1...God won't ask what kind of car you drove;
He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.
2... God won't ask the square footage of your house,
He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
3...God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet,
He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.
4... God won't ask what your highest salary was,
He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
5...God won't ask what your job title was,
He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
6... God won't ask how many friends you had,
He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
7... God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived,
He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.
8...God won't ask about the color of your skin,
He'll ask about the content of your character.
9... God won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation,
He'll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of
10...God won't ask how many times you prayed,
He'll ask how many times you prayed for others.
Inspire Me - index page
Submitted to SBOI by Lalita Rao
Loving Sai Ram and
greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. This week, we would like to
briefly take you in a direction that you might not at all consider
spiritual, namely economics, markets and all that. Having taken you
on that detour, it shall then be our endeavour to convince you that
wealth generation and the proper use of wealth cannot be divorced
In a sense, economics and wealth dynamics are all about money. True,
the concept of wealth goes back to the time when there was no
currency and only barter. The advent of coins enabled wealth to be
moved around more easily than moving bartered goods, and that was a
major step forward. Let us say that five thousand years ago, two
people do a barter exchanging a goat for some firewood. The man who
receives the firewood has to carry it all the way back home. These
days, however, when a villager sells a goat he gets cash, which he
takes home; later he uses that cash to buy whatever he needs from
the place where it is available. Money being “fluid”, it makes
business easier than old style barter. In this age of electronic
communications, new dimensions have been added to financial
transaction. As someone remarked, money is no longer coins or even
currency notes; it is a set of binary numbers in electronic code.
We are conscious that you are aware of all this but even so, this
preamble would set the stage for what follows. Science and
Technology have immensely aided manufacture, which in turn has
spurred everything from trade and business to transportation and
communication. For example, recent statistics show that the O’Hare
Air Port in Chicago is the busiest in America , with roughly 500,000
plane landings and takeoffs in a six-month period! It is just
So what has all this got to do with Spirituality? Everything,
because in one way or the other, it is all connected with money!
Money is a great magnet, and few can resist its attraction.
Sadhus might say they are not
attracted to money, but it requires money to keep even
Sadhus alive – someone has to
give them charity! And the powerful attractor that money is, it
tends to draw people out very much into the world in quest of money.
Having drawn people into the world and got them hooked, money keeps
the attention of such people rooted very much to the world. A man
who has made a million starts thinking, “I am a millionaire now but
how can I become a billionaire?” On the other hand, there might be a
man who has borrowed heavily for some reason or the other, and he is
all the time worried about how he is going to raise money to pay off
his debts. With all this preoccupation with money, people lose sight
of God and often with it, the quality of goodness. Of course there
are others who, while worshipping money, have not entirely forgotten
God, but for selfish reasons. They want God to be the Great Provider
by giving them more money and still more money. This is nothing new
and five thousand years ago, Krishna declared that this is one type
of devotee, who unfailingly comes to Him!
Why is man attracted to money? It is all due to the Mind! As Swami
says, the Mind of man can either make him look towards the world or
inwards. If it looks outwards, then it easily succumbs to the
attractions that the world provides in plenty. Man is then deluded
into thinking that money is the royal road to all happiness. The
connection to Spirituality is rooted in precisely this delusion that
traps man; more about that later.
Money being at the heart of manufacture, trade, business, commerce,
etc., is necessarily the engine of every conceivable economic
system. For almost everyone today, being wealthy simply means having
a lot of money. For about three hundred years or so, great thinkers
have tried to formulate the basic principles of wealth generation,
social well-being etc., and as a result, many theories of economics
have come into existence. For some, well-being starts with
opportunities for individual enterprise, making lots of money,
minimal interference from the State, etc. This has led to the
Capitalist system of economics, which, in recent times, has soared
to the concept of absolute free-market economy cum globalisation. At
the other end, we had, until recently, Communism that many countries
went for, and “Scientific Socialism” which India opted for. As far
as Communism as an economic philosophy is concerned, despite its
strong ideological appeal at one time , it has now become more or
less extinct, though there are still countries that are “Communist”
as far as the political system of government is concerned.
Scientific Socialism too is all but dead, despite some loyalists
continuing to pay lip sympathy to it. Currently, the free-market
philosophy with the “icing” of globalisation added to it is the
dominant survivor, actively peddled by those who stand to gain much
Today there is a lot of hype about the glory of globalisation and
the free-market economy, but are they really the roaring successes
they are claimed to be? It all depends on whom you ask. Those who
have benefited from it would undoubtedly hail it in the most
flattering terms. But if you ask the millions and millions who have
been left out, nay sacrificed, it is a different story.
The free market philosophy is focussed almost entirely on wealth
generation for a few, the shareholders. If others benefit by the
process, that is purely incidental. Though many may be involved in
the market processes as employees of various sorts, when it comes to
brass tacks, it is a few that determine the fate of many. Throughout
history, it has often been this way, but the power of modern
technology has enormously magnified the impact factor.
In the last couple of decades, high power technology and high power
business have affected people all over the world in many ways,
creating in general a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots
in all countries with big economies. Even in America , once the
dreamland where the poor could become rich by working hard, they now
say that if you are poor, you had better get out of America . If
that is what is happening in America , the situation in the “newly
emerging economies” like China and India is even worse. One might
say, “Sorry that is inevitable in a free-market economy; that’s the
way the cookie crumbles.” Maybe, but when hundreds of millions
suffer, Society as a whole pays a price, and a big one too, that
inevitably would one day impact those in the comfort zone also.
What we are driving at is that it is no longer enough to talk in
terms of “costs”, “efficiency”, “profitability”, etc., as calculated
by accountants and finance experts in big Corporations. Costs and
profits may mean a lot to shareholders, but Corporations exist in
the midst of Society and what happens to Society eventually makes an
impact on everyone, including industry, business and finance. Thus,
the business sector cannot clinically exclude from its
considerations, the public who are STAKEHOLDERS. If it does, then
while it may enjoy short-term gains, in the long run it too would
have to pay, and heavily too. As someone said, one cannot have an
island of prosperity in an ocean of misery.
Where the human race is concerned, everyone
is a stakeholder. This important point has been consistently ignored
in the past, but it no longer can be, especially in this age of high
technology and fast communications. These days, when smoke clouds
are produced by the burning of huge forests in one country they
choke people in another country. Excessive fishing by the big
fishing corporations of one country can ruin the poor fishermen of
another country. Massive emission by hundreds of millions of
vehicles in one or more rich countries now threatens the climate of
the entire planet. So on the examples go. In
every case, there is a price to pay and that price is paid by
Society. In some cases, the price is paid by people in the same
country where the problem originates, while in other cases it is
people elsewhere that pay the price. And in some cases, everyone
pays the price, no matter where.
We cannot go into all the details here but the essential point is
that when there are huge imbalances, there will necessarily be
conflict, violence, large-scale suffering, etc. Violence, cruelty
and exploitation have no doubt been always present in mankind, but
what makes the current situation frightening is the scale.
Which brings us to our central point: It is time to move away from
socio-economic philosophies that focus on profits for a
few to a philosophy that is wedded to the
well-being of all. Currently, there is too much
importance given to individual and corporate enterprise, and very
little, if at all, to Society. This precisely is where Swami’s
teachings come strongly into the picture. Swami says that without
self-control, and we stress the prefix self, the human Mind would
inevitably tend to seek self-advantage and focus entirely on the
short term. This may appear to be very rewarding but the advantages
that seem to accrue are illusory. As Swami says [this was in a
recent Sai Inspires Message],
“Human existence is enveloped in infatuation,” often with money we
So what is the alternative? Swami says that the starting point of
how one views oneself ought not to be the lower self [which is the
one that wants profit in a hurry etc.,] but the Higher Self or God.
Next, one must realise that God the Creator brought Creation/Nature
into existence. Society is a part of this Creation and the
individual is a limb of Society. So there is this Cosmic Hierarchy:
God, Nature, Society and the individual, which should
never be lost sight of.
The individual must conduct himself/herself in such a manner that is
not harmful to Society, does not disturb Nature and is in harmony
with God; that is to say, one must always act in full
consonance with one’s intrinsic Divine nature. If a
person does this, the person would not be in the business of selling
fast food and soft drinks, however profitable they might be; why?
Because fast foods and soft drinks harm people and thus Society.
When a high percentage of the population becomes obese, when a large
number of children develop diabetes at a young age, etc., Society
ends up paying a very high price. The companies may make profit but
if Society as a whole loses, is that good?
In today’s Society, it is dangerous to delink money-making from its
consequences to Society. Economic theories can no longer afford to
start from notions of unfettered freedom for the market. One must
instead move away from the hitherto sacred principle that the
individual has the right to make money to
the principle that the individual has responsibilities
to discharge to both Society and to Nature. In other words, economic
philosophy must start from basic moral and human values
and duties that arise thereof rather than rights that the individual
might think he or she is entitled to. If we start with
value-based economics, then we would have
value-based trade and commerce, which in turn would ensure fair
distribution of wealth, minimisation of exploitation, well-being for
all in some reasonable measure. The present system is based on
competition. On the face of it, competition might look like a good
thing but soon it gets contaminated by all the evil tendencies
lurking within humans, at which point it leads to painful
History has shown that Society moves
forward through harmonious co-operation, which is why the
Vedas extol co-operation. And
that also is why Swami talks to us often about Unity, Purity and
Divinity. Humanity must shine with humanness
and NOT with meanness. That will happen only
when we stop dreaming all the time about profits, and turn instead
to using money for common good. We can never
prosper in isolation. The dynamics of Society are such that money
gotten by unfair and evil means would always
produce its own unpleasant reflection via the problems in Society.
There is much that we can say on this
subject, but we shall not. Instead, we bring to you a small extract
from a Divine Discourse that Swami gave in Bombay on 12 th March,
1999 at a reception given to Him in the Cooperage ground by the
elite of Bombay (now Mumbai).. Many who spoke before Bhagavan
expressed grave concern about the rising crime in Bombay .
Responding to those fears, this is what Swami said :
Is Bombay in
a healthy state today? No! Hundreds of thousands of people are
living in slums. Tens of thousand children receive no schooling at
all. They roam the streets and take to evil paths. Any number of
people are sick and they are left to their fate. In this same city,
there are many rich and well-to-do people also. They also are a part
of the same Society. They have become rich on account of this very
Society; all their wealth has come from the people. But what is it
that they are doing with their money? Are they using even a fraction
of it for the general good of the public? Are they doing any
service? Are they helping the poor in any way? Are they bothered?
Are they concerned at all? Do they at least think of them and their
misery? Do they feel compassion for them?
What this quote reveals is that money is
the starting point of many of the problems of Bombay that Swami
alluded to. What applies to Bombay applies to many other parts of
the world as well. Values and NOT money should be the
starting point of economic philosophy. When one starts
with values, one knows how to deal with money properly; money would
then not be an end in itself, but the means to alleviate the
suffering of the poor and the dispossessed. However, if values are
abandoned right at start, then there can be only disaster. We might
in passing also draw attention to yet another of the recent
Sai Inspires Message that says ,
“It is only when you experience other’s suffering as your own, that
human value is manifested.”
We took up this topic of extreme economic asymmetry just to stress
that Swami’s teachings are extra-ordinarily profound and touch
all aspects of life. They are of immense value
to humanity, especially in the present critical juncture. Will
humanity realise that? Will the world wake up? We leave you to
speculate about those issues! Meanwhile, if you have any comments,
please do not hesitate to write to us.
All best until we get together again next
weekend. Jai Sai Ram .
With Love and Regards,
Inspire Me - index page