Sunday, February 21, 2010

Virtue – The Perennial Wealth

Plutarch wrote in 75 CE about the legendary wisdom of Solon who lived during the fifth century before Christ. It is understood that Solon was a moral philosopher and advised the King of Lydia, Croesus, who believed that his wealth was the primary source of his happiness.

Plutarch echoes the thoughts of Solon in the following lines.

“Some wicked men are rich, some good are poor,
We will not change our virtue for their store:
Virtue's a thing that none can take away;
But money changes owners all the day.”

Let us first examine the attributes of material wealth.

The first attribute of wealth is its acquisitive character. Wealth is either inherited or earned. The earning could be either by fair means or by unscrupulous and devious means. I will then say that the three categories of riches a man can have fall into IW (inherited wealth), FW (wealth obtained through fair means) and DW (wealth acquired through devious means). While the first two categories fall under arth moderated by dharma or wealth through fair means, the last category is definitely not to be entertained. Any wealth that is acquired through speculation or chance also falls under the last category.

The second attribute is its usage. If wealth is used in a purely self aggregation mode, whatever is the mode of its acquisition then it degenerates into morally degrading appendix to one’s life. Wealth must be employed in life empowering activities. These activities include knowledge acquisition and dissemination, balanced nourishment and proactive sharing. This should encompass the self, family, society and the ecosystem.
Regarding unattached acts of empowerment
Bhagavad-Gita chapter 3 verse 25 says: “As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.”

The third attribute is its ego drive. What I mean by this is that wealth tends to boost one’s ego through a false sense of security and inflation of manipulative power.

The fourth attribute is its impermanence. Worldly wealth is a pure by-product of human activity and has no place in the spiritual life. As the Spirit is immortal and all creations are transient so also wealth is highly fickle in nature. Holding onto this impermanence leads to suffering.

Given these, all holy men and men who valued their inner peace and true happiness either put to empowering use their wealth or gave away their wealth for a life of poverty. We have a long list of Christian saints who gave up their luxurious lives to embrace an ascetic life. Outstanding examples are
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.
In the Vedic tradition, even the householder, was admonished that during his days of life as
Brahmacharya (celibate), Grihastha (family) his Kama (desire) and Arth (wealth) should be controlled by dharma.
It is the dharma which one upholds which ultimately controls his destiny or the imprints that one’s consciousness or Atma carries into its next manifestation.
This is the reason that Solon admonishes that any day he would prefer perennial virtue over impermanent riches.

Love to you all


  1. The blog on permanent virtue and impermenanent weath is aptly written by you.I'm not writing this for mere flattery, but because I've observed your attachments closely.It is infact not surprising that you could name the foundation as Amita-Endless giving.Whether we would access so much wealth or not,for those of us who constitute the rest of your family, you have set a beautiful model of getting attached to higher pursuits in life than getting stagnant with accumulating money.

  2. I do not deserve all that you say. It will take a much higher level of spirituality to transcend to a total detachment but life is given to us to set the process in motion.
    Pray that I might continue to evolve so that there is a broader impact at many individual consciousness level towards a higher level of living.

    Thank you!