Is material progress really the culprit?

Acharya Prashant
6 min readAug 6, 2022

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): I have a dilemma related to material progress. When I have debates with my friends and relatives who are good with academics and meditate sometimes, they are of the view that any kind of development, such as mobile phones, the internet, etc., is a positive progress for us. I disagree with them.

Let’s consider the mobile phone as an example. We can ignore all the unhealthy uses and focus only on the positives — for example, if I am in an emergency, I can call my family for help. I still consider the mobile phone harmful, although it does have utility in this context. If I did not have the option to call my family, people around me would take care of me.

So, I think that the mobile phone has increased the separation between us. And the same goes for other inventions. The car used as an ambulance might have some utility, but we were taking care of our health even before ambulances were invented.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Do the facts corroborate your stance?

Q: My stance is that I do not want this progress.

AP: Your stance is that even before the ambulance was there, people were being taken care of. If you look at the average life expectancy of the people, let’s say, in the 16th or 17th century, what do you find there? Or, let’s say, you look at the situations of Europe at the time of the Black Plague — what do you find there? Or would you say that even without antibiotics and medical advances, people were still being taken care of?

Let’s just try to consider this — maybe I am not entirely right on this, it is for you to consider. What you are saying is, “I exist at a particular point of time — I, my body. Everything that existed before me is alright, and anything that is going to come in my time and after my time is evil. So, the center of decision-making is my physical existence.” Is it not body-centricity and materialism of the deepest kind?

You are saying, “Technology before my physical existence is alright; technology after my physical existence is not alright.” Who are you to become the center of decision-making? And what if somebody in the 16th century was saying the same…