“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)Download this episode (right click and save)
The aspiring yogi gets some good news in the Bhagavad-gita. If they don’t succeed in perfecting the consciousness in the current lifetime, the progress doesn’t get erased. It is not as if they perish like a riven cloud; the analogy used by Arjuna when questioning Shri Krishna.
“O mighty-armed Krishna, does not such a man, being deviated from the path of Transcendence, perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.38)
The opportunity renews in the next life, with a few possible circumstances at the time of birth. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, uses the word shrimatam. This references shri, which can mean “beauty” or “opulence.” The idea is that the unsuccessful yogi may take birth in a home that is cultured, where need is not an issue. The old saying, “It’s difficult for an empty sack to stand up straight,” is appropriate here. If you are constantly in need of food, clothing and other essentials, how will you have time to focus on spiritual life?
At the same time, there is duality in the material world. No one condition is absolute in its nature. Fire helps to bring heat and light, but it can destroy as well. Wealth protects against indigence, but it also has an ugly side. Too much of it can be detrimental to reaching the objective of purification of the consciousness.
1. It makes others envious
You finally got it. You had your eye on it for quite a while. You kept a picture of it as your screensaver on the desktop computer at work. It’s your dream car. It’s expensive, so you had to save up for a while. Now you can’t wait to show it off to everyone you know. You’ve taken a picture of yourself standing in front of it.
Lost in the jubilation is the issue of envy. How will others react to your new purchase? Not everyone can afford the same car. There is sure to be jealousy. Not everyone will be as delighted as you. After all, aren’t you subtly telling them that you have something which they don’t?
From shastra there is the story of the Syamantaka jewel. King Satrajit in Dvaraka received this amazing jewel from the sun-god. After proper worship, the jewel produced a huge amount of gold daily. Yet as soon as Satrajit became enamored by it, there came a network of trouble. Jealousy, murder, vengeance - his life was much more peaceful before coming into so much gold.
2. Increased worry
You can’t worry about something that you don’t have. This only makes sense. Before you got the new car, you didn’t really care where you parked. You didn’t care if there was a little ding here and there. The insurance was cheaper, too.
Now there is increased anxiety. You have to park far away to make sure no one strikes the car accidentally. You have to get it washed on a regular basis. You have to guard against theft. These new anxieties are the result of increased opulence.
3. So much time to acquire it
There is the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” The odds of winning the lottery are slim. If you want to become wealthy, you likely have to work long and hard. There is big risk involved as well. So many wealthy people have lost huge fortunes several times. “It takes money to make money.” The amount of time expended to become wealthy could easily be used towards spiritual life instead. The benefit is much greater in the long run.
4. You become a miser
This issue correlates directly with karma. If you have wealth, you should share it with others. You should be charitable. From a karma-only perspective, the inherent promise is that in the future you’ll receive even more than what you give away. Of course the recipients should be worthy. If you give money to people to become even more drunk and unclean in their habits, you haven’t helped anyone.
In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Krishna tells Uddhava that the wealth of misers is a huge source of misery. By being miserly, it makes their present life hellish. And since they are unwilling to part with any of it, they go against shastra and thus get punished with birth in hell in the afterlife.
5. Takes focus away from Shri Krishna, who is the husband of the goddess of fortune
Shri is also a personality. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. Another one of her names is Lakshmi. The person who dedicates their life to serving God by remaining conscious of Him has nothing to worry about in terms of wealth. Whatever they need is provided by Lakshmi Devi. She gives benedictions to be used in the service of her husband.
The most vivid example in this regard is Hanuman. He lives on very little, but whatever he needs is provided for by Sita Devi. She is the husband of Shri Rama, the incarnation of the Divinity to whom Hanuman is dedicated. There is no need to separately strive for wealth, beauty, fame, honor, prestige, and other such desirable things in a material existence. Bhakti-yoga is all-encompassing, and it is the best utilization of the valuable time in the human form of body.
Finally the human form to find,
Bhakti for it best use of time.
Not forever of wealth to think,
Since then to hellish life to sink.
Focusing now, miser becoming,
Misery from every corner coming.
For devoted soul in purity living,
Everything to them Lakshmi giving.