Sri Ishopanishad: Mantra 9
People who are engaged in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge.
~Sri Ishopanishad, Mantra 9
Unfortunately, most of humanity spends the majority of its time in the culture of ignorance. We cultivate ignorance by serving our tongue, belly, genitals, and other senses like obedient slaves. The vast majority of our energy goes into this mad pursuit of sense pleasure. Left with frazzled nerves, frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, greed, hate, loneliness, and confusion; we seek an escape in alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and a myriad of other legal and illegal consciousness dimmers. This is the cultivation of ignorance.
However, neither the Sri Ishopanishad nor any other Vedic literature recommends that we neglect bodily needs. The Bhagavad-gita states:
There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.
Nor is sense gratification considered “bad.” Sense gratification comes and goes as a natural occurrence of the senses. For example, one cannot eat without tasting. The point is that a life that is centered around sense enjoyment, that makes sense enjoyment the goal, is a wasted life. Economic development is necessary for the maintenance of the body; so therefore it cannot be neglected. But 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.” This is why people in modern Western societies are still not satisfied, even though they are so economically advanced and thus have so much facility for sense enjoyment. They always want more.
This is why people in modern Western societies are still not satisfied, even though they are so economically advanced and thus have so much facility for sense enjoyment. They always want more. As the late British economist E. F. Schumacher points out:
Is there enough to go round? Immediately we encounter a serious difficulty: What is “enough”? Who can tell us? Certainly not the economist who pursues “economic growth” as the highest of all values and therefore has no concept of “enough.” There are poor societies which have too little; but where is the rich society that says: “Halt! We have enough”? There is none.*
What's really needed is to recognize the need for spiritual as well as material happiness. A society that has great material prosperity but lacks spiritual purpose is really a poor society. A body without the soul is a dead body—even if it is nicely decorated with fancy ornaments.