Chakra Living

Money Sweeter Than Honey

by HH Bhakti Raghava Swami

Posted September 14, 2010

Money is so dear that one conceives of money as being sweeter than honey. Therefore, who can give up the desire to accumulate money, especially in household life? Thieves, professional servants [soldiers] and merchants try to acquire money even by risking their very dear lives. [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.10]

"Money is sweeter than honey" is a common expression which has a special significance for most people living in the modern era of industrialization. The global politics of governance and diplomacy now place more emphasis on artificial, factory-based economic growth than on the traditional, natural, agriculture-based growth of a country, thus forcing people to live in such a way that they will not be able to subsist without receiving a paycheque at the end of the month. That is the propaganda being promoted, and, to a large extent, that is today's reality of life. A Press Trust of India article, "Need to Migrate Workers from Agriculture to Services for High Growth: RBI" (June 18, 2010), in no unclear terms give credence to this ongoing policy. This trend is a global one which has been in practice now for many decades. That such an article appeared in a public forum simply shows how governments take for granted that economic development through industrialization is meant to be the norm for one and all.

For most people in today's world, if one does not receive a paycheque at the end of the month, one cannot survive. Those who cannot join the labour force due to illness, lack of job opportunities or, sometimes, sheer laziness, will approach government-established agencies in order to receive social assistance benefits, commonly referred to in the West as welfare assistance. With rising unemployment in different countries, more and more people are either receiving a monthly welfare cheque or an unemployment cheque. Others, who may be disabled, due either to natural calamities or to the tragedies brought about by the modern way we live, may receive a monthly disability pension cheque. In some of the more developed countries, people who reach 60 or 65 years of age qualify to receive an old age pension cheque at the end of every month until they expire. Governments can only meet such expenditures by levelling increased upon the healthy folks who can work.

All of the above has come about due to deviations from the standard Vedic norms of life. The Vedic view of life is that one should strive for self-realization and be satisfied with whatever Krishna arranges, while working a reasonable number of hours a day — the general norm being not more than eight. The goal of life was not based on economic development as we find in modern-day society, but on self-development or self-realization. In the Vedic culture, the medium of exchange was not based on an artificial and fraudulent paper money currency but rather on real wealth. Actual wealth was measured in how much grains one had in stock, in how many cows one protected and in how much land one cultivated. Before marriage, the criterion for accepting a bridegroom was how many cows and how much land he owned.

Canakya Pandit, one of the well-known moralists of his times, stated that real happiness was not having to leave home to make a living and not being a debtor. Srila Prabhupada made a similar statement when he said that intelligence means not leaving the village and going to the cities to engage in hard labour. Canakya Pandit also explained that three things should never be neglected: fire, disease and debts. According to the Vedic teachings, "one should own as much as he immediately needs." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.13.36]. For this reason, Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur would instruct his temple leaders to spend all they had received the same day and thus avoid keeping money, which could be a source of anxiety.

Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksa. The four pillars in the Vedic culture are found in dharma (religion), artha (money), kama (satisfaction of the senses) and moksa (liberation). Vaisnavas generally reject these four activities, thinking them to be maya and binding one to this material world. However, these four activities can either be a source of bondage or a source of liberation depending on the consciousness in which they are performed.

Religion (dharma) practiced for selfish material motivation, money (artha) gained through non-traditional occupations and for merely material pursuits, satisfaction of the senses (kama) performed merely for unrestricted self-centered sense enjoyment and liberation (moksa) pursued for merging into brahman, will certainly bind one more and more to this material world. However, these same activities of dharma, artha, kama and moksa when performed in proper knowledge and understanding of the real goal of life can help one make steady progress in spiritual life. The varnasrama system gives this proper understanding and guidelines as to how such four activities are meant to be performed in life, with a view of satisfying Lord Hari.

Dharma should be performed in the context of devotional service (param dharma) which will result in yayatma suprasīdati [SB 12.6], where all things will be satisfied. Artha should be in keeping with the standard traditional occupations given within an agrarian-based society — production of food and protection of cows (krishi-go-rakshya [Bg 18.44]) being by far the most prominent activities — where the emphasis on self-sufficiency and the bartering system resulted in most people not having to deal the local currency. Kama should be performed in a regulated way for the purpose of keeping body and soul together with the goal and higher purpose of rendering devotional service to the Lord. Moksa will then be automatically attained by one who performs the three above activities in such higher consciousness.

Modern Paper Currency Flawed. Within the system of varnasrama, three-fourth of the population does not earn money, namely the brahmacaris, those in the vanaprastha and those in the sannyas asrama. Grhasthas, in particular the ksatriya householders and the vaisya householders, assisted by the sudra householders, are meant to support the rest of society. The brahmanas and sudra class do not earn money, only the ksatriya class through taxation and the vaisya class, but only one portion of the vaisya class, those engaged in trade, vanijyam. Those engaged in both krishi, agriculture and go-rakshya, cow protection, also do not deal with money but rather with goods.

The real currency should be in minerals such as gold or silver, and the real wealth should be in having tangible goods such as land, cows, grains, etc. The paper currency currently in use is both artificial and fraudulent since it does not represent real wealth. Most countries in the world are in severe debts (and increasing every year), including the USA, with only temporary and flawed adjustments being made to salvage the present global economic crisis.

It was only a few decades ago that in most countries of the world the majority of people were living in rural areas and most people did not even need money. The land is meant to provide for all our necessities of life. Even in a country like Canada, going back to the early part of the 20th century when most Canadians were living in the country, practically speaking all their necessities were met from the land, including clothing and shelter.

The Emerging Politics of Food Scarcity. "The last century has seen ballooning populations develop impossible economies — all based on a dream of perpetually cheap energy, and based on ignorance of the laws of finiteness in regards to all the natural elements that make our life possible. The cheap energy bubble is bursting, soil and water are in overdraft, and the result is acute vulnerabilities for nations who've exceed their resource base. Industrialized countries amongst these are passing those vulnerabilities along — to nations that still have true wealth (soil, water) but who do not have social infrastructures sufficient to properly protect them. Many poor [countries] are having their natural capital sold out from under them," — Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute.

Spiritual Economics. The Vedic model of local and global economy is based on simplicity, psychology, logic, and God-conscious principles. Sriman Dhanesvara das is well versed in the basic concepts of varnasrama dharma and has deeply studied the essential teachings of the Bhagavad-gita in the context of economy. He has compiled a Krishna-conscious thesis in the form of a book entitled Spiritual Economics. A portion of his introduction can help us gain more insight on the topic of money:

"Spiritual Economics, as a cross-disciplinary study combining psychology, economics and the spiritual science of the Bhagavad-gita explains why there is vulture capitalism, cutthroat competition, unending economic hardship, exploitation, inequity and struggle in this world. Spiritual Economics explains the origin and solution of our ecological problems. Spiritual Economics explains why the present economic methods can do nothing to solve these problems, reveals the actual source of our economic problems, and explains the only factual solution that can create an economy that serves everyone. Spiritual Economics explains the actual source of our economic problems and how to solve them once and for all."

A Memo from the Past. A short message written during the time of the Roman Empire by Cicero (55 BC) gives us a little insight regarding the topic at hand: "The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." What have we learned in 2064 years? Apparently, nothing.

As widely advised by our acaryas, whatever money comes our way we should utilize in the service of the Lord. The Vedic norm is that 50 percent of one's income is meant to be used for helping spread Krishna consciousness. Money, when thus used in the Lord's service, becomes a means of liberation for the living entity. But money used for sense gratification, either self-centred or extended, becomes a source of bondage to this material world.

The varnasrama system is so designed as to help us minimize and ultimately do away with the need for paper money by stressing a lifestyle of simple living and high thinking, in keeping with the principles of self-sufficiency and sustainability, depending on the mercy of the Lord.