By Vraja Bihari Dasa

“Whatever pure fame is possessed by the famous and whatever praiseworthy qualities are found in the virtuous are destroyed by even a small amount of greed, just as one’s attractive physical beauty is ruined by a trace of white leprosy.” – Srimad Bhagavatam (11.23.16)

It was too good to be true. The greedy man was promised all the land he could run through from sunrise to sunset. However he had to be back at the starting point before dusk. If he failed, he wouldn’t get an inch. Grabbing the offer, the man sped like a raging wind. Not the one to be easily satiated, he ran fast and long. Finally a couple hours before the sun signaled its westward journey, he raced back. Time was running out. Panting and huffing, he was exasperated. Dragging his collapsing legs, holding his painful tummy, clenching his teeth and fists to signal grit and determination, he was desperate. As the sun set, he just made it. Tired at the herculean effort however, he collapsed on the ground….never to rise again. He did earn hundreds of acres but a five feet coffin placed his body to rest.

Mr Hansie Cronje met a similar fate. His ambitions soared high as he revolutionized cricketing strategies. As the South African team reigned supreme, millions of dollars poured in, bringing Hansie unprecedented fame. But he wanted more and the rest is an unfortunate chapter in cricketing history. Exposed in a disgraceful match fixing scandal, his life dramatically changed overnight. Cricket lovers felt betrayed as Mr Cronje lamented, “I am ashamed to confess the unfortunate greed that I have nursed for money.” Few years ago, an air crash ended the 36-year-old’s nightmarish life- a heroic saga transforming and culminating in a tragic and premature end. 

Are lessons difficult to learn? Fooling himself, man prides in calling crass greed as ambition. Thus trapped in a vicious and unhealthy cycle of desires, human intelligence is creating havoc in society. The chilling details of the spurious drug market in India should shake us from our slumber. Outlook investigation revealed, one in four medical drugs we buy in India is fake or substandard. The fake pharmaceutical industry sized at Rs 5000 cr. is almost 30% of the size of the legitimate ones. If this isn’t terrifying, we need to note that popular drugs including life saving ones have 12-15 copies in market. The main ingredients of these drugs are sugar, chalk powder and wheat flour. They have a deadly impact, especially in life saving situations and since legitimate companies themselves cannot differentiate fakes, there’s no way a chemist, retailer, wholesale dealer or worse a common man can pin point them. Thus intoxicated by a desire to make fast bucks these pursuits lead to disastrous consequences in society.

Cause of Greed

A man becomes greedy for wealth and power when he has no higher objective in life and when he thinks that this earthly life of a few years is all in all. Convinced that life is merely a combination of various chemicals, man seeks to go all out, giving in to the urges of body and mind. Fulfilling these baser instincts necessitates exploiting both the scarce resources and precious lives of others. As self-centered individuals come together, behind the veil of social norms and courtesies, there’s plotting to topple the other. No wonder then, man stands out as special amongst all animals. Unlike any animal, the biggest threat and fear for a human being is a member of his own species. Besides, no animal faces scarcity of food created by another member of the same species. In modern societies, it is common to find a hungry man beg for food in the street. Interestingly, on the same pavement, stout, enthusiast joggers attempt to rid of their fat, caused by overeating. As extreme squalor and stinking opulence coexist, atmosphere gets surcharged with distrust and hatred.

Making God as the centre of our lives

Greed and exploitation can make way for love and selflessness only when the society becomes God centered. A pebble dropped at the centre of a lake creates uniform ripples. If smaller ‘centers’ are identified within this body of water, the stones dropped at these ‘centers’ would create clashes and the harmony would be lost. Similarly when God is the centre of our lives, one extends warmth and affection to all. As opposed to this when the ‘self’ takes precedence over nobler God centered values, strife is inevitable. As egos clash, reason fails and mayhem prevails. Thus the Vedas implore us to engage our energy, wealth and time for self-realization rather than self-aggrandizement. The Srimad Bhagavatam enjoins (1.2.9):

“All occupational engagements are certainly meant for ultimate liberation. They should never be performed for material gain. Furthermore, according to sages, one who is engaged in the ultimate occupational service should never use material gain to cultivate sense gratification.”

Knowledge of spiritual subject matters relating to soul and life after death will widen the vision of the narrow minded materialist. Being aware of the serious repercussions of violating God’s laws he accepts from nature only what he needs for sustenance.

Power of Love

The Upanishads instruct that since human being is meant for inquiring about the Absolute Truth, nothing else should be the goal of our life (athatho brahma jignasa). The loving propensity towards God has to be reawakened in the burning hearts of modern society. The overwhelming power of love washes off all desires to enjoy at the cost of others. Experiencing deep inner peace and satisfaction, a devotee is unshaken. Sridhar Kolavech was a simple banana leaf seller, who lived in Bengal five hundred years ago. He refused to trade his poverty for all the wealth of heavenly planets. The Supreme Lord was ‘purchased’ by the love of Sridhar whose heart flooded with ecstatic devotion to Krishna. A friend to all, he desired only service (Chaitanya Bhagavat). Many sadhus living in Kashi, Ayodhya, Vrindavan and other Holy places have relinquished wealth, only to plunder the boundless wealth of devotional service, and the joy of self realization. Living a simple life, they practice spiritual discipline, and touch the hearts of others, inspiring all to love and serve God. Thus a devotee’s ever expanding greed for service to God adds to his spiritual wealth. Cultivating this greed not only purifies us of the material contamination of greed, it also helps us achieve real peace and well being in society.

The author is a celibate teacher at ISKCON ashram at Chowpatty, Mumbai

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