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Greed Obstructs Spiritual Growth

Religion is unsparing in its denunciation of greed. Avarice obstructs spiritual growth as it is an offspring of the three gunas. Redemption consists in the individual self’s transcendence of the gunas, its eschewal of the sense of duality, its release from the fetters of the impulse to acquire and preserve, its anchorage in purity and its peaceful abidance in the Self. This is what Sri Krishna means when he says, ‘The Vedas deal with the three gunas. O Arjuna, be free from these three gunas, from the pairs of opposites. Be established in sattva; do not try to acquire what you lack or preserve what you have. Be established in the Atman’ (2.45). The term niryogakshema in the verse, in effect, signifies the antithesis of greed. It implies the virtues of contentment (tripti) and non-acceptance of gifts (aparigraha), which are prerequisites to spiritual progress.

How, then, do we go about the Herculean task of banishing greed from our lives? It is a well-known axiom that to get rid of the effect we have to eliminate the cause. We have already seen that craving for sense pleasure is the breeding-ground of cupidity. So it follows that if we shun such base delights, then we will no longer be plagued by the malady of greed.

In other words, dispassion (vairagya) is the surest weapon to kill greed. And the best way to develop a dispassionate attitude is to always keep in mind the seamy side of sense enjoyments. Sri Krishna warns that, for all their promise of pleasure, the senses are highly inconstant and eventually make for pain. (5.22) He also points out how they lose their subtle and treacherous appeal as one advances on the spiritual path and fade away completely when the Truth is seen. (2.59)

Sri Ramakrishna’s wise sayings on this theme are a telling commentary on this verse: ‘He who has once tasted the refined crystal of sugar candy finds no pleasure in tasting the dirty treacle. He who has slept in a palace will not find pleasure in lying down in a dirty hovel. The soul that has tasted the sweetness of divine bliss finds no happiness in the vulgar pleasures of the world.’ So the conquest of greed demands of us an assiduous cultivation of dispassion, which unfolds and grows as we progress in our spiritual pilgrimage.

As for people who save for reasons of economic security, they are above reproach.  But the problem arises from the fact that most of them are just inveterate lovers of the yellow metal masquerading as savers for the rainy season. The line of demarcation between concern for economic security and plain love of money is rather thin. What begins as a genuine concern imperceptibly grows into an insatiable thirst for wealth.