Let's be real for a moment.
There comes a time when our spiritual practices harm us more than
Yet most of us are so invested in protecting our fragile egos from
the truth, that we live in a state of denial or total oblivion to
what is happening.
When our spiritual practices reinforce, bolster, and underhandedly
inflate our senses of self (i.e.,
our egos) this is spiritual
And it's a toxic form of
Originally coined by Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa
Rinpoche in his book 'Cutting
Through Spiritual Materialism,'
is what happens when we use spiritual concepts, practices, and
tools to reinforce the false sense of self, the ego.
As the ego is the source
of all our suffering, bolstering the ego through spiritual practice
is totally at odds with the whole point of the spiritual path.
As Trungpa writes,
No matter what the
practice or teaching, ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate
spirituality for its own survival and gain.
We need to be honest with
ourselves and realize that we aren't immune to spiritual
materialism. As we all have an ego, its mission is to survive,
no matter what it takes, because it is terrified of the prospect of
Yet being free of the ego
is the very definition of enlightenment according to all major
non-dualistic spiritual traditions.
mess inside you:
You clean the
Examining our own paths and practices closely, most of us will be
able to find instances of spiritual materialism quite easily.
All we have to do is ask,
"how is this
belief/practice/tool reinforcing the ego (the separate sense of
In fact, the deeper we
look, the more instances of spiritual materialism we'll find.
But the point is to
not be judgmental, but instead to be aware and
compassionate with ourselves...
The best way to learn is
through our mistakes - and to always reflect with a discerning eye
on our own drives and incentives.
But often, it can be hard to turn an objective eye on ourselves.
Sometimes, it's best to learn from examples or the behavior of
Here are four common examples of spiritual materialism that can
often be found in the spiritual marketplace of life:
indirectly claiming special status due to certain gifts
(e.g., clairvoyance, ability to read auras, communicate with
spirits, etc.) which all reinforces the separate sense of
self or ego
into the spiritual marketplace:
endless workshops, methods, tools, trinkets, and
techniques which all promise to make you a wiser, more
intuitive, more blissful, more "spiritual" person
meditation with the hidden agenda of trying to avoid
suffering by becoming peaceful/detached all the time
(when the reality is that emotions/mind are always
fluctuating, which is normal and natural - we can't avoid
Using the law
of attraction to attract all of your desires (because
that "would make you happier" than being grateful for what
you already have),
...and the list goes on.
Now comes the difficult moment:
can you recognize any
of this behavior within yourself?
It takes honesty and
humility to admit where we've got lost.
But being willing to tell
the truth about ourselves is a central part of the spiritual path.
You're Falling into Spiritual Materialism
is an attachment
to the spiritual path
as a solid
accomplishment or possession.
It is said that
spiritual materialism is the hardest to overcome.
The imagery that
is used is that of golden chains;
you're not just
in chains, you're in golden chains.
And you love
your chains because
beautiful and shiny.
But you're not
trapped in a bigger and better trap.
The point of
is to become
not to build a
tap that may have
of a mansion
but is still a
Have you fallen into
Don't worry if you say a hesitant "yes" - we all have to some
extent. No one is perfect...
However, taking an honest
look at ourselves is an important part of
it will help to
prevent us from stumbling, falling, and getting sidetracked in
the future. It might be painful to admit, but it's damn
Here are some
crucial signs of spiritual materialism to pay attention to:
...using spiritual 'achievements' or 'gifts' to disconnect from
and feel superior to others.
...using the specific words, practices, or ways of life of other
cultures for your own profit/self-image (while simultaneously
3. Creating a
...keeping a list of all the important spiritual people,
workshops, certifications, etc. that you've achieved to impress
yourself and others.
...habitually buying spiritual trinkets/tools/items or
accumulating the blessings and initiations from sages, shamans,
saints, etc. to somehow feel more,
"awakened," "aligned" or spiritually worthy...
...believing that "if I do ___, I'LL get to this special
elevated state in the future" without living in the present
moment or recognizing the fundamental ego-centricity of this
...seeking out spiritual practices/teachers that are always
bigger and better, and,
joy/abundance/bliss/enlightenment" and quick fixes
7. Focusing only
on the positive
...so that the ego avoids the reality of its own shadow (i.e.,
its hidden pain, wounds, and deceptions), it focuses on the
purely positive aspects of spirituality, aka,
thoughts," "be high vibe," "love and light," "good vibes
...focusing on aesthetically-pleasing spiritual practices that
are "InstaGram-worthy" while neglecting the deeper and messier
aspects of spiritual transformation that can't fit into a pretty
...rather than honoring the ordinary magic of everyday life, you
seek lights-and-glamour spirituality and seek after supernatural
visitations, seeing visions, meeting UFOs, spirit guides,
teachers with 'extrasensory' abilities, etc.
...you flit around from teacher to teacher, practice to
practice, in search of becoming "more healed," spiritually
awakened, etc. not realizing that by constantly trying to
improve yourself, you are never happy and are constantly
reinforcing the illusory ego that feels broken
narcissism (aka. the spiritual ego)
...this is the climactic result of spiritual materialism:
ego becoming so big, so bulletproof, that it not only
unconsciously believes it is more "awakened" than others, but it
will do anything to reinforce that "specialness" including
harming others through arrogance and narcissism
Guau... this is a
confronting list, no?
Let's sit with these eleven signs and be honest with ourselves.
How many can you
As we can see, spiritual
materialism is what occurs,
feeds the ego
when we take
something Divine and try to possess it as our own
when we are
fuelled with ego-centric motives...
Again, we all have this
tendency, so there's nothing to be ashamed of...
How to Stop Spiritual Materialism
The reality is that so long as we are still attached to
our egos, there will always be some level of spiritual
materialism on our paths creeping in here and there.
Until the moment of recognition - the moment where we shift from the
ego to Oneness, Non-Duality, Cosmic Consciousness, whatever you call
it - the ego will find ways of using spirituality to bolster its
How do we stop spiritual materialism?
We find 'moments' of
liberation through practices such as: