Market or consumer spirituality is like anything else is a commodity of the market economy and consumer society. Coming out of the civil rights and protests movements of the 60’s and the 70’s, and the new generations of the 80’s and the 90’s, quite a few genuine seekers in the USA got disillusioned by the wants and pockets of poverty in the midst of plenty, and their own emptiness in the midst of so-called plenitude, consumerist values, waste, and traditional religions devoid of true spirituality and freedom. They saw Christ’s teachings got domesticated and rendered innocuous by the unbridled capitalism and consumerism. They also saw a televangelism tailored to suit capitalism. Some of the prominent televangelists turned out to be hypocrites who fell from the star-studded skies while building their own cozy paradises and empires. It is also important to note that some jet-set evangelists are exporting their own brands of Christianity and capitalistic culture to the rest of the world. The US economy with its voracious appetite, dominating the world, also swallows up everything in its path.
Some of the disillusioned seekers from the US, turned off by their religions and an economy dominated by multi-national corporations, and, above all, a political system highly influenced by powerful lobbies of special interest groups, looked toward East and came especially to India searching for their answers to life’s purpose. Somehow they ended up in ashrams of spiritual gurus and god-men/women. Thus the remedy soon became malady. At this point the most charitable thing that may be said is that they get in India some placebo, sufficiently soothing, that they are not getting back in their own homeland. Many of these gurus and godmen/women come in the way of genuine seekers (sadhaks) in that they conveniently make themselves to be the destination instead of taking the seekers beyond them to the ultimate destination. Some of these seekers get their own egos massaged as they end up also as handlers and packagers of these godmen/women for the consumer society back at home. Another reality that needs to be kept in mind is that initially the searchers coming to India are surprised at the number of people from India who are eager to come to the US looking for the good life. Well, the Indians are not any different from the rest of the world in looking for greener pastures for their physical well-being.
The run-away capitalism that makes objects of subjects (humans) is as bad as authoritarian communism. Both manipulate humans through a convenient ethic of opportunism to achieve their materialistic ends. While the authoritarian communism is oppressive, the unbridled capitalism gives an illusion of freedom. Both use force and fear, power and control in varying degrees. We still need to develop a model between these two extreme systems, that will tame our “predatory self-interest” as Reinhold Niebuhr, a social theologian calls it, and harness our authentic social energy within us for the common good of all humanity. It is of paramount importance that our spirituality does not become a prey to market economy. And that we develop a universal spirituality that embraces the entire humankind. This spirituality incorporates the best from the world’s best spiritual masters as our spiritual heritage. In this spirituality, that goes beyond all religions, and that respects individual beliefs, one can find one’s bliss.