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motion for debate

Discussion / motion for debate

backcover Endogenous Development Magazine 2

Spirituality alone cannot fill stomachs


In March 2008 there were violent clashes between Buddhist monks and the Chinese forces in Tibet. These events prompted the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to reiterate his message that the Tibetan definition of 'meaningful autonomy' means the guarantee to preserve the region's unique cultural environment, including the language. The Dalai Lama follows in the tradition of non-violent, peaceful action set by leaders such as Gandhi. At the same time, however, the Dalai Lama recognises his country's economic reliance on China, adding 'After all, spirituality alone cannot fill your stomach'.

Coincidentally, a BBC documentary, A Year in Tibet, was shown in the same month. The maker of the documentary, Peter Firstbrook, describes: 'It is estimated that in the 1960s over 2000 monasteries were destroyed. Just 12 survived. The Pel Kor monastery in Gyantse was founded nearly 600 years ago. Tsephun is one of its few novice monks. His great uncle Dondrup, a senior monk, arranged for him to be accepted at the monastery three years ago. But whereas Dondrup  is part of the old Tibet, Tsephun has grown up in a world of television, mobile phones and dating; he resents the restrictions of monastery life. This causes conflict between Tsephun and his great uncle.'

In many ways, the uneasy relationship between Tsephun and his great uncle reflects the changes happening throughout the world: the tension between holding on to traditional values and embracing new ones. It is specifically in this field of tension that endogenous development operates.
One of the distinguishing features of the endogenous development approach is its recognition of spiritual aspects of life. This stems from a conviction that many, if not all, societies' worldviews include notions of spirituality, as well as material and social aspects. However, as the lively debate in this issue of ED-Magazine (INteracting) shows only too clearly, extreme poverty and hunger are still a major problem worldwide. And even someone as inspired and inspiring as the Dalai Lama warns of the dangers of overemphasising spirituality at the cost of material well-being. Are the critics of the endogenous approach right in wondering whether the harsh realities of the material world and the problems of poverty and hunger leave room for addressing spirituality? Do material needs indeed outweigh spiritual needs?




Adetoro Rasheed, Nigeria


It appears most of the motions for debate are the major problems of the third world countries, Nigeria inclusive. Your topical issue this time again captivates my interest because spirituality in Nigeria has been so abused that within a radius of 500meters, you will find a 3-man church or a 5-man mosque-all in the name of Jesus and Allah. Hence, I wish to contribute to the new debate as it concerns Nigeria as follows; SPIRITUALITY ALONE CANNOT FILL STOMACHS. It is very astonishing to discover that as more and more churches and mosques continue to spring-up in Nigeria, so also more and more Nigerians continue to be physiologically and psychologically lazy as they hang all their hopes on spirituality. This is why many Nigerians continue to wallow in hunger as a result of spiritual bondage regardless of the favourable climatic and vegetal conditions. This is why 'in the name of Jesus' and 'in the name of Allah' could not put rice on Nigerians' table when the 'Asian tigers' refuse to export rice to Nigeria as a result of global food recession. Indeed, it is in Nigeria that you will find a 3-man church members and 5-man mosque members within 500meters radius. One wonders whether Nigerians still believe in 'manner from heaven' rather than hard work. It is a case of naive spirituality at the expense of pragmatic spirituality which eventually leads to perpetual hunger and poverty.


Swami Krishnananda,

Spirituality includes worldly activities for catering to the needs of food, clothing, shelter, medicine etc. Vedic injunction 'Annam Bahu Kurveeta' means 'Increase the food production'. There should be a harmonious balance between the purely spiritual activity and the purely material activity. Filling the stomach cannot be the end and aim of life.


Merlin Franco, India

There can be no doubt on the fact that religion has a major role to play in any society. However the recent trend shows the religious institutions aiming at breaking people's self-confidence and will power thereby rendering them dependent on various Godmen and religious establishments. The aim of  religions should be directed at helping the individual to attain a happy peaceful life, in harmony with the society and environment and not a life entirely dedicated to religion, turning a blind eye to the misery of fellow human beings.


Omoyakhi J.M., Nigeria

The spirit thrives in a sound body. A fill stomach obviously makes a sound body. Those who emphasise spirituality to the detriment of the harsh realities of the material world are creating problems of poverty and hunger that would be inherited by several generations that would out live them. Religious leaders and bodies most realise that God created a man to have a body and a spirit. A damage or harm to either of these is a crime to Divinity and a deservice to humanity. While we recognise a spiritual aspect of life to every being, the balance between this and the social-material equilibrium must be the primary and principal focus.


Milton Takei, North-America

In the Buddhist belief, suffering stems from "desire". My interpretation would be that in the beginning, desire and suffering did not exist. People had enough, and did not want more--those were the days of what Marshall Sahlins calls "the original affluent society" After the rise of civilization, a small number of people started to pursue glory, power and wealth. They sometimes undermined livelihoods, by depriving people of land. In today's richer countries, desire has become available to the masses in the form of consumerism.  In modern terms, suffering comes from greed, that is, people wanting more than they need. Spirituality can be an antidote to greed, by offering alternative goals in life. For example, people can practice meditation, and feel better that way. People who follow a spiritual path can still be infected by greed, possibly taking pleasure trips to faraway places, though they know they are unnecessarily contributing to global warming. A spiritual tradition will not protect people from the greed of others. Native American societies might have continued to exist, but they could not defend themselves against invaders who were not able to share land.


S. Kumar, India

It looks here that spirituality has been completely misunderstood by and large! Spirituality should not be narrowed down or to be understand as religious activities rather those are comercial (material) activities (directly or indirectly). Spirituality is beyond religion and could be seen inside each and every individual on this earth, even in a crual man. Also in an individual who fully believe in material or fully believe in spirituality, immaterial what he/she persive form sprituality. So actualy spirituality has bigger responsibility than materials in feeling the hunger stomach, although it alone can not feel the stomach!


Imran Ahimbisibwe, Uganda

Scriptures say that man can not live on bread alone. The element of work and success is central in al spiritual aspects of every society. The Quran teaches that when the believers hear the Adnah (the call for players), they should put down their tools and go to the Mosques.  After the Kutbah they may go back to their trades.
Spiritual richness leads to wisdom that is essential for living a successful life on Earth. Materials are not necessarily needs and the material world can be perceived differently by individuals. For instance people with a demodernised conscious may not regard amassing material wealth as a descent way of living. Environmental degradation is increasingly becoming a limiting factor to the material world.
Extreme poverty is not the lack of materials such as mobile phones or private vehicles but rather the lack of basic needs like food, housing, health services and Education. In Islam we believe that Allah is the provider of every thing. The Quran does not approve monasticism because it was not prescribed by Allah (the noble Quran 57:27). To this end therefore I oppose the motion.