All materialistic cultures are founded on the human craving for more. Materialism and consumerism assume that fulfilling desires and the enjoyment of pleasures are all that is required to make us happy and contented.
In India, Charvakas not only advocate consumerism but also go to the extent of saying that one should enjoy worldly possessions even if one has to beg, borrow or steal. They believe in the maxim: Live as if there is no tomorrow .
According to the Charvakas, while life remains, we should live happily because once the body is dead it can never come back to life. Hence, according to the Charvakas, one must enjoy life to the core. And what is enjoyment It is to eat delicious food, seeking the company of the beautiful and young, wearing good clothes and accessories, decorating oneself and experiencing instant gratification wherever possible.
Indian tradition takes a holistic view of human nature. It argues that material aspects, however important they may be for human existence, do not exhaust the whole of the personality of a human being. It recognises that besides having physical needs and cravings, we have spiritual aspirations also. Why limit human aspiration to only the physical plane?
The spiritual goal alone distinguishes the human being from other forms of life. A man does not aspire for just artha and kama or the economic and the emotional; he also wishes for dharma and moksha, the moral and the spiritual. So its not as though we only seek the ephemeral and fleeting, we are inclined also to look for what could be eternal and enduring.
Indic seers recognised the pitfalls of pursuing only materialistic goals. The Mundaka Upanishad calls those people fools who crave for material goods, and regard fulfilment of sensate desires alone as the highest good .
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna calls them muddha fools who are imbued with aasuric or demoniac nature. The Gita describes the mindset of such people: I wanted this and today I got it. I want that; I shall acquire it tomorrow. All these riches are now mine; soon I shall have more. I have killed this enemy; I will kill all others as well and shall soon conquer the world. I am the ruler of men. I enjoy the things of this world. I am successful strong and happy. I am very wealthy and so nobly born. Who is my equal This mindset gives rise to passion, anger and greed that in turn lead to constant strife within the individual and in his dealings with others.
Buddha, after analysing the cause of dukha, says that suffering is not due to chance and caprice. It is because of certain conditions. If these conditions are removed, then suffering, too, ceases to be. He came to the conclusion that desire is the root cause of suffering. In his Fourth Noble Truth he lays down an eightfold path for ending all desire.
Ancient seers realised that desires are never satiated by the enjoyment of desires; thereby they only flame forth ever more like fire with butter . That is why they teach us to enjoy through renunciation . Desires and even their fulfilment, instead of being a source of happiness might spiral so out of control that they become the root cause of suffering.