Consumerism and Buddhist Thoughts
There is a joke about a guy who drove a car and crashed with the electric pole. Fortunately, he was alive and trying to get out of that wreckage car. When he got out and saw the ruins of his car, he kept shouting “Oh no! That’s my Mercedes Benz! That’s my Mercedes Benz!” A person who saw the accident told him with worries that “Young man, stop worrying about your car. You better worry about your arm. It is over there on the road!” That young man looked at the way that person was pointing at and shouted “Oh no! That’s my Rolex watch! That’s my Rolex watch” (Visalo, 2010). This story is really suit to the society in present which most people believe in getting everything they want by buying them, or in other words, it is the age of consumerism society. The joke which was stated in the beginning is a great example of consumerism which could lead to many issues in society; especially worse of people’s minds. However, if people adapt some of the Buddhist thoughts, such as the concept of three characteristics, contentment and the threefold training, with the way they live their lives, they would know that consumerism is just a fake happiness and not last long. Consumerism is the value in spending money to buy or consume goods or services in exchange of the spiritual and ego satisfaction (Lebow, 1955). In other words, consumerists would like to play a buyer role than a producer role, which means they prefer to buy “happiness,” rather than making it by themselves. For instance, if they want to be healthy, instead of exercising and having hygienic food, they would prefer to use the medicine or supplementary food and be confident that if there is a health problem, the doctors can help them because they have a lot of money. Also, if the consumerists want to have good shape, they would favor surgery or diet pills, because it is easy for them to just spend money to get what they want. The happiness from consuming is not only satisfying the five senses which are the senses of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects, or the sensual craving in Buddhism (Chodron, 2007). But, the happiness from consuming is a deeper satisfaction which is called “craving for existence”. For instance, consumerists go to Starbucks Coffee not only to satisfy themselves with the tastes or smells, but they go there to show that they are in fashion, rich, and have good self-images. Also, if you talk to the children who affected by the consumerism, they might tell you that they will be proud and have more confidence if they have a smart phone, iPad, dress up in an up-to-date outfit or using brand name things. While, the children who are not affected by the consumerism will be proud and confidence if they donate themselves to do good things like helping their family or doing the community services. From this, it could be said that consumerism value people from what they have, not what they did. Because, it is the consumption for the mind satisfaction such as good feeling about themselves or value themselves as a new person which is, in their thought, better or cooler than the old one. Buddhism teaches people to abandon their wealth to keep their organs, abandon their organs to keep their lives, and abandon their lives to keep the dharma. But in present, it is opposite. Satisfying the need of “being a new person,” which could bring people to be valuable and acceptable in a particular society, is so excessive that people ignore some of the Buddhist thoughts and act in the opposite way, which is “taking the risk of death to keep the organs,” or even “sacrifice their lives to keep their wealth” (Visalo, 2010). This is one of the reasons why the beauty or plastic surgery businesses are growing very fast. Because of the trends in judging people‘s value with the things they have, people tend to take the risks of pain, infection and losing their lives, by spending their money on plastic surgery, to keep them confident about...
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