Chapter 01: Contemporary Views on Spirituality

This chapter offers a discussion of the views on spirituality of three groups of individuals: (1) who are affiliated to religions, (2) who claim to be spiritual but not religious and (3) who approach spirituality through scientific means. The foundation of all views is the belief that there is a reality beyond the material world. While the first group call this reality spirit, God or soul, the second and third groups use non-religious scientific terms to identify it such as consciousness, the higher self and the quantum vacuum. Most contemporary writers recognize this reality as a unified field of energy which is love, and spirituality as a personal journey towards this reality. Though religions seem to be different from each other in beliefs, rituals and practices, they all represent different pathways to spirituality.

Chapter 02: Spirituality Re-Examined

This chapter explores common grounds underlying the different views on spirituality. To explore common grounds, they are divided into two groups: God-centred views and non-God centred views. While the former includes the views of most mainstream religions the latter includes Buddhist, non-religious and scientific views. The comparative analysis reveals there are more similarities than differences.

The apparent disagreement between the two groups on the existence on God is illusive. The source of disagreement is the use of different words to identify the same reality. Furthermore, both groups agree on the purpose of spirituality as inculcating love. But they disagree on what one should do to achieve the purpose. However, in-depth analyses show that though the practices prescribed are different, they all serve the purpose.

Chapter 03: Spirituality: Development Perspectives

Development practitioners perceive spirituality as religious practices, beliefs, rituals and traditions of the people whom they perceive as others and whom they are supposed to develop. The first section of this chapter shows the inadequacy of this definition and re-defines spirituality as a process of reducing our self-centredness and greed for material wealth and explains the relevance of this definition to development.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to elaborate spirituality as establishing right relationships and as transformation of human mind. As long as our mind is driven by self-centredness, our relationships remain exploitative. Reduction of self-centredness improves our relationships with fellow human beings and with the environment. This is what we need for sustainable development.

This chapter concludes with outlining the changes that occur within us as we grow spiritually.


Chapter 04: Identifying Global Socio-Spiritual Classes

As an attempt to analysing the global economic system from socio-spiritual perspective, this chapter identifies global socio-spiritual classes. At the first step of the identifying process, the world’s total population is divided into two groups according to their key motivations: motivated by inner peace and by material gains. The former, identified as ‘the inner-guided people’, are spiritually developed. The latter who are self-centred and greedy and therefore spiritually underdeveloped are divided into four classes: (1) The elites global elites, national elites and local elites; (2) The overconsumers materially rich urban dwellers who serve elites’ interests; (3) The poor living below the poverty line, and (4) Dissatisfiers– living above the poverty line but not satisfied because they aspire to live like overconsumers.


Chapter 05: Global Economic System as a Product of Greedy Mind

Drawing evidence from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history, this chapter discusses the evolution of global economic system and its class relations. It shows that while the inner-guided people, who are spiritually developed, remain outside the global economic system, the elites,who run corporations and control the global economic system, exploit the masses of dissatisfiers and the poorwith the help of theoverconsumers. The discussion reveals how the self-centredness and greed in the spiritually underdeveloped human mind, especially in the mind of the elitesand the overconsumers,cause and sustain poverty, inequality, unsustainability and unhappiness in world and describes the global economic system as a product of the spiritually underdeveloped human mind. It concludes by saying that evil is neither the global elites nor those who serve their interests, but the self-centredness and greed in their mindset which can be removed by spiritual means.

Chapter 06: Global Economic System and Conventional Development

This chapter argues conventional development is a project initiated by global elites to maintain and further expand the global geopolitical landscape they had established during the colonial era to satisfy their greed and points out self-centredness and greed is the prime reason for the failure of most economic theories in real world.

In theory, free trade and democracy should positively contribute to development and well-being. But, as this chapter reveals, due to the self-centredness and greed in people who control it, free trade cannot benefit rich and poor nations alike; it is not actually free for the poor. It also explains why poor nations cannot afford democracy and how democracy in rich nations sustains poverty in the rest of the world.

Contradictions between spirituality and conventional development are highlighted.


Chapter 07: Poverty and Inequality

Conventional development entails two forms: intentional and immanent development. Intentional development involves deliberate intervention by elites-controlled outside agencies to achieve economic growth. While developing others, if the elites do not draw from a spiritual basis but rather a self-centred mindset, they tend to execute the activity in such a way that it benefits themselves rather than the others, who are supposed to receive these benefits. On the other hand, immanent development involves an unconscious outworking of capitalism. When capitalism penetrates into pre-capitalist societies, local economies become integrated into the global economic system which is controlled by the elites who are self-centred and greedy for profits. This chapter provides a detailed account of how the self-centredness and greed in the mind of those who lead each form of development cause and sustain inequality and poverty.


Chapter 08: Environmental Unsustainability

This chapter argues that the root cause of unsustainability is our self-centredness and greed for sense pleasures. Pleasure, unlike true happiness, is essentially short term and therefore our pleasure seeking makes us short-sighted and ignorant of long-term consequences of our actions. As individuals our concern is our own pleasure during our life time rather than the well-being and happiness of future generations; for policy makers, it is short-term political gains; and for corporations, it is short-term profit.

For pleasure we need material wealth, and our self-centred approach to wealth generation makes our relationship with the environment exploitative; we fail to perceive ourselves as an integral part of the environment. This chapter argues that as long as the root cause remains unchanged, no amount of investment in reforms and technologies in the name of sustainable development will make it a reality.


Chapter 09: Unhappiness

This chapter points out, with the aid of empirical evidence, that economic growth and the material wealth it brings do not guarantee happiness and that the root cause of growing unhappiness in spite of growing material prosperity is our spiritual underdevelopment. This leads us to seek short-term pleasure instead of true happiness, and thus is invariably followed by unhappiness. To pursue pleasures and to avoid the unhappiness they cause, we need more material wealth. In our hasty struggle to earn wealth we tend to put our relationships, which is the source of true happiness, at risk. Our greedy pursuit of wealth lets negative mental attributes such as hatred, anger and envy grow within us, which causes unhappiness. Evidence from modern science and religious literature show how spiritual growth could raise our happiness.

Chapter 10: Spiritual Growth and Economic Growth: Conflict or Synergy

This chapter analyses spiritual growth from a psychological perspective and explains, with the help of empirical evidence, how spiritual growth and economic growth contribute to each other. When the level of economic growth is too low and inadequate to meet our basic survival needs we physically suffer and are unable to act for spiritual growth. Therefore, to the extent that it is necessary to meet our survival needs, economic growth can be considered as a prerequisite for spiritual growth. On the other hand, most of the qualities that grow within us as we grow spiritually, such as creativity, work-efficiency, self-esteem, self-confidence, honesty, cooperation, trustworthiness and commitment to work and so on, positively contribute to economic growth. Thus, spiritual growth and economic growth are mutually beneficial. Scientific evidences are provided in support of these arguments.

Chapter 11: Spiritualizing the Global Economic System

As already pointed out, absence of spiritual basis is the root cause of the failure of conventional development. Therefore, if it is to succeed, conventional development needs to be based on spirituality, which is the inner change in which our self-centredness and greed is replaced by selfless love. As this spiritual transformation unfolds, a form of development based on spirituality will emerge spontaneously. It emerges when spiritually developed people (inner-guided people), motivated by selfless love, take initiatives in various ways to reduce poverty and inequality, to achieve environmental sustainability and to deliver happiness to all. It is love in action and a form of selfless service. This chapter describes how spirituality-based development emerges as people grow spiritually and provides evidence to show that it is already emerging worldwide.

Chapter 12: Towards a World of Abundance, Equity, Sustainability and Happiness

This chapter offers policy recommendations, things policy makers could do to promote spirituality and nurture the naturally emerging spirituality-based development. Since the poverty problem is sustained by the problem of affluence – overconsumption by the affluents which is identified by some as a disease called ‘affluenza’ – it is recommended that priority be given to heal affluenza of the rich rather than alleviating poverty. Policy measures are also recommended to immunize dissatisfiers and the poor against affluenza. A few other key recommendations are: (1) incorporating spirituality into formal education, not as formal taught courses but as practices aimed at students’ inner change, (2) encouraging selfless service as development, (3) taking measures to re-spiritualize religions, (4) promoting scientific research on spirituality, and (5) incorporating spirituality into professional personal services such as counseling, coaching and psychotherapy.

EPILOGUE: Changing Ourselves to Change the World

As discussed in preceding chapters, self-centredness and greed are not basic to us but temporary symptoms of our spiritual underdevelopment. Hence, any social system based on self-centredness and greed fails to yield long-term sustainable happiness and well-being to people. History reveals the fate of such systems as feudalism, imperialism, capitalism, socialism and communism. On the other hand, what is basic to us is selfless love. This is declared by all great religions, agreed on by most great philosophers and confirmed by scientific evidence. Discovering what is basic to us is spirituality. Therefore, it is sensible to suggest that only a system based on spirituality can yield long-term sustainable well-being and happiness to the humanity. This study suggests, with the help of empirical evidence, that such a system is forthcoming. The best way we can contribute to this is to change ourselves.