How to utilize money to grow spiritually

A blog reader asked the question – “How to make best utilize one’s savings from a spiritual point of view?  Should one take medical insurance, life insurance, invest in mutual funds.  If we engage in the stock market, it increases greed ?  In some countries, medical costs are high so medical insurance is necessary.”

Let’s start with the general question : How does one put Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s somewhat abstract guidance into practice in the phenomenal world where new ideas are being continuously introduced in every sphere of life.  How does one distinguish between right and wrong ?

One method is to simply keep reading their works and continue practising Yoga.  Their passages have a latent Divine power.  As the (chitta)mind stabilizes, an intuition eventually awakens within and begins to lead one towards making the right choices in life.  Life becomes simple as one becomes an instrument of the Divine.  This method is effective but it can take a lot of time.

Another possibility is to act based on anecdotes of guidance given to  someone caught in  a similar situation.  This is an intermediate substitute but it cannot always be adopted, because Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s guidance was given based on a person’s stage in spiritual evolution.  For example, some were asked to get married, while others were asked to remain single.  One must keep this in mind while deriving guidance from the anecdotes of their disciples.

One can take a more psychological approach and relentless introspect on one’s motives while making a financial decision.  We have all inherited some thought patterns by virtue of living in the current age, in one country or another, growing up in some family surrounded by friends and colleagues.  Some think “saving money for retirement” is imperative, others believe “having one’s own house” is necessary for security.  The habit of introspection disrupts these mental habits and can forcefully awaken the inner intuition.  Even if we make mistakes in our choices, this itself is a useful step in  spiritual progress.

There is always the pragmatic approach, which is to follow some ethical code and desist from resorting to devious means as far as possible.  In the capitalist world as it is constructed, it is not easy to avoid a monetary cycle which is entirely uncontaminated by dishonesty.  Other religions have gone to great lengths to avoid the stain of money.  During the medieval era, the Catholic Church banned usury (i.e. taking interest on money).  Islam has evolved a similar concept called shariah-compliant finance.  One need not adopt such strict frameworks.  For growth of consciousness, the inner psychological attitude is more important than conformance to some strict external moral code.

Beyond all this, there is always the rebellious approach, which is to vehemently reject all social and governmental norms and lead a nomadic existence with few belongings.  Throw yourself on the waters of Life, endure the hardships and see if you are destined to survive!

Which of the above choices you make depends on what stage of spiritual transformation you are in.  The choices keep changing as one evolves.  Most people are stuck somewhere in between.  They are filled with anxiety about their future.  They make compromises, working towards their own financial security while aspiring towards something nobler.  Neither goal is achieved until a decisive inner breakthrough occurs but still, the attempts we make are useful intermediate steps towards that breakthrough.

For a person who is careless about material life, becoming more conscious of one’s financial position could be a useful antidote.  By taking good care of money, one could help out others who are less fortunate than oneself.

A good example of how one could grow one’s consciousness in this way can be taken from the life of the noted Bengali philosopher and philanthropist, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar(1820-1891).  Ramakrishna Paramahansa once visited him and assessed him as follows:

“Your activities are inspired by sattva. Though they are rajasic, they are influenced by sattva. Compassion springs from sattva. Though work for the good of others belongs to rajas, yet this rajas has sattva for its basis and is not harmful. Suka and other sages cherished compassion in their minds to give people religious instruction, to teach them about God. You are distributing food and learning. That is good too. If these activities are done in a selfless spirit they lead to God. But most people work for fame or to acquire merit. Their activities are not selfless.” (Gospel of Ramakrishna, Volume 1)

For someone who is anxious about financial security, abandoning these thoughts may be a good first step.  One could ask oneself : should I keep earning and saving money for dependents who spend it on shopping and entertainment ?  Does one have the Sraddha(faith) to abandon the pursuit of security and believe that the Divine will keep one healthy ?  Are you willing to endure whatever hardships may come if the Divine help doesn’t come immediately ?

Finally, regarding stock markets, investing in the stock market does increase greed but it can also be utilized as a test of one’s indifference.  Is it possible to detach oneself so completely from the daily turbulence that one forgets to check if the net worth has gone up or down ?  This could be one way to approach the problem.

I don’t know if this post answered the reader’s questions.  Feel free to comment if you have something to add !

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20 thoughts on “How to utilize money to grow spiritually

  1. Kendra Crossen

    Very good post. It is not for nothing that “woman and gold” (lust and greed) are the two primary obstacles. I think it is also good to remember that it is not necessary to have money or wealth in order to help and serve others. We may feel helpless seeing human suffering that seems to require a lot of money to remedy, but one can still give of oneself, even in small ways (such as “a smile that lifts a drooping heart” in Meher Baba’s words). It is the selfless attitude that is significant and not the amount one can give. Poor people in India have been known to give their last bit of food to someone in greater need.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      There have been some psychological studies which showed that rich people feel less sympathy than poor people

      From

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/

      A related set of studies published by Keltner and his colleagues last year looked at how social class influences feelings of compassion towards people who are suffering. In one study, they found that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis. For example, they are more likely to agree with statements such as, “I often notice people who need help,” and “It’s important to take care of people who are vulnerable.” This was true even after controlling for other factors that we know affect compassionate feelings, such as gender, ethnicity, and spiritual beliefs.

      In a second study, participants were asked to watch two videos while having their heart rate monitored. One video showed somebody explaining how to build a patio. The other showed children who were suffering from cancer. After watching the videos, participants indicated how much compassion they felt while watching either video. Social class was measured by asking participants questions about their family’s level of income and education. The results of the study showed that participants on the lower end of the spectrum, with less income and education, were more likely to report feeling compassion while watching the video of the cancer patients. In addition, their heart rates slowed down while watching the cancer video—a response that is associated with paying greater attention to the feelings and motivations of others.

      Reply
  2. Gaurav

    Thanks Sandeep for the post. So what I understood is that it is our motive which determines the financial decision.
    For utilising the personal savings from the spiritual point of view what one can do is – Avoid the devious means and conform to the ethical code of the society and use the options which are available to us to invest without getting attached to it.
    As far as taking policies are concerned or saving for old age ….if while taking health or life insurance policy deep within us we have a fear which is driving that decision then having faith in The Mother seems only a mental idea for that person. On the other hand if you have faith in The Mother then being a mother’s child you are not concerned about the future whatever will happen…we will see..
    but we are not neglecting the money/savings which we have or given by Mother to us and we would do our best to grow the mother’s money for our own betterment as well as for others without getting attached to it. Correct me if my understanding is faulty.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      It’s best to act pragmatically and ethically until some inner “intuition” is awakened. Sri Aurobindo used to say that the first thing that the people who took up his Yoga seemed to lose was “common sense”.

      Reply
  3. mw

    Dear Sandeep: I just happened across this conversation between Anilbaran Roy and Sri Aurobindo [1926] which appears to follow the content of your new blog. I felt it might benefit the community here by sharing it:

    “Disciple: You once said that in order to command money by Yogic force two conditions are required: first, non attachment, second — bojhapada [mutual understanding] with the money forces. What is meant by bojhapada?

    Sri Aurobindo: Non-attachment is necessary for two reasons; first, by attachment you fall into a state where the hostile forces have power and when they know that you are going to exceed them they will check you; secondly, by attachment you may surrender yourselves to the evil forces which command money. The world is now under the domination of these forces — they have money in their control and they give money only to those who accept their conditions.

    Then you must be able to make the right use of money, otherwise you forfeit your claim to get money. Chaotic use of money is very bad. Your expenditure must be orderly — you must have reason for spending every piece

    Then you have to deal with the forces which act in relation with money. There are two methods. Some persons rely wholly on God to meet there needs. But in our Yoga we do not leave the matter to God. We have to deal with the forces of nature, even with the most material things. We must not submit to hostile forces which prevent us from getting money. There are the Luxmi [sic] force and the Mammon force. We resolutely fight the Mammon force until we establish harmony with the Luxmi force. We should want for the work we have to do — to meet the divine needs.

    Disciple: Before we have the higher power, should we deal with the hostile forces by the strength of our will?

    Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the right sort of wil, free from desire and attachment.

    * The money force has a twofold movement — of gathering and of throwing away; those who can keep this rhythm have plenty of money, e.g., the big industry magnates. Mere hoarding is an obstacle.

    * It [money] is a vital force which enables men to command success. Some person possess this is a marked degree.

    * (Sri Aurobindo remarked that if he had not taken up Yoga, then by this time he might have been the Principle of the Baroda College and written poetry.)

    Disciple: What would have happened to the energy you possess?

    Sri Aurobindo: This energy was not in me then; I got all my present energy from Yoga. Even the energy I put forth into political work was derived from Yoga.

    Disciple: But possibilities were there before.

    Sri Aurobindo: A seed has the possibilities of growing into a tree, but can it become a tree unless it gets suitable soil and surroundings?

    (In this connection Sri Aurobindo distinguished between success in outer life and success in inner development of the soul. So far as development is concerned failure is often better than success.)

    Disciple: How?

    Sri Aurobindo: Success has ruined the chances of development of many.”

    This conversation in it’s entirty can be found here: https://overmanfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/conversations-with-sri-aurobindo-recorded-by-anilbaran-roy-part-4/

    ***BTW, I hand typed this discourse, so there may be typos. Best to look up the source directly!

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Ah, I wish I had seen this earlier.

      MW : I hand typed this discourse,

      wow – double thanks !

      Reply
      1. mw

        You’re double welcome! 🙂

        “Ah, I wish I had seen this earlier.”

        I don’t know how anyone can manage the large volume of materials left by SA & M. Perhaps someday A.S. Dalal will put together a booklet on the topic of Money.

      2. Sandeep Post author

        A.S. Dalal is too old now to do that work. From what I heard, he is living in a nursing home.

  4. Vijay Dave

    I like the reference of Sri Anilbaran talk with Sri Aurobindo – rather than Sri Ramkrishna’s reply to a disciple. Satva, Rajas, etc. still looks like more human ideas than spiritual reality.

    I met Sri A.S.Dalal in last January. A very transparent personality. He don’t write but give guidance and coordinate the books written by others.

    All the .pdf format books are available on Ashram website for free download. If you are looking for a specific thing like ‘money’ or ‘surrender’ for reading – go to your downloaded .pdf file and on edit go for find and write a word or a group of words and in result you will find all the reference of that word. I have kept together all mother’s volumes as well as Sri Aurobindo’s volumes and find all his references for a certain word.

    Dear Sandeep, you are doing a great job to put forward the integral ideas in Their Light.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. mw

      Thank you Vijay Dave. That’s good news about Sri Dalal. Glad to know he is still lucid.

      I have most of Dalal’s book and use them regularly. Thank you for the instructions.

      Mark

      Reply
  5. 01

    I’m reading your blog third day in a row (in the morning and evening, before/after work.

    Keep up the good work!

    //Keziah

    Reply
  6. Christine

    Hello ! I am french and I am discovering on this blog many documents about sri Aurobindo and the Mother I didn’t know because of not being translated I suppose. I’m delighted and grateful (sorry for my english !)

    Reply
      1. Christine

        J’ai lu quelques livres de personnes qui ont vécu avec sri Aurobindo mais je ne connaissais pas, par exemple, l’expérience de ce militaire américain pendant la 2nde guerre, ni la visite à l’ashram de Robert Schuman… Mais c’est vrai que je n’ai pas encore tout exploré !
        Je suis heureuse aussi de trouver sur ce blog des articles traités par sujets de société.

      2. Sandeep Post author

        Je peux lire en français mieux que je peux écrire… 🙂

        yes, some of the blog posts reference material which has only been published in English. I thought you were referring to the main works and those are all available in French.

        Merci pour votre appreciation!

  7. S

    For someone who maynot at a high spiritual level, spending money that has been earned by ethical means in order to fulfill a materislistic desire, a desire that is very deep rooted and persistent and cannot be overcome easily and is nothing but an obstacle in one’s spiritual path, would fulfilling it be detrimental towards spiritual growth? Rather would it not help in paving the way towards rising spiritually cause once it has been fulfilled, it no more bothers the person? Iam a little confused about this ….

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      It depends on the individual. In some cases, the persistent desire can be replaced by another, and then another. It could be a never-ending cycle which will be broken only you face a setback in life.

      It is like the story of Narada. He was sent to fetch a glass of water by Vishnu. On the way, he saw a woman, got married, had a family and then there was a flood which wiped out everything. As he cried over his misfortune, he heard a voice asking where was the glass of water.

      See also https://auromere.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/evolution-of-human-nature/

      Reply

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