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Acquisition Of Wealth As Per Hindu Religion – Based On Vedas – Puranas

The tendency to acquire wealth is natural to man and is evident from literary sources, can be traced to ancient times. Rig Veda refers to wealth as dhana and the word occurs more than one hundred times. The context is the acquisition of wealth through participation in races, fighting wars, manufacturing of articles of daily use, rearing of kine and cultivation of agricultural land.

There is an interesting lament of a gambler which suggests that gambling was condemned as a means of acquiring wealth. The gambler says that his wife, parents, friends and relatives have turned against him. Another one says that the gambler deep in debt and scorned by near and dear ones, resorts to theft. The Veda exhorts the gambler to take to cultivation (X.34).

However, acquisition of wealth is not totally denounced. It is considered as one of the most essential aspects of life. This is evident from the importance it is given in the scheme of the purusharthas (goals of life), i.e dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (love/desire) and moksha (liberation). It is linked to desire but it has to be acquired through legitimate means and the final goal of moksha should not be last sight of.

In view of the essential role of wealth in life, eve such a great sage as Yajnavalkya does not refrain from taking a thousand cows which he won in the scholarly debate organized by king Janaka, as recounted in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II 4.1-5; III-1. 1-2). However, he earns all these only to leave them behind him, to be divided between his wives at the time of renunciation. His wife Maitreyi’s complete detachment from her share further makes the characteristic Vedic outlook towards wealth still clearer. According to it, wealth is necessarily to be acquired but only for the maintenance of life and by no means at the cost of other basic aspirations of life, such as righteous living and final liberation.

The ways of acquisition of wealth have been described in Puranas as white, brown and black. The wealth acquired through transmission of knowledge and performance of sacrifice is considered as purely white while that acquired through war, taxation, business and cultivation, etc is taken to be brown. Totally distinct from them is the third mode of earning characterized as black, wherein wealth is earned through gambling, stealing and forcible capturing etc.