Life and Style

A Buddhist’s POV on materialism

Days like Cyber Monday cause massive amounts of stress due to the pressures of consumerism.

Days like Cyber Monday cause massive amounts of stress due to the pressures of consumerism.

Image By: Kalli Anderson

The holidays are often accompanied by warm thoughts, colorful lights strewn across houses, beautifully wrapped presents, catchy music and cozying up inside during snowstorms. 

Another thing that is often associated with the holidays is the extreme sport we call shopping. People even leave their Thanksgiving dinners early to get to the malls in time to catch the Black Friday deals. Consumers seem to be in a frenzy for the best bargain, the most enviable gift or the most coveted technology. 

We can get so caught up in the blur of gift-giving and receiving that we lose sight of what the holidays are truly about. Holidays are meant for spending quality time with friends and family. They are about reminding ourselves to be thankful for the things that make us happy. This “happiness” is increasingly seen as tantamount with material things. We often place value on ourselves based on how much we own and how much we make. 

I recently interviewed Gen Kelsang Gomlam, the resident teacher at Kadampa Meditation Center Madison. Gomlam offered a very different lens about finding happiness in a time of rampant consumerism.  

“Happiness is a state of mind and you can’t change a state of mind with a physical thing,” Gomlam said. “You can only change your mind with mind.”

Research has consistently shown a positive correlation between materialism and dissatisfaction, according to multiple studies published in the academic journal, “Personality and Differences.” Gomlam spoke about her practice of Buddhist meditation and how it focuses on finding permanent happiness from within. 

“We all want to be happy and free from problems. We’ve tried to solve the twofold problem with external development — the right house, the right partner(s), the right job … everything all outside of your mind, all outside of yourself,” Gomlam said.

She continued by theorizing that the rise of meditation is due to the rise of materialism. Gomlam said that people are realizing that even if they “have it all,” they still feel unfulfilled. This empty feeling can only be remedied with meditation, according to Gomlam. 

“Mindfulness from a Buddhist perspective is remembering virtue. In other words remembering love, remembering my mind of compassion.” 

No matter what faith, Gomlam’s lessons hold proven value, especially during a time like the crazy consumer holidays. 

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