During his inaugural address, US President Obama identified greed as a major cause of the current recession. Whose greed? It’s easy to point the finger at the US mortgage brokers. Certainly they were greedy, but how much harm could they alone have done? Not much. They capitalized on the greed of ordinary Americans for unaffordable homes. Ultimately, if we are honest with ourselves and if we want to help solve the problem, we have to point the finger to ourselves.
Greed arises from lack of a holistic understanding of life. If we compare life to a meal, wealth is like the salt in the meal. When salt is less, the meal is bland. Similarly, when wealth is less, life is dreary. But imagine a meal of only salt; it’s neither tasty nor nutritious, but is harmful. Similar is a life led in pursuit of money alone; it’s neither enjoyable nor healthy, but is self-destructive. Richard Needham pointed out, “When money is seen as a solution for every problem, money itself becomes the problem.”
The Way to Freedom
If we want to curb greed, according to scientific studies, the best way to do this is by increasing our spirituality. A research by Michael McCullough published in the Psychological Bulletin, Jan, 2009, stated: eight decades of research has led to the conclusion that religious belief and piety promote self-control. These findings were reported in the New York Times (12.31.2008) in an article entitled ‘For Good Self-Control, Try Getting Religious About It’. The implication of this article is astounding: The one new-year resolution, which will empower us to stick to all our other resolutions, is the resolution to increase our religious commitment.
The Spiritual Recession
The Vedic texts explain that, as spiritual beings, we innately long for spiritual wealth – the loving, comforting, empowering presence of the Divine in our hearts. Just as a fish suffers as soon as it comes out of water, we become dissatisfied as soon as we lose awareness of that divine presence within us. This loss of awareness constitutes a spiritual recession. Due to spiritual ignorance, we mistakenly ascribe this dissatisfaction to a lack of material possessions. This misdiagnosis impels us to become greedy for external possessions. If we want to cure greed, we need to equip ourselves – and everyone else – with the means to experience inner enrichment. Let’ see the historical story from the Srimad Bhagavatam of how prince Dhruva found inner enrichment.
By contemporary standards, Dhruva was super-ambitious. He desired a kingdom far greater than that of his father, who was himself the ruler of the world. By devotional austerity and mantra meditation, Dhruva not only achieved his ambition, but also purified his heart so that he could rule as a virtuous king, being immunized from greed by his devotion.
Thus, mantra meditation is a time-honored method to find inner enrichment, for it scientifically redirects our greed from worldly things to the original object of our greed – God. In the present age, the most powerful mantra for meditation is the maha-mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Alfred Ford of the Ford motors fame is a noteworthy example of a modern-day devotee; he allocates two hours daily for chanting the Hare Krishna and utilizes his financial resources for aiding devotional projects all over the world. In an interview given to The Times of India, (Spirituality drives this Ford, 8 Dec, 2003), he succinctly stated: "Wealth is a gift from God. It's best if it is used to help others and serve Him ultimately." Being in the motor industry, which has been among the worst-hit by the recession, let’s hear from him how his spiritual practices have helped him face the present crisis: “As far as this recession, having a spiritual outlook is very helpful. You realize that life is transitory and at any time disaster can strike.
We are all looking for something permanent and stable, especially during this very unsettling time. That something is Krishna, or God if you will, but a God who we can go to when in distress. It lightens our burdens and reminds us that everything is in divine loving order. With this connection and titiksha (patience) we can face whatever life gives us.”
That same divine shelter is beckoning every one of us. Indeed, the current economic recession may well be the impetus that we needed to turn to that shelter. Then the seeming adversity of recession will have served as an opportunity to re-discover the Lord, who has been waiting for us in the recess of our hearts.
(The author is a spiritual mentor at ISKCON, Pune. This article is adapted from his latest book “Recession – Adversity or Opportunity?” available from www.thespiritualscientist.com)[ economics ]