What is the best way to give up greed?

What is the best way to give up greed?

In the Nectar of Instruction (NOI) Text 2, it is explained why it is important to give up greed. And how greed for worldly things can be given up completely.

Srila Rupa Goswami, the author of Nectar of Instruction (NOI), in this verse talks about giving up

  • atyāhāraḥ: which means over-accumulating things of this ephemeral world, and
  • prayāsaś: which means over-endeavouring to over-accumulate things of this sensual world.

He writes, “If we fail to give up atyāhāraḥ and prayāsaś then our devotional service to Lord Krishna will get spoiled.”

Let us see how greed for material things impedes our devotional journey.

We human beings have developed the habit of hoarding things. We think if we accumulate lots of stuffs, we will become lot more happy. So, we work hard to earn more so that we can accumulate more. But what is the limit?

How much is good enough to make us happy?

It is said that Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India, had 10,500 saris, 750 slipper and 500 wine glasses. I don’t think that she was able to wear all the saris and slippers and drink wine in all the glasses. And she is not an exception. There are many such examples.

But let us ask ourselves, “Do we need so many things in our life?”

We need 3 times food in a day, water to drink, proper clothes to wear and a house to live. And if we put aside our greed then these things can be easily obtained. In fact, God has provided us everything to live happily in this world.

God has already taken care of our important needs

We human beings work hard to earn food, but animals do not have to work hard for food. Food and water are abundantly available for them and for us too.  Elephants need huge quantity of food for survival and it is readily available. Unless and until man interferes with the nature, animals and birds have sufficient food and water for survival.  

But man exploits the natural resources for selfish purpose and try to usurp everything to satisfy his wanton desires.

There is not enough for man’s greed

Srila Prabhupada explains it with an example in NOI Text 2 Purport.

Suppose that there is a bag of rice lying on the road. Birds will come and eat few grains and go away. Some animals may come and eat and go away. But what will a human being do. He will immediately take away the whole bag.  He thinks, “Only I should have it. I will not share it with others.”

So, Mahatma Gandhi said, “In this world there is enough for man’s need but not enough for man’s greed.”

One thing I have observed that birds and animals do not overeat. Have we ever seen an overweight peacock or sparrow or crow or rabbit or dog? I have not seen till now. They are intelligent enough to know their limit. 

We should also understand our limit. Accumulating certain quantity of food grains is not wrong. Having few sets of dress and shoes and other necessities is not wrong.  But over-accumulation is condemned in the scriptures.

If we do our duty honestly and sincerely keeping God in the center, then all our material needs will be taken care.

In fact, for our material needs we do not even have to ask from God. Because as a loving and caring father, he has ensured that everything is there in this world for leading a decent life.

But we remain dissatisfied and so we go to God and ask him to fill our material desires. 

Does Krishna fulfills our material desires?

I have seen few of my colleagues in IT sector are desperate to go to America or United Kingdom or any European country for job assignment. But they do not get the chance. They get frustrated. When we invite them for our weekly Bhagavad Gita program then most of the time, they are reluctant to come.

But after lots of persuasion they start coming. They start chanting few rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra. And suddenly they get the opportunity to go to onsite.

They become supremely excited. Krishna is supremely merciful. He resides in the hearts of all and he knows a person’s desire.  If a person does not have karma to go to onsite, he will never be able to go. But Krishna can change karma. So, when one starts chanting his name and praying for the fulfillment of desire then Krishna mercifully fulfills it.

In fact, if Krishna fulfills our desire then we should become extremely grateful to him. Some do become grateful. And also become devotee of Krishna.

But unfortunately, some people fail to recognize Krishna’s mercy. Once their desire is fulfilled, they forget Krishna. They fail to understand that just by approaching Krishna their desire was fulfilled and if they continue chanting the holy names of Krishna then how much happy Krishna will make him. 

Ideally speaking, we should never approach Krishna with any material desire.

Our only desire should be to serve him without any desire.

We have a desire to show off

One of my senior colleagues took a big house in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom on rent.  And by the end of almost every month he used to borrow money from me. He knew that I won’t tell others that he is borrowing money.  He wanted to show to others that how rich he is.  He also frequently changes his iPhone. As soon as a new model comes, he buys it and sells the old one even though the old iPhone is working perfectly fine.

Once a student after completing his education got a job. He worked for couple of years and was able to save good amount of money.  He wanted to invite his parents who lived in village to the city. And using all his savings, he booked flight tickets for his parents.

When someone asked him that what was the need. His parents would have come by train. He said that he wanted to show his friends in the village that he has become so rich that he can now book flight tickets for his parents.

I am sure his parents might not be aware that he is squandering money. Serving parents is wonderful but one has to be practical. And most importantly there is no need to show off to others.

One man at the age of around 60 years had saved two crore rupees. It was sufficient to lead a comfortable life after retirement. But he spent entire two crore rupees in getting his daughter married. And at the age of 60, he is again running to get a job.

When asked, he said, “She is my only daughter and I wanted to show to my relatives that how much I love my daughter.

All my relatives will always remember that how lavishly the marriage was organized.” He could have got his daughter married in one crore and the remaining one crore would also have been sufficient for his retired life.

But the desire to show off is most of the times so intense that people stop using their intelligence.

How our desire to feel special is exploited?

Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” writes and I am paraphrasing it “People have a great desire to feel they are special.”

The advertising industry knows this very well. They exploit people’s intense longing to be special.

So, the product is not marketed based on its usability but based on how it is going to satisfy a buyer’s ego.

So, they tell a man that if he uses this particular saving gel then all the girls will be attracted to him.

They tell a woman that if she uses this facial cream then all men will fall for her and all the girls will envy her.

They use taglines like “Neighbors envy owner’s pride.”

And we easily get fooled. We spend lots of money in buying things which we do not even need. We start buying branded products because it makes us feel special. The same product of same quality may be available in local store at much cheaper rate, but we prefer branded products.

To buy more, we have to earn more. To earn more we have to work more.

What is the best way to give up greed?

And we get caught up in the rat race of this material world.

How this material world makes us struggle hard

As long as we are in this material world and as long as we have desire to enjoy this world we will suffer. This material world is called Pa-varga.

It means that in this world we are forced to work very hard. The word consists of five Sanskrit letters – pa, pha, ba, bha and ma.  Each of these letters explain our struggle.

  • Pa stands for parisrama i.e. “hard labor.” Everyone in this world has to struggle hard for survival. 
  • Pha stands for phena,”foam.” When a horse works very hard, foam starts coming from his mouth. Similarly, when we work very hard, we get tired, our tongue becomes dry and foam forms in our mouth.
  • Ba stands for bandha,”bondage.” In spite of all our hard work the three modes of material nature i.e. goodness, passion and ignorance bind us in this world.
  • Bha stands for bhaya, “fear.” In this world we always live in fear because we are uncertain of the future.
  • Ma represents mrtyu, “death.” No matter who we are, how much powerful or great we are, we all will be forced to leave this world one day.

We are eternal travelers in this world

Once a traveler visited a monk in a monastery. He saw the monk did not have any belongings. He was surprised.

He asked, “Where are your belongings?”

The monk replied, “Where are yours?”

“Well, I am a traveler. So, I carry only few necessary things.”

 “So am I,” the monk said.

I heard this parable long back. It is so true. We all are eternal travelers in this material world. As a soul we migrate from one body to another.

Just turn the pages of history and you will find that all the great conquerors – Alexander the great, Napoleon the great, Akbar the great – were forced to leave this world one day. And when their soul left for another destination, they had to leave all their possessions here only.  And their body was either burnt or buried.

Despite knowing this, we get caught up in this rat race of material existence. We struggle hard to accumulate things to prove to others how great we are.

Remember in a rat race even if we win, we will remain a rat only.

We will waste our human form of life which should be utilized for self-realization.   

An industrialist who builds a huge factory also has to leave everything at the time of death. Many times, a thought comes to my mind. It could happen that the industrialist takes birth again and he may be trying to get a job in the same factory which he had established. He could be standing in a queue desperate for a job and he might get rejected.

We all may laugh at this thought.

What happens to a cobbler who remembers his past life?

Srila Prabhupada in NOI Purport 2 tells the story of a cobbler.

A cobbler was living near a big mansion. Somehow, he remembered his past life. And he remembered clearly that he was the owner of that mansion. Now the mansion was being run by his children and grandchildren. He had lots of affection for them.  But he could not do anything. How will his children accept him as his father?  At present he was a pauper.

In his previous life he was living like a king.

One day he could not control himself and decided to visit the mansion to inform his loving children and grandchildren that he was their father, their grandfather, and the original owner of the mansion.

What do you think happened?

The security guards stopped him at the gate. Why will they allow a cobbler inside the house?

And then the desperate cobbler narrated the deep secret to the guards. “In my previous life I was the owner of this mansion. Those staying inside are my children.”

What do you think happened next?

Everyone laughed at him.

When his children came to know that a cobbler is claiming to be their father and standing at the gate then the children asked the guards to throw him away. In fact, he was beaten with slippers and was kicked out of that place.

Fortunately, we do not remember our past lives else we would have always felt miserable.

What is the solution to give up greed as per the scriptures?

So, what should be done? Should we stop working? Should we stop earning money?

Definitely not.

Scriptures never tell that we should stop working. The holy books emphasize that we should be doing our duty in a responsible way.  But while working we should never neglect our spiritual duty.

So, the solution which the scriptures give is that we should simplify our lives so that we have sufficient time to practice devotional life.

Krishna should always be the center of our life. The work which you and I do should be sanctioned by the scriptures. It should be done for the pleasure of Krishna. Finally, all the result should be offered to Krishna. 

What is the best way to give up greed?

By working in this way, we will live happily in this world and after leaving this world we will go back to the spiritual world. This is what Krishna teaches us in Bhagavad Gita.

O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. Bhagavad Gita 9.27

But if we get carried away by greed, if we continue doing atyāhāraḥ & prayāsaś then we will remain stuck in this world and the greed within our heart will always keep us miserable.

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