise, but as the result of increasingly profound self-knowledge, eventually re-connecting with the innermost core of our being. Here the temporal and the eternal can meet with each other. Here resides the truth of which the Buddha spoke.

What is this truth? One cannot capture it in words. But there is a life out of this truth which frees one from external wishes and needs. Whoever has found something of it tastes freedom. And this freedom grows when you make use of it.




[1]              DIE ZEIT Nr. 52/2016, Seite 46, „Sehnsucht ohne Ort? Von wegen!“ by Mohamed Amjahid and Gero von Randow. The above quotation in this text is by student of politics Laura Meschede

[2]              Paul Carus: The Gospel of Buddha, www.mountainman.com (27.02.2018)

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