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Sustainable consumption as a means to self-realization: a Hindu perspective on when enough is enough
journal contributionposted on 2010-01-01, 00:00 authored by Yamini NarayananYamini Narayanan
In this paper, I investigate the religious notion of self-realization or self-actualization in the context of sustainability, and argue that sustainability is the means to this end. I am particularly interested in Hindu perspectives on self-realization or the Purusharthas. The Purusharthas provide an interesting sustainability critique because they consider the satisfaction of material want as an important step to self-actualization; the reconciliation of want and need is a fundamental sustainability tension. The issue of growing want is doubtless an important one, given the rapidly growing middle classes in the developing world that aspire to Western material dreams, as illustrated by the case of Delhi. The Purusharthas may be seen to give consumption legitimacy; however, I argue that it is the selective understanding and institutionalization of the religious message that causes the sustainability problem. Viewed in their entirety, the Purusharthas provide the correct prescriptions for the sustainable enjoyment of want, and take the adherent beyond sustainability into greater transcendence or self- awareness.