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 !