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True Wealth is God's Grace

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba delivered a series of divine discourses in May 1973 on Bhaja Govindam, the famous verses composed by the great teacher Sri Adi Shankaracharya and a few of his disciples. Diving deep into the principles contained in these verses and practicing them is an assured way to liberation. That is why this composition is also called Moha Mudgara (destroyer of delusion). This is in line with Swami's teaching, that Moha Kshaya (destruction of delusion) is the way to Moksha (liberation). All spiritual practices focus on getting rid of delusion. Delusion leads to the wrong identification that we are the body, mind, and intellect and makes us forget our true identity - Atman, Brahman, or pure Love. That is also the message of Swami’s letter featured in this issue, where He writes that ignorance is the greatest curse and ego is the root cause of all troubles. 

In the previous issues of this magazine, we dwelt on various verses focusing on satsang (holy company) as a ladder to liberation (January 2024 issue), seeing everything as Brahman (February 2024 issue), and getting rid of the cycle of birth and death (April 2024 issue). In this issue, we focus on an important verse that refers to the problem of attachment to material wealth and how to overcome it to get God’s grace. The deep contemplation and practice of these teachings will redeem our lives and give us liberation. 

Dharma and Artha Should Always Go Together 

Bhaja Govindam, from which the following verse is taken, begins with the preceptor addressing everyone as Moodha Mathi (an ignorant person) and then reveals truths that lead us to become Mukta Mathi (a liberated person). 

The scriptures discuss the four Purusharthas (goals of human life), namely Dharma (right conduct), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire), and Moksha (liberation). Swami says in His 17th discourse of the 1973 Summer Course: 

“Artha and Kama will attain their correct significance if we regard Dharma as our primary basis and Moksha as our final destination. These days, we forget the basis and the destination and retain only that which is in the middle, and all our life is spent thinking of Artha and Kama. By neglecting the foundation, Dharma, and the goal, Moksha, we are concentrating only on Artha and Kama. In fact, we should put Dharma and Artha together and Kama and Moksha together. By doing so, we shall use wealth for good purposes and desire only to attain Moksha.”

Live a Noble Life and Practice Virtues

We should acquire wealth by righteous means and use it to serve society. Similarly, we should desire liberation only, and all our actions must arise from that primary motivation. But people are more interested in amassing wealth and have unlimited desires. That is why Swami introduced the concept of 'ceiling on desires'. Resources such as time, money, energy, and food, saved by this practice, can be used to serve society.

Swami brings back our attention, saying, “Money does many wrongs if not used properly” and “Money comes and goes, but morality comes and grows.” We witness many billionaires in many parts of the world who become bankrupt. Thus, real, permanent wealth is achieved by living a noble life and practicing virtues. Such people are treasured and remembered forever by humanity. 

One such great example is Lord Buddha, who renounced his royal material comforts, palace, and kingdom in search of the truth. He wanted to find the source of human suffering and the way to its cessation. Ultimately, he found the answer and attained Nirvana (enlightenment). Not only did he attain enlightenment, but he also became the source of enlightenment for millions around the world over millennia. Many kings have come and gone. Nobody remembers them. But Lord Buddha is adored and worshiped in millions of households worldwide, and his teachings are the source of solace and peace to many. 

Ideal Way to Deal With Money

In His discourse on November 23, 1985, Swami says,

“A man should own only as much wealth as is essential. It is like the size of his shoes. If the shoes are too loose, he cannot walk; if they are too tight, he cannot wear them. Too much money is torture; rich people will agree with this judgment. It is foolish to accumulate money and sit on the pile, which turns into garbage. Garbage stinks in a place. Spread garbage over the corn field, and it will fertilize the crop and multiply the harvest. After all, how much and how long can a man enjoy?”

The amount of money one has should neither be too little nor too much. If one does not have enough money to meet basic needs like food and shelter, one cannot think about God. Too much wealth leads to worry about its loss due to family, friends, or the government, thus taking focus away from God. The great philosopher and poet Bhartrihari says that money has only three destinies–bhoga (enjoyment, including supporting family and friends), dana (service to society or charity), and naasha (wastage or destruction).

Sri Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism and first Guru, emphasized that one should have just enough money to meet the necessities of one’s life. One should not amass wealth for personal aggrandizement and indulgence. It should be used in the service of society. True money is the money one spends; the remaining money is imaginary, as it exists only in one’s mind. The moment a billionaire dies, all the amassed wealth belongs to someone else and is of no use to the billionaire! 

Our dear Swami quotes from the ancient scriptures and explains the manner in which one should apportion and wisely use one’s wealth in His divine discourse of May 14, 1984:

“You must earn wealth by adhering to Dharma (Right conduct). Utilize wealth for the right ends. Our ancients laid down four avenues for the utilization of wealth or earnings. One-fourth should be used for personal use and for supporting the family. Another fourth should be used for charitable and religious purposes. A third quarter should be spent on other living beings like animals, birds, etc. The remaining fourth should be offered to support the State. It is only when one’s wealth is utilized in this manner will it be really beneficial and meaningful.”

The 3 Ws to Overcome 3 Ws

Swami says in His divine discourse on July 28, 1999, that just as the earth revolves around the sun, man revolves around money from dawn to dusk. In pursuit of that, man is caught up in grief and bondage. That is the true ‘world wide web’ (www) that man is caught in - wine, women, and wealth. Swami says that one must practice the other 3 Ws to get out of this web, namely work, worship, and wisdom. Work here stands for the path of selfless service (Karma Yoga). Worship is the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). Wisdom is the path of Self-enquiry and knowledge (Jnana Yoga). 

Swami reassures us that there is nothing wrong with wealth in itself; it is only about how it is put to use. For example, a knife can be used to kill people or heal people, as when it is used in surgeries. Only by the grace of God can one use wealth for the right purpose. Wealth can be accumulated selfishly or distributed selflessly for the welfare of all. Swami says in His divine discourse of July 11, 1959:

“Money (duddu) must also circulate like blood (blooddu)! Otherwise, it will cause ill health. There is no better method of using money than for promoting devotion, because then the entire system, individual and social, will benefit. If money is stored and not circulated, it will cause ‘social edema,’ and the swellings may become boils and burst.”

If blood stops circulating in the blood vessels of the heart, one gets a heart attack. Similarly, if blood stops circulating in the blood vessels leading to the brain, it leads to a stroke. When blood flows normally, one is healthy. So, too, if money is accumulated without proper use, society gets an ‘attack’ or ‘stroke’ of degeneration. 

Swami is the Lord for both saints and sinners, poor and rich, ignoramuses and the scholarly. Many wealthy people came into Swami’s fold and were transformed by His love, His teachings, and His works. Swami made them part of the divine mission by blessing them with the opportunity to participate in and build educational institutions, medical institutions, and various humanitarian projects, not only in India but all over the world. They become chosen instruments in the divine hands. All of us are blessed with some form of ‘wealth’–money, time, talent, etc. We should offer our ‘wealth’ to our Lord and become His instruments. This issue contains one such story of Mr. Enn Kaljo, who was blessed to be Swami’s unique instrument. 

This issue also carries an inspiring story of a special project, ‘A Paragon of Love and Service’ in Uthiru, Kenya. It is the history of a school founded on human values that has been playing a crucial role in rescuing impoverished, vulnerable children from perilous situations in Africa and making them embrace a new and better way of life centered around spirituality.

True Meaning of Renouncing Wealth

Let us recollect an anecdote related to wealth, recorded in the gospel of Mathew of the Christian faith. A very wealthy young man was drawn to Jesus, and he asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus tells him to observe the commandments, to which he responds that he has done so from his youth. Jesus then advises him on how to be perfect, saying, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

The young man heard this and went away sadly, for he was not ready to part with his wealth. Then, Jesus told his disciples, “It is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. I say it again. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

There is a subtle point here. It is not the literal giving up of wealth that one should practice. One should give up ownership of the wealth. One must consider oneself as the trustee for the wealth because all wealth belongs to the Lord. If we have this feeling, we will use wealth for the right purpose, and then we will be on the right path. The great King Janaka lived the life of a sage because he was utterly dispassionate. He believed that the whole world is a dream and everything belongs to the Lord. This is the way one should conduct oneself.

Another great example from recent times is the saint of Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He was the very embodiment of dispassion. He showed spiritual seekers how one should live. According to him, the two greatest obstacles for a spiritual seeker are kamini (woman) and kanchana (gold), which refer to lust and greed. These obstacles bring about everyone’s downfall. Greed makes one resort to devious means, while lust makes one resort to immoral ways. These are condemned in almost all faiths, but Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa showed how to lead a life overcoming these obstacles. 

Swami Vivekananda, who was called Narendranath in his younger days, had heard his Master speak against these two on many occasions. On one occasion, with a view to testing Sri Ramakrishna, he hid a rupee coin under the bed of his Master. Upon sitting down on his bed, Sri Ramakrishna immediately jumped up because he felt stung, as if his body was burning. This incident reveals how much he detested gold and money. Swami says,

“The inner meaning of this story is that Ramakrishna was still seeing the distinction between gold on the one hand and mud on the other. It means that he had not gotten over these differences. At that moment, he was still distinguishing one thing from another, but later, Ramakrishna held mud in one hand and gold in the other and kept on exchanging them until he lost the sense of distinction between them. He had then realized the equality or the oneness in them.

For a spiritual seeker, neither gold nor mud helps to attain liberation. So, one should strive to reach that stage, although, for living in society, one still needs money. 

The Subtle Ways Wealth Influences

When one has wealth, he is usually not inclined to follow the righteous path. Poet-saint Yogi Vemana has described this by saying that if one’s wealth increases, one becomes arrogant, and when one’s arrogance increases, one’s bad qualities increase. 

Pride is another significant obstacle for a spiritual seeker. To progress spiritually, one must overcome pride in wealth. 

This is because the influence of wealth is very subtle. Swami says that even many people on the spiritual path think of developing ashrams and go after collecting money, thus getting distracted from their chosen path. 

True Wealth

In His discourse of August 19, 1996, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba exhorts, 

“What is real wealth? The real wealth is love, grace, and blessings of God. Once you acquire this wealth, it will never leave you. Therefore, strive to acquire this wealth.”

The Narasimha Shatakam, a compilation of 100 poems based on devotion and morality, is composed in simple language by the renowned Telugu poet Seshappa. He says, “The real wealth, O Lord, is only Your grace, and the real education is only the recitation of Your sacred mantra.”

Material wealth comes and goes, but real wealth stays with us forever. So, we should strive our best to practice the five human values of Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Right Conduct), Shanti (Peace), Prema (Love), and Ahimsa (Nonviolence) to acquire the eternal wealth of divine grace. Then we can become Dhananjaya (another name for Arjuna, the prince warrior of Mahabharata), which means ‘the one who has attained complete victory over wealth.’

Just as Lord Krishna gave the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, Sai Krishna has given us the Sai Gita. The reader will enjoy the first discourse of this special ‘Sathya Sai Gita’ series, which is included in this issue. In it, Swami makes it very simple and clear that all one needs to do to get God’s infinite grace is to surrender (Sharanagathi) to Him completely.

The five fundamental human values mentioned above are invaluable. Therefore, the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) has declared April 24, Aradhana Mahotsavam Day, as World Human Values Day in grateful memory of the life, legacy, and universal teachings of our beloved Swami. With reverence to these eternal values and to the one who propounded them, many provinces in Canada have officially declared April 24 as Human Values Day! 

True Aradhana or worship is when we use our worldly wealth, resources, and talents in the service of the Lord and the service of society. May we joyfully and willingly sacrifice our material wealth in serving the society and win the lasting wealth of God’s grace!

We pray to our Lord Sai to give us strength, determination, discrimination, and dispassion to pursue the eternal and true wealth of God’s Grace.

Jai Sai Ram.

Medical camps, tree-planting drives and distribution of essentials. Ways SSSIO performs 'True Aradhana'.