Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Putting money in its right place

Is money the purpose behind the choices you make and the values you live by? If so, beware! Money is a good servant but a poor master. Money should be the consequence of how you live your life and not the cause of it.
When Jesus Christ was within a hair's breadth of enlightenment, Satan led him to a mountaintop and offered him dominion over the glittering cities spread below. On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, Mara offered him the same temptations. Both refused and were enlightened.
The power of money is based on the fact that it controls the material world. In this arena its power is absolute. Cars, foreign holidays, islands in the sun, beach houses, penthouses, name your dream and fork out the cash. Anyone aspiring to go beyond it is obliged to grapple with and triumph over it.
The first question to address is—Is money good or evil? There may be multiple answers depending on where you are on the path.
We begin with a set notion. Many condemn money outright on account of what men do under its influence-murder, cheat, steal, manipulate, betray. Others may laud the opportunities it unveils and its potency as a motive for action.
From a more fluid viewpoint, money has its good and bad points. It can be used to blow up humanity. It can also be used to create sanctuaries for the spirit. But even that viewpoint is insufficient to understand the power of money. Another factor is the motive behind making and spending money. Making money to gain power over others can have unpalatable consequences for society. Spending money in order to enhance social status is not the best use we can put it to.
Indian scriptures emphasize the importance of right motive. Right living was based on four parameters—dharma (ethical action), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation). This is the framework through which an individual is meant to steer his life. Money and pleasure must be pursued in such a way that it leads you eventually to liberation. Dharma on one hand and moksha on the other safeguard the individual from making money the wrong way or for the wrong purpose. Money, according to traditional wisdom, was meant for the betterment of society. The householder had the sacred obligation to feed Brahmins, indigents and his own family before he ate himself. He was to take care of the unproductive sections of society such as children, widows, the old, and the renunciates. Money was never meant solely for oneself.
Clarifying motive clarifies the attitude towards money. We realize that money is necessary and capable of great good. Because we earn and spend money ethically, we learn to value and respect it. Because we don't use it to gain self-worth or status, we doctor its expenditure purposefully. We arrive at a balance that tells us when to spend, how much to spend and how to spend. This calls for coasting beyond impulse or vanity to the zone of purposeful expenditure. Even indulgence can be purposeful, such as planning a holiday or buying an expensive sari for a festival.
What priority do you give to money in your life? Is money the criterion for the livelihood you choose, the friends you keep, the choices you make and the values you live by? If so, beware! Money, as they say, is a good servant but a poor master. Give it power over you and allow it to determine your life and it will crush you.
Money should be the consequence of how you live your life and not the cause of it. Choose work that you love and that will benefit society, make choices based on your growth and money in all probability will follow. Even if it doesn't, it won't matter for you will have assigned it the lowest place in your life.
Finally, what is the New Age claim all about that it is possible to have financial and spiritual abundance? Of course it is possible, but if anyone is seriously inquiring into it, he or she does not have the detachment for it. Unless you cease to want money, you can never really make the two go together. And once you cease to want it, why should the question be addressed at all?
The apogee of one's relationship with money is attained when one no longer needs it. Unafraid of life and trusting the universe completely, we coast along with a song on our lips, knowing that our needs will be taken care of. We are now free of the material world and can have a shot at enlightenment.
by Suma Varughese
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