It’s very sad that we have become so accustomed to a culture of conspicuous consumption in our world today. The measure of a person’s success is defined by their material status. Someone famous said once that with the advance of civilization comes the decline of culture. I see that all the time in my daily life. We see our colleagues who graduated with us from Ivy League schools and judge each other by our material net worth as parallel to our age. So if my college mate is making $400,000 of annual compensation and has $5 million of net worth, how come I didn’t get there as well?
I am glad that I didn’t because I lived 20 years of my post-college life with dignity, love, and respect for an ecosystem of family and friends around me that provide solace to my soul. I took care of my extended family in India, provided decent living for my parents for their lifelong sacrifice and dedication for their children, and lived treasured times and memories with my beautiful children and wife. I did not sacrifice one important dimension of my life for another because it’s not a zero sum game. Parents, friends, extended relatives, community, children are not mutually exclusive to one another.
It’s one life we live. I believe the Almighty has endowed each of us with tremendous heart and energy to take care of an ecosystem of constituencies around us. No price can be put on the spiritual joy and satisfaction of serving a broader humanity. I find that many of my friends have consciously or subconsciously made certain choices that gravitate around the accumulation of material wealth. This immensely troubles me because money can’t buy love, memories, gratitude, and joy. Of course there is much more to life than money!
Life poses unique struggles for us at every step of the way. It’s a difficult journey fraught with obstacles, injustice, inequity, and grief. Things often don’t make sense as we obsess to find the oasis of material abundance. I find that the family and friends provide that incredible balance needed to divert our attention to things that are a lot more important. Lord Christ rightfully proclaimed, “For what profiteth a man who wins the whole world but loses his own soul?” A good and pure soul makes us sleep well at night and wake up next morning with hope and positive energy to change the world around us in a constructive way. However the soul is a tough master to please because it constantly tries to sway us away from the evil pursuit of wealth and countless other mortal temptations. So how do we conquer this vicious cycle of never lasting greed and hunger for things that dissipate with the passage of time? How do we strengthen our soul to treasure and value the spirit of camaraderie and love that lives with us forever?
Well I have a humble recommendation. It’s a long story but I will provide a concise version of it here. In the great Sanskrit epic of Bhagvad Gita, the brave prince Arjun is trembling with fear at the sight of a mighty army of the Kauravas filed against his humble forces. Lord Krishna is his charioteer. Despite Lord’s repeated assurances about his superior abilities, Arjun lays down his weapons and refuses to proceed on the battle field. Then the Lord shows his immense omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent divine figure of Vishnu to Arjun and says: “Dear Prince, fret not because this battlefield is just a stage. I am the eternal truth. They all come from me and they all come back to me. I am here for the righteous to prevail. You represent that righteous and therefore your victory is certain. However don’t act because you want a certain result. Just act because that’s all you can do as a mortal human being. The result is not in your hands, it’s in the hands of the divinity.” So no matter what troubles and hardships haunt us in our lives, we must keep doing our sacred duty of goodness, kindness, and righteousness. We may get crushed by forces of evil around us at times but ultimately the righteous shall win the war.
There is a profound truth in the saying “what goes around comes around.” None of us can hide from the consequences of our deeds forever. We will encounter chilling moments of truth when our very best friends, colleagues, and families turn on us in evil plots premised on ego, arrogance, and greed. They may use and abuse us because they think they can get away with it. They will also get away with judging us while they are committing sins themselves. But they won’t be able to run far away or hide forever because divine justice will catch up with them when the mortal justice proves shallow. Always remember what Lord Christ said to his disciples: “Those amongst us who never sinned cast the first stone.”
Either we will be rewarded for our righteousness or punished for our evil. I am fortunate to live in a great country with immense possibilities. Let’s keep reminding ourselves that we must repay our fellow humanity with the gratitude of love, caring, compassion, and generosity. Let’s not make money the be all and end all of our finite existence!