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Re: pursuit of wealth

From: Murali Kadambi (
Date: Fri Jul 02 1999 - 10:04:45 PDT

Dear Sri Mani and all other esteemed bhAgawatAs,

Mani's question is very thought provoking and extremely relevant in our
context.  I guess I have thought about this for sometime now.  I can
only speak for myself but the conclusion I have come to is that
(unfortunately) only a two-pronged approach works (for me): pursue both
material and spiritual goals.

There have been thoughts racing in my mind sometimes that I should just
give up materialistic pursuits and just settle down in Kanchipuram or
Srirangam and learn our SiddhAntam in a way I can follow it.  But very
soon, my mind starts thinking of other things sometimes totally at odds
with the previous thought -- "Chanchalam hi manah krishna" as Arjuna
laments about the flirtatious mind.

I think we should go back to what Geetacharya says, and ruminate on it
to find a solution to our dilemma.  Disclaimer: My interpretation is
far from being erudite ... but it may be sufficient for our purposes.
Sri Krishna advised Arjuna to do what is intrinsically natural for
human beings to do to attain Atma saakshaatkaara :- Action.  Hence, do
Karma yoga.  But do it with Atma Jn~ana.  Note that the context there
was that Arjuna felt Jn~ana yoga was superior.

Permit my novice attempt at extrapolating the meaning and even the
context of that advice for our purposes.  In our case, we are torn
between materialistic and spiritual ways of life.  I personally feel
(again I speak for myself) that material pursuit (to a limited extent)
is of utmost importance even for our own basic needs.  Just as action
is natural to a baddha jeeva, so is his need for material wealth.  So,
as starters let's just not give up our materialistic pursuits if we are
not ready to do so.  Just alter it to have a spiritual purpose.  Let us
not just dive into a mendicant way of life, because we might not be
ready for it.  Besides, even bhagawad rAmAnuja in his geeta bhAsya
says: "nyAyArjita dhanena mahA yajn~Adigam krtvA ... sareera dhAraNam
kAryam." which approximately means: "Earn in righteous ways and use the
earnings to do the 5 mahA yajn~as, and sustain your body by living on
the remains of the offerings given during these yajn~as."  My point
here is that even rAmAnuja points out that material is necessary for
sareera dhAraNam.

So, this would be my way of looking at Mani's problem.  Determine your
material requirement that will maximize your spiritual goals.  We must
most certainly be able to find an optimum.  I am sure that most of us
cannot be spiritually optimal if we are starving for 2 days (in my case
a few hours).  And neither are we spiritually optimal on the other side
of the spectrum, i.e., if we are too indulgent in material things.  So,
focus on what amount of material life gives you the maximum spiritual
output.  This reminds me of a short story my AchArya Srimad VedAnta
RamAnuja mahA desikan (thirukkuDantai Andavan) has written (may be in a
different context) in his commentary on the Geeta Bhasya.

A person going to the temple meets two people on the street.  One is a
rich businessman and the other an extremely poor beggar.  He asks the
businessman:  "Do you go to the temple?"  To this he answers:  "To the
temple?  No.  I work throughout the day, and I have to do the accounts
in the evening, and by the time I am done, the day is over, and since I
work seven days a week, I have no time for anything else."  When asked
the same question, the mendicant answers:  "Where is the time to go the
temple, if you have a wife and four kids to feed?  All I can do is beg
for alms, and hunger doesn't take a vacation."

So, the moral of the story is this:  Let us not put ourselves in either
of these positions.  I think the most important thing to do is to
concentrate on the spiritual pursuit and adjust your material conquests
accordingly, so that gradually, we hope, the spiritual pursuit becomes
stronger and the material needs weaker.

|| sarvam sree krishnArpaNam ||
- aDiyEn,
muraLi kadAmbi

--- Mani Varadarajan <> wrote:
> Dear Bhaktas,
> A question has been on my mind lately:
> to what degree is the pursuit of wealth
> compatible with the principles of our
> religion?
> A simple, knee-jerk answer would be that 
> wealth should be pursued to the extent that
> one needs it to sustain oneself and one's
> family. We are repeatedly taught that materialism
> leads only to misery and nothing higher.  It seems, 
> however, that this is is too simplistic an answer 
> to a complex question.
> Our ideals are people such Nammalvar, Desika, 
> and other early acharyas, who completely eschewed 
> building their personal fortunes in favor of 
> spiritual pursuits. There are many other
> real-world examples, even outside our sampradAya,
> such as Sankaracharya.
> However, today, we are faced with situations where
> it seems as if a significant amount of wealth is
> needed to care for oneself and one's family. Health
> care is expensive, college is expensive, food is
> expensive, travel to India is expensive, books are
> expensive -- where does it end?
> Modern day scholars such as Uttamur
> Viraraghavachariar
> and Kanchi P.B. Annangarachariar dedicated their
> life
> to traditional learning, so it seems that such a
> detached
> life is possible. But is it really? Both of these 
> scholars depended on very wealthy disciples and
> sponsors
> to continue their pursuits. Clearly, someone here is
> building wealth, and such wealth is "useful".
> I find it hard to pursue wealth, even a little bit,
> and
> at the same time concentrate on detaching myself
> from
> material desires. From all sides, we are encouraged 
> to pursue money. It's not just the West that
> encourages
> this, but countless "traditional" forces in India as
> well.  The poor man is rarely respected as much as
> the
> rich man, even among hyper-religious circles.
> Grandparents,
> parents, and friends, Indian or otherwise, counsel
> us
> to make lots of money to live a so-called
> "comfortable"
> life.  Famous swamis such as the Ahobila and
> Vaanamaamalai
> jeeyars are heavily dependent on rich disciples for
> their
> activities.  
> Here's the bottom line question: is a detached,
> unmaterialistic
> life religiously necessary? Is it possible? If so,
> how does one
> go about it? To what extent should one pursue
> wealth, if one
> is truly desirous of liberation?
> I invite thoughtful responses from all members,
> including
> those outside the sampradAya.
> Mani

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