Money and Wealth in Hinduism

Hindu family

by Jayaram V

In Hinduism wealth is divine. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance is revered by all. All the gods of Hinduism live in opulence. Even though Lord Shiva is an ascetic god, he is the lord of abundance. He amply rewards those who worship him with both material and spiritual wealth. In creation, wealth is an aspect of Nature.

Wealth is supposed to serve the aims of God, not evil beings. Unfortunately, in the age of darkness (kaliyuga) much of the wealth is controlled by evil forces. They are using it to amass more wealth and corner all the resources of the world. Hence, we see that righteous people suffering and evil people enjoying power and luxury.

When greed drives people to earn excess wealth which they do not require, wealth becomes an evil power. However, when service becomes the motive, wealth becomes a divine tool and leads to good ends. In right hands wealth serves the aims of creation as an instrument of God and helps people to uphold Dharma as his true devotees on the path of karma yoga. In wrong hands wealth becomes an evil and dark force and causes pain and suffering to large sections of people.

Thus, being an instrument of Nature, or Maya, wealth serves both ends. It deludes those who are evil and tamasic, but helps those who are pure and sattvic. It gives them the freedom to enjoy peace and happiness and serve God by helping him to preserve the order and regularity of life.

In Hinduism, wealth is considered divine and an essential requirement for the preservation and continuation of life upon earth. God is described in the Vedas as the creator and source of all. Therefore, he is also the source of all wealth and abundance. His material abundance is represented by Prakriti or Mother Goddess. She is his associate power and appears in every manifestation of him as his dynamic force or Shakti. She is the source of knowledge in association with Brahman, the source of wealth in association with Vishnu and the source of regenerative power in association with Shiva. Thus, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi are considered the triple resources of abundance in the universe. Saraswathi enlightens you. Lakshmi enriches you and Parvathi empowers you.

Hinduism does not view wealth as evil per se. Wealth becomes an evil only when it is earned by ignoring dharma and used for purposes other than upholding it. Wealth (artha) is also considered one of the chief aims of human life, to be pursued by human beings who take up the duties of householders (grihastas).

Those who choose to live as householders requireswealth to perform various kinds of obligatory duties. They are not expected to live for themselves, but for the sake of others. They have to earn wealth to maintain their families and serve others through the five daily sacrifices (nitya karmas) namely sacrifice to gods, to human beings, to ancestors, to plants and animals and to God. Besides, they have to look after their families, look after their progeny and keep their households as part of their duty to ensure the order and regularity of the world. They are also expected to serve guests, elderly people, help the poor and the needy, nourish the students and ascetics who visit them for alms, give charity to temples and other institutions, worship the gods and so on. They are part of the obligatory duties of the householders, for which they need wealth. Hence, for a householder earning wealth is also an obligatory duty, and he will incur sin if he neglects it.

Those who renounce life and live as ascetics do not have these obligations, but those who choose to remain in society and live like householders having families of their own should observe these five duties, so that world can remain in good order, and all can live peacefully upon earth. As the Bhagavadgita declares, those who live for themselves, without serving others and God, verily eat sin.

A householder is very much vulnerable to bad karma, since he has to deal with real life problems, earn money to maintain his family, practice his vocation and interact with society. The very nature of his or her living requires harming or hurting others intentionally or otherwise, with words, thoughts or actions. In other words, householders cannot avoid bad karma, howsoever they may live. The only way they can escape from the consequences of their actions is to live selflessly in the service of others and offer their actions to God as a sacrifice.

In other words, do not use your wealth for selfish ends or to strengthen your ego, but to serve God and others who are but aspects of God only. Take what is yours, but not what does not rightfully belong to you. In our tradition taking what does not belong to you is considered equal to theft. In earning wealth, do not inflict pain and suffering upon others or exploit them. Most importantly, when you seek material wealth let your desire be guided by higher motive rather than greed and selfishness. Living in comfort or having excessive wealth is not sinful. However, using wealth for sinister ends surely is. Those who accumulate wealth through evil means readily incur sin and suffer from the consequences.

Prosperity is one of the chief attributes of the Lord of the Universe (Isvara). As aspects of God we have a right own wealth and use it for our welfare, peace and happiness

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