Breaking Free from the Curse of Accumulation

[Featured image by Lucy Valkyrie]

Accumulation is all around us. We accumulate a myriad of things for a myriad of reasons. A most common kind of accumulation is wealth largely driven by the needs to feel a strong sense of achievement in our ever competitive society. The accumulation of knowledge comes in next as we assume that the accumulation of knowledge is fundamental in helping us achieve what we want to achieve in our life especially in bringing us prestige and status. Our entire education system is designed to allow for the accumulation of intellectual knowledge and we give rewards and dish out punishments to ourselves all throughout our years of education journey just so to make sure that a certain amount of knowledge is accumulated.  

Accumulation is not at all bad. With moderation of give and take, accumulation can be a good habit to inculcate. For instance, as you acquired wealth, share it with the less fortunate. As you accumulated knowledge, do some good to help the society. Viewed from these perspectives, accumulation can be of significant importance to the development of our society. Yet, the dark side of accumulation is that it has the tendency of developing into a vicious cycle that would result in an addiction. 

Lester B. Pearson, former Canadian Prime Minister and a Nobel Prize winner, famously said

If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers, we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats, we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they improverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.

Every single time I read this quote by the late Canadian Prime Minister who unfortunately passed away in 1972 (just one year before I was borned), I cannot help but to feel that as a society we have become increasingly obsessed with the accumulation of wealth, fame and status. In many cases, we have completely lost our minds. We harmed not just the environment that we live in but we also harmed every other species cruelly in our desire to accumulate more wealth, fame and status.  The scary thing about this addiction on accumulation is that it comes into our lives very slowly. So slowly that we don’t even notice it until the underlying habits that power it is rooted deeply into us. 

Reflecting upon my own life as an example. Before 2013, I have accumulated years of IT professional experiences and knowledge. I was successful in my career and and had been working enormously hard to accumulate wealth, status and fame. Lucky for me, my mom was diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago and the incident forced me into a search for life’s meaning. As I developed more consciousness about myself, I began to notice the toll that my pursuit for accumulation had on my declining health and well-being. It was then that this addiction of accumulation within me was being noticed. I made a life-changing decision to start afresh as an academic, in hope that I can break free from this addiction on accumulating wealth, status and fame. 

After 2013, I have pondered over this ‘accumulation’ societal challenge for long and hard and I wondered how can I break free from this vicious cycle of accumulation. I have to admit that despite starting completely afresh, there is still a desire in me that is still trying for accumulate wealth, fame and status. But I am increasingly more aware of these desires. Regardless, because everything is starting from the beginning, I have the opportunity to sharpen my attention and observe and disrupt this desire of accumulation as and when it arises. Just so that it will not become an addiction. I know that this is not an ideal solution, but at least it is an interim remedy.

It wasn’t until recently that I have managed to obtain more deeper clarity on this accumulation challenge among us. I thank Sadhguru for his words of wisdom. 

The nature of the mind is always to accumulate. When it is gross, it wants to accumulate things. When it becomes a little more evolved, it wants to accumulate knowledge. When emotion becomes dominant, it wants to accumulate people, but its basic nature is that it wants to accumulate. When a person starts thinking or believing that he is on a spiritual path, his mind starts accumulating so-called spiritual wisdom. But whether it is food, things, people or wisdom – it does not matter what you accumulate, when there is a need to accumulate, it means there is an insufficiency. This feeling of being insufficient has entered only because you got identified with limited things that you are not.

What you accumulate can be yours, it can never, ever be you … What you call as my body is an accumulation of the food that we eat a certain way. What you call as my mind is an accumulation of impressions and information that you have gathered… So right now people are going around with this fundamental flaw in their perception of who they are. What they have accumulated has become them, who they are has been lost.

Because of him, I realized that one of the ways to get out of this vicious cycle of accumulation is to become nothing, i.e. unattached and not identified to the things we have accumulated. Once we returned to this state of our being, our inner desire to accumulate will stop. But what is nothingness and what does nothingness mean when we are defined by it? These are very intriguing questions for me to ponder upon in my life time.

I find some comforts in the words of Sadhguru that this pursuit for nothingness can indeed make me rediscover the meaning of my own being and experienced life to its fullest potentials. Isn’t that what we all long for? 

If one brings sufficient awareness, and above all a constant sadhana – a practice into one’s life – slowly the vessel becomes totally empty. Awareness empties the vessel. Sadhana cleanses the vessel. When these two aspects – awareness and sadhana – are sustained for a sufficiently long period, your vessel becomes empty. Only when this emptiness arises, Grace descends upon you. Without Grace, no one really gets anywhere. If you need to experience Grace, your vessel has to become totally empty.

If you become empty enough for Grace to descend, the Ultimate Nature is not far away. It is here to be experienced. It is here to be realized. It is not tomorrow or another lifetime. It becomes a living reality.

Accumulation can become an addiction without us knowing it. And I believe only by emptying our mind and become aware of our mind’s doing can we discover ways to eventually break free from this desire to accumulate.

Jenson Goh

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