Question: It seems like every day there is another national or world crisis in the news. Is there a solution to the global economic and environmental problems facing us today?
Jagad Guru: The real question is, “When is enough enough?”
In some parts of the world, people are dying from severe undernourishment, while in other parts of the world people are dying from obesity.
There is more than enough food, water, and fuel to satisfy the needs of everyone on the planet, but not enough to satisfy everyone's greed.
Or, as the late British economist E.F. Schumacher puts it: “There are poor societies which have too little, but where is the rich society that says ‘Halt, we have enough?’ There is none.”
The developed countries of the world, especially the United States, disproportionately consume far more of the earth’s resources than other, more populous, but poorer countries.
From the yoga perspective, while economic development is an absolute necessity, to seek economic development simply for the sake of endlessly increasing sensual pleasure is foolish.
No amount of sensual pleasure will ever really satisfy a person, so no amount of economic development will ever be considered ‘enough.’ No matter how much people have, no matter how much they consume, they always want more.
This endless personal craving manifests as ever-increasing material consumption, which causes poverty and destroys the environment. Even if it were physically possible for one to consume all the food, water, and fuel in the world, he still would not be satisfied. Material food cannot satisfy one’s inner spiritual craving. Due to the desire for sense pleasure, people try to conquer nature but end up destroying the world.
The science of yoga acknowledges the fact that material wealth makes for more sense enjoyment and sense enjoyment brings a certain degree of happiness to a person. But the belief that if a person has an endless amount of sense gratification he will then have a correspondingly endless amount of happiness and satisfaction is without any actual foundation. People in first-world countries tend to have greater material wealth and they use that wealth to satisfy their senses to the fullest. Yet it is an indisputable fact that they are not satisfied or happy. They are miserable.
Question: So what is the solution?
Jagad Guru: The science of yoga doesn’t advocate unhappiness as the solution to the environmental problem. The solution is actual happiness, actual enjoyment and actual satisfaction. If you have actual satisfaction, the side effect will be that your body will be in better health and the planet earth will be in better health. The environment will be in better condition because you will be satisfied within yourself and will not be incessantly searching for satisfaction in endless consumption.
The desire to be happy and satisfied is natural. If you don’t have this spiritual source of satisfaction within yourself, you will be trying to find satisfaction through sensual pleasures and endless consumption.
Question: So how do we become satisfied?
Jagad Guru: According to the yoga teachings, our nature is to love, and we are spiritual in essence. As such, we cannot be happy simply living for ourselves and trying to achieve happiness through endless consumption. By understanding that we are spiritual with a loving nature, we can simultaneously understand that we cannot ever achieve real happiness just by living for ourselves. We must awaken our spiritual love for the Supreme; and motivated by that love, work for the welfare of others and the planet. Such an attitude of selfless service brings satisfaction, actual happiness, and good to the world and ourselves.