Print This Page Print This Page

Chögyam Trungpa on Spiritual Materialism


Chöygam Trungpa consistently warned us about the trap of spiritual materialism. In the introduction to Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, he said:

There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.

But it wasn’t just us Westerners who were susceptible to the seductions of spiritual materialism. If anything, Trungpa told us, the situation was far worse in Tibet:

We definitely had a lot of spiritual problems in my country. People just conducted their little spiritual business affairs: they conducted marriage ceremonies; they conducted funeral ceremonies, they conducted ceremonies for the sick; they conducted ceremonies for the unfortunate. But there was no real practice going on; it was a big racket. It was no wonder the Communists decided to take over; … they had a perfect right to destroy that superficial and highly theocratized society which has no real theocracy, no real religion, no real insight.
(The Embodiment of All the Siddhas, Karme Chöling, September, 1975, Talk 1.)

The introduction to the Sadhana of Mahamudra is unforgettable:

This is the darkest hour of the dark ages. Disease, famine and warfare are raging like the fierce north wind. The Buddha’s teaching has waned in strength … and the yogis of tantra are losing the insight of meditation. They spend their whole time going through villages and performing little ceremonies for material gain. On the whole, no one acts according to the highest code of discipline, meditation and wisdom. The jewellike teaching of insight is fading day by day. The Buddha’s teaching is used merely for political purposes and to draw people together socially. As a result, the blessings of spiritual energy are being lost. Even those with great devotion are beginning to lose heart….

– compiled by Barbara Blouin