Buddhism and consumerism

Mark Vernon in the Guardian recently wrote an entry about how Buddhism or rather certain western Buddhist meditation practices provide a remedy for the stresses of modern western life without addressing the underlying causes of it. The article isn’t terribly good even though there are some good points in it and it brought Stephen Batchelor, an atheist Buddhist writer, back to my attention.

It also made me think a bit about my own approach to western Buddhism and whether my woefully lapsed meditation practice along with my interest in Buddhism as a whole has done the same thing. Looking at my consumption habits over the last few years, it would certainly seem to be the case. Compared to what I used to be like, I’m certainly more able to spend money. Not too surprisingly, my political attitude to consumerism has shifted a lot too. The level of judgement I used to have for people who hoarded things for no good reason as epitomised by MacMansion types has dropped a fair bit. So, it could be quite true that being more relaxed and less stressed about things has just made me more complacent in general and greedier in particular.

I’d like to think however that I’ve shifted away from aversion (a lot of my anxiety about buying things was fear based) to a healthier balance where I’m now more able to buy things I need without beating myself up over it. I’d like to think also that having become more aware of my own underlying drivers of aversion and desire and acknowledging the difficulty in overcoming either, I’ve become a bit more compassionate for the people who are still caught in the cycle of buying stuff as a distraction.

But then, I could just be fooling myself.

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