Bhagavad Gita talks about two types of people – those who aspire for spiritual evolution and those who aim only at material enjoyments. It has explained the difference between the behaviour patterns of spiritualists, those who live a regulated life ; and materialists, those who act according to their whims. Whereas the spiritualists have the potential of experiencing spontaneous joy ; the materialists, blinded by their exaggerated egoism, are prone to suffer innumerable miseries. Distinctive traits of these two categories of people have been described, in chapter sixteen, in detail.
Vigour, fearlessness, truthfulness, uprightness, self-control, simplicity, non-violence, compassion, forgiveness, patience, gentleness, modesty, purity, tranquility, a loving heart ; and steadiness of the mind are some of the endowments of a spiritualist. He is free from greed, anger, envy ; and excessive pride. He studies the scriptures, gives charity, performs yagyas ; and practices austerities. He endeavours to gain the knowledge of the self.
Similar ethical values have also been described in shlokas from 13.7 to 13.11. All these virtues have been called knowledge because they are the means of gaining wisdom about the self.
All such attributes of a spiritualist are conducive to liberation of the soul.
On the other hand, a materialist has no moral scruples or spiritual aim. Hypocrisy, arrogance, excessive pride, anger, harshness and ignorance are said to be his traits. Purity, truth and good conduct are not found in him. Ultimate goal of his life is the enjoyment of the senses.
A materialist denies the existence of any divine authority or an established order in the universe. According to him, no god has created the universe. No one supports it. A materialist believes that there is nothing to be believed in. He holds that the life is caused only by sexual desire, and nothing else. He believes that the world is not based on the principle of truth. He maintains that something in itself is not moral or immoral. There is nothing beyond death. Therefore, one should eat, drink and be merry ; in this very life.
Believing that sense gratification is the highest aim of life and there is nothing beyond, a materialist remains engrossed only in the fulfilment of sensory desires. Bound by hundreds of threads of expectations, and absorbed in lust and anger ; he strives to amass wealth, through unjust means, only for the gratification of his senses. Becoming a slave of insatiable desires and full of hypocrisy, excessive pride and arrogance ; he gets tied, through delusion, to the wrong principles. He acts in the world with impure motives. Therefore, he remains filled with anxiety, till the end. Being exceedingly attached to the sensory pleasures, he suffers innumerable miseries.
Intoxicated by his riches and false prestige, he considers himself to be the mightiest of them all. He believes that he is endowed with perfection. He thinks that he is the master of everyone and also the enjoyer of everything. Deluded by his ignorance, he performs yagyas without following any rules and regulations. He gives charity only for the display of his wealth. But all this religious or even philanthropical show off cannot save him from the consequences of his sinful actions.
Blinded by the glitter of their ill-gotten wealth, self-proclaimed power and self-professed wisdom ; these people become envious of the Supreme Lord, the one who is dwelling in their own bodies and in the bodies of others. In other words, not listening to one’s inner voice and thus degrading oneself or causing injury to others amounts to disrespect of Ishvara, because He resides in the souls of all.
Firmly holding to the view that the world is without a moral basis, the materialists often indulge in such cruel deeds that can only lead to large scale destruction. History is replete with instances where excessive pride of some individuals, communities and nations have brought unspeakable distress, devastation and death.
It has been stated that the one who discards scriptural injunctions and acts under the impulse of his desires, he neither attains worldly happiness nor spiritual perfection. Therefore, in day to day life, one should be guided by the advices given in the scriptures. It is important to follow the scriptures as they contain the knowledge gathered by the wise men of earlier generations. It is said that each generation should build upon the foundations of the inherited wisdom and then chart the right course for themselves.
The two types of natures described above represent the two extremes of the wide spectrum of human behaviour. In normal life, no one can be a perfect moralist or a perfect materialist. Both the value systems co-exist, in varying degrees, in everyone’s heart. One is called a moralist or a materialist depending upon what traits dominate his personality, at any point of time.
Gita exhorts man not to succumb to the temptation of getting easy money and acquiring unbridled power. Instead, he should shake off his vicious traits and move towards a virtuous life. A proper balance between the two value systems can lead to a more successful and purposeful life.