‘Jar, joroo aur jameen’ are the three primary reasons of conflict in society, as per an oft repeated Hindi quote. Jar refers to money, joroo signifies wife (women in general) and jameen signifies property. And, the first and last reasons unambiguously denote money.
What is money? Is it good or evil? Is it a catalyst to humanity or is it a festering wound? Well, the philosophical essence of money can be a hotbed of some contentious debate. Swami Vivekanand sums up about this precious resource very aptly- “If money can help a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better.”
Though money may not be able to buy happiness, it does not mean that money and happiness cannot co-exist.
On a deeper, metaphysical level, money is a blessing- it is one of the highest forms of energies. It is like grace, a gift which needs to be respected and revered by nurturing it, by using it for productive purposes. It is a sacred bond between the owner and God meant to be used sensibly for oneself and for those around us. It is a very effective medium to transform lives of have-nots both on an immediate basis as well as for long-term needs. Benjamin Franklin says, “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having it.”
Money is concretized energy or what the ‘ageless wisdom’ calls prana or life force. It can be seen both as a thing (currency) and as a wave of energy. As a thing, it either creates desire or the lack of it could lead to dread. Seen as a wave, money is a stream of flowing energy, undergoing wide circulation. When it is freely given, more can be received from the abundant supply of the universe. Givers gain thus, creating a virtuous circle.
Aspiring for money as a by-product towards a certain purpose or mission in life is a value-add but, the greed for money in itself can be a risky path to walk. More often than not, greed for money is agnostic to the ways taken to acquire it and since the wrong path is easier to walk on, the means to this money is unlawful, illegal and immoral. Also, over a period of time the money so acquired gets indifferent to the output it creates. This greed for money at times spurs people to take hasty and illogical decisions. It could be in the form of an unsound investment idea or it is about placing trust in so-called influencers (we have seen enough of those in the recent path touting cryptocurrencies).
In Hindu mythology, money is attributed to Goddess Lakshmi. The word Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Lakshya’ meaning aim or goal. She is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. The image of Goddess Lakshmi denotes that ceaseless effort, in accordance with one’s dharma (principles, religion and call of duty) and governed by wisdom and integrity leads to both material as well as spiritual prosperity.
Well-known American novelist Ayn Rand’s perspective on money is practical and unbiased. She says “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” Money in itself is not evil or otherwise. It is a means to an end. How we acquire this mercurial Goddess or how we deploy it, is where the crux lies. While money is a medium of exchange for various material things, its inherent value depends on very immaterial or spiritual things like confidence, trust, faith and credibility of an individual, an organisation or a nation.
Practically speaking, money is the most commonly used and understood language. It is a unifying force which cuts across caste, creed, religion, nationalities, age groups, colour, sex, etc. It is a common denominator, the great leveller. It is the one size that fills all.
Here it is important to know the nuanced difference between being rich and being wealthy.
Rich people are driven by money. They are a puppet in the hands of money, even when they have more than adequate amounts. On the other hand, a wealthy person drives money around on the path chosen by him. His actual wealth lies in ideas. He puts his money to productive uses by generating more money out of it and by creating employment thus adding a multiplier to the ecosystem around. He has the luxury of time to pursue and give shape to his ideas.
Money is power, in the most quantifiable way. Therefore, like all power forces it has runs the risk of corrupting its owner. A wise owner is one who lets money be on his mind not in his heart. As the founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford says about making more money, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
Deepali Sen is founder partner of Srujan Financial Services LLP (a Mutual Fund Distributor) and author of ‘Why Greed is Great!’