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How important is money in one's life?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
22 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): The question reads, “I fear a lot when I feel financially weak. How do I work on this problem?” What is financial weakness? What do you mean by financial weakness? What do you mean by that? When do you flag such a weakness? When do you say, “I am weak”?

Questioner (Q): When you can't buy something of this world.

AP: Come down to the earth. What you mean is that you start feeling nervous when you don’t have enough money for your expenses, right? "Enough money for your expenses." It is not that as if you have enough money. You don’t have as much as you want to maintain a certain standard of living, certain material standards, a certain lifestyle. Is the answer not obvious? Why raise your cost of living to a point where you have to be worried about earning? Why not have a Spartan lifestyle. Remember that in this world, there are no free lunches; free lunches are there only in that world, the world of the Father, the Truth. Here there are no free lunches. If you want money you will have to trade a part of yours, your body, your time, effort has to be traded to get money. The more money you take from someone, the more you have to exchange yourself. Do you get this? This is pure barter. The more you have promised, the more you have agreed to give, the more you have taken.

Nobody would pay you lakhs for nothing. If somebody to pay you lakhs, he would want to control you, he would want to have you act in certain ways, he would want you to fulfill his expectations and desires. He would want you to be productive for him. He is not paying you lakhs so that you fulfill your own mission. He is not paying you lakhs so that you are enjoying your liberty and freedom. He is paying you lakhs so that you may fulfill his desires. Right? You feel as if you are earning but, what you don’t see is that you are not earning you are just trading. And you have traded away your peace of mind as well you see. That is what is happening right now. Is it a good deal? Is it a profitable deal to get money and for the sake of money trade away one's peace one’s composure, one’s freedom? Is it a good deal? It is very simple, very, very basic.

Keep your costs to a minimum, then nobody can enslave you. The other enslaves you using your own greed. Nobody can own you, or possess you, or dominate you if you are not greedy, if you are not prepared to sell away your freedom.

You should be very much prepared to survive in the minimum. Even if I have this much it is enough to fulfill my needs. If I have more, wonderful that is a bonus, that is a blessing, grace, I am not going to reject it. But if a situation comes where I have to make do in the least of amounts, I am not going to crib about it. I am okay even if I am making a fifth of what I am currently making. In fact, you should be okay if you are making a tenth of what you are currently making. Your cost structure should be so small. Instead, what do we do? As soon as fortune seems to favor us, as soon as the income flow, increases, we unnecessarily, arbitrarily, and artificially raise our cost structure. We say, “Now the income is flowing in, why not spend.” Initially, you spend it as an aberration, initially, you spend it as a celebration, initially, you spend it as a once-in-a-while thing, as a one-time expenditure. Soon that one time becomes a habit. Are you getting it?

You graduate to a more expensive restaurant, you did it because you had money in your hand. Soon going to that restaurant, becomes a habit, a matter of self-worth, a matter of prestige. And you habitually start going there and spending more. Now, when your income level drops, it hurts because you will have to downgrade from that restaurant. What you don’t see is first of all you have needlessly upgraded, there was no need. Now when you have to climb down it seems like a loss of face. You feel humiliated. “You know, once upon a time I used to rule that shopping mall, I had a membership of that expensive and prestigious club.” That was all any way needless, totally needless. Now you are nervous about losing a thing that is fundamentally needless. Is that not double jeopardy? Is that not foolishness compounded? You bring something unnecessarily into your life and when that thing is about to go you are jittery. Do you see one mistake is piling upon the other? What are the two mistakes?

Q: Bringing something unnecessary in life.

AP: And then nervous that it would be lost. First of all, don’t bring it in. Secondly, even if you bring it in, don’t be attached to it. You must feel equally comfortable eating in a luxury restaurant of five, seven-star hotel and a cheap roadside dhaba. None of them determines your self-worth; none of them should become a matter of self-evaluation. Are you getting it?

By raising your so-called living standard and by identifying with certain goods, you just dig your own grave. And there is no upper limit to how much one can spend.

There are T-shirts available for Rs 200 or Rs. 2000. If you search you will get a T-shirt worth Rs. 20,000 as well and if you are determined you may even get a T-shirt priced at Rs. 2 lakhs. The Rs. 2 lakh T-shirt is good fun, have it, be entertained by it when time means so. When the game of chances brought that T-shirt to you, have it. But, be prepared always to do away with it. Be prepared always like all things, material, this too is going to go away. Even when you are donning that Rs.2 lakhs T-shirt you should be equally comfortable in the Rs. 200 T-shirt, equally comfortable. Then money is not a burden. But when money sticks to the mind, when money becomes a part of the mind, when you become money-minded then it is bad, very bad.

Divya (one of the listeners) was probably part of that camp, Meera was singing, ‘koi din Ladoo, koi din khajaa, koi din faakam fakaji’, there are days when you will have Ladoos, there are days when you will have the khaja sweets and there are days when you will have nothing to eat. Chill.

There is nothing wrong with having money, blowing up money. In fact, I am a believer in blowing up money. If you have it spend it, don’t keep it. Otherwise, it will become a burden. You have to protect it and such things. Spend it. There is nothing wrong with having or spending. But there is a great deal wrong in identifying.

What is the worst that will happen to you when you don’t have money? Let’s talk about it. Why are you so tensed then? Think of the worst and you will see that there is nothing to be afraid of. Be prepared to live on the streets. Be prepared to live off the land, that’s okay. Even as you upgrade to the business class, “Economic class is too crowded and I am a big man, I need more leg space so I fly business class”, cool, nice. Upgrade to the business class but, always be prepared to travel equally in an unreserved compartment in a train. “I fly business class, and sometimes I travel in the general boggy in trains. I am at home, at ease in both the situations.” Now money will be at your disposal, now you will use money, money will not use you, otherwise, money starts ruling you.

All the time you are afraid, “I have to maintain a certain level and if things fall below that level, then I feel as if I am disappearing, I feel as if a part of me is being butchered of, I feel as if I am lessened", you are not being lessened; your self-worth must be independent of any of your possessions. With possessions, you should be very playful, which means that you should not also feel guilty about earning money. That is another complex. Some people fall into guilt because they have money. "Now that so much money is coming in let’s hide it!" The bugger is a billionaire now, but he still rides a scooty. Not because he loves the scooty, but because he doesn’t want to expose that money has come in. There has been a windfall gain, somebody asks him, “So, all good”? He says, “No! It is normal business there is nothing special.” When money comes, boldly declare money has come. Now it is time to (giving expressions of having fun)... When money goes boldly declare money is gone, now it is time to (giving expressions of having fun)…

In general, if you are sound of mind and not normally lazy, or stubbornly foolish, then you will earn something. Why are you so doubtful of yourself? Money and such things- quality of life, etc. are time and age-dependent. Are they not? You are not born in India of the 1920s. Very few people die of starvation these days. You won’t starve, rest assured. You will be able to do something. Nobody starves. In fact, even if you want to starve the world would push some food in your mouth. Nobody would let you starve. What are you afraid of?

You know why we keep thinking of money? Not because money is really an important matter. We keep thinking of money so that we don’t want to think of the really important. This is an escape. This is a dirty device to escape. Keep thinking of something so that you don’t have to think of the real. So that you don’t have to think of that which actually must be thought of. So, you engage yourself in all the trivial matters. Keep yourself busy, make yourself feel as if something important is at stake so that you don’t have to look at that which is really important and actually at stake. It is proven that money is not an important matter at all. You will have enough money. And if you have really been an honest man you would have had certain relationships as well, right? You would be having at least some good friends, at least a few people who wish you well. Would they just let you roam about in destitution? Would they? What are you so afraid of?

"You know that you are talking something serious, it is about money!" If it is about money, then it should be the least serious matter. You will get money. It’s not as if you greatly love your job, right? So, you can do any other job and you will make enough. I was riding an Ola cab, the fellow said “I am a qualified Engineer and I had a job in the Engineering field. I quit it. I had a car and now I use that car to do this. And I make more than what I used to make in my job. And not only that now I decide when I will be riding the car and when I won’t be.”

One thinks too much of money when the real thing is missing in life. Otherwise, factually, there is no need to think so much of money, you will have enough. You have a car? (pointing to the questioner) Chill. You can run a Dhaba, you can run a juice shop, there are ten things you can do. Maybe you will like those things more than your current job which you anyway do not like. So, you will have the best of both worlds; better work and better money. These days they have Ola bikes as well.

Q: Sir, when you said “Travel in the unreserved compartment.” Just hearing that I am like, “Oh my God!” Why does the thought of physical hardship scare us?

AP: Because you don’t do any physical work.

Q: So, then the solution is to travel?

AP: Obviously, otherwise, that becomes a handicap. And using that handicap the world threatens you. It is not that as if you should make a habit of traveling in the general compartment. But equally, you should not make it a habit to travel business class. None of them should grow over you. None of them should hold you hostage. It should not be that if you cannot get a flight ticket you would rather not travel. And there are people like that. They say, “If you can’t get a flight ticket you'd rather not travel.” You should be all right with that, that is fine. The flight is booked, let’s go to Nazimuddin, no time to get reservations done? (Gesturing walking straight to the train's general compartment). Once in 6 months maybe. That helps maintain your freedom. It is a very liberating experience. Seriously. You should be equally at home with a Rs.10,000 hotel room and Rs. 200 hotel room. That astonishes you, right? Do Rs. 200 hotel rooms exist? They exist even for Rs. 100, try them out, not always, it can be dangerous, once in a while. Getting it?

Neither the renunciation of money nor the accumulation of money can be very important as a purpose of life. Money is a vehicle, a usable device; it helps keep this physical apparatus running. It has no more utility than that and it has no less utility than that. So, it has importance. You should know where to draw the line. Money has a certain importance and money has no importance beyond that point. That is discretion, to know how much importance to give to money. And my advice is that importance is not much.

There are far more important things in life to give importance to, and also if you are leading really a truthful life then you can’t be too short of money. You will do something, right? Otherwise, you will gain weight. And if you are a little intelligent, little creative why would you not earn anything? You would earn something and that would keep you going. Fear about one’s financial future is proportional to one’s disbelief in one’s own worth. Otherwise, one says, “We will see when we come to that, will be able to manage something. We are not so very unskilled or stupid or useless, we will do something, we will manage. We have the intelligence, we have the guts, we have the creativity and we have the willingness to exert ourselves. So, somehow, we will manage some money.” And saying thus, realizing thus, the wise man closes the money chapter, moves on to the more relevant chapters.

What great liabilities do you have that you are so nervous? What do you intend to do with the money? Leave it for your kids? How much can you consume? How much do you want to consume? Do you even have time to consume? Isn’t it just a psychological reassurance that you want, “Because I don’t have God, I at least have money"?

"I have something to stand by, something to live by, something to live for.”

Attend more sessions you will need less money. I don’t know whether you would earn more but what is certain is that you will need less. Otherwise, the world is full of attractions and temptations. A new car model is being launched every month, nice. “How much to pick this beauty? ‘X lakhs,’ ‘ah right, right’.” Entangled in EMIs, now pay the EMI. For one moment’s attraction keep paying the EMI for many years.

Q: * Sir, one thing I feel that I realize that money is like a video game, we earn something in a video game and we lose in the same game. So, the money is saved like life. We earn this money in life and we lose in life. And yet knowing this concept there is a fear that I am losing money.

AP: Attend more sessions. You always need money for something. That ‘something’ is not always very useful. If that ‘something’ disappears from your life your need to earn money, to buy that something, will also disappear. You need money for things or you need money for psychological reassurance. Both of them are bogus. Get rid of the dependence, the excessive dependence on things. And get rid of imaginary fears, psychological hollowness, you will need less and less money. And money isn’t evil. If you are earning something, it’s okay. If you start earning more, that too is okay. You start earning really a lot even that is good. What is not good is to keep thinking of something, be it ‘X’ matter, ‘Y’ matter, or be it a money matter. When money becomes a mental load then you know that you are sick. This that you are talking of is more relevant and more meaningful than a lot of other conversations.

These are the things that hold you back. Forget all ‘*Adhyātma*’ (Spirituality) and such things if you are paying a hefty EMI. That is the end of the road for you, full stop. If things like having a mansion and five servants and ‘XYZ’ matter to you, then you are stopped. I do not mean that you should not have a house, I am clarifying for the fifth time, I do not mean that you should not have money, I do not mean that you should not have attendants; I mean that they should remain in their due place and you should know what their due place is. Your attendants do not attend to you. A point comes where you start attending for the matter of attendance. Now, who is attending to whom? Now, who is serving whom? The servant is supposed to think of the master, right? And if the master is all the time thinking of the servant then who is serving whom? That day I said, “Are you driving your car or are you being driven by your car?” Many people are car-driven and they explicitly say that, “You know, I am very driven by the car or by a particular car or cars.”

I faced social opprobrium very recently, I was outcaste. There was the camp and I reached Nainital having very little winter clothing. Just as I was crossing Nainital I decided that I will buy something. It was morning time, the bigger shops were not open, but all the wayside people were selling their stuffs. So, I bought a jacket for Rs 400. And with great enthusiasm, I broadcast the news and my photo. And insults, sanctions, and abuses started pouring in from all sides, “How can you stoop so low?” Somebody said, “This must be a used jacket,” somebody said, “It must be a defective piece.” It is a good jacket, the yellow one, I used it for all four days. It was good. And you can buy a jacket for Rs. 40,000 also. I too have a few expensive jackets.

The question is ‘how much jacket’ is there in Rs. 40,000 jacket? The jacket is only Rs 1000 what are you paying the remaining 39,000 for? In a Rs 1 lakh jacket, there is very little jacket. What are you paying for? Ah! And your hollow vanity. “I have money, I have to do something with it”, and the paper in which the invoice was printed was aromatic chocolate-flavored bills. Keep licking! If a decent jacket is available for Rs. 400, then isn’t it a logical question to ask what are you paying 40,000 for? It’s not as if you hold yourself back just because you don’t have money. Even if you have money, you should ask this question. The price of the jacket is 1000 at max or maybe 3000. What is the remaining 37,000 for? How much of jacket is there in a 40,000 rupees unit? Shouldn’t you ask that question?

And that is a spiritual question, that is applied spirituality. How much of it is fact and how much of it is mere vanity and inflation, and imagination, and hollow pride and habit. Does the brand keep you warm? Okay remove the jacket and keep the brand then. Let the brand keep you warm! The jacket keeps you warm and the jacket is 1000, the remaining 39,000 is Māyā . Be cautious. I also bought shawls for Rs.100 each. When I asked Kundan, “Kundan, I am wearing this jacket guess the price,” and this fellow thinks he is an expert in negotiation and bringing the prices to rock bottom, and guess how much did he quote, guess, guess. He said “Rs. 3000!” So much for his negotiation skills. And I have shawls and nobody can tell they are Rs. 100 shawls. I am so sure you will buy the same shawl for Rs 5000. And then you will wonder why money is such a big factor in life. That is because we do not spend on goods. Money is a big factor in life because we do not spend on goods; we spend on our hollowness. The jacket is only for 1,000 the remaining 39,000 is being spent on our hollowness.

We are using that money to fill something that money cannot fill. So, you keep dumping in money but that void would remain as deep as it ever was. But you will get something to do with time. Now living won’t be such a great challenge. You have a purpose now and what is that purpose? Earn money. Earn money because the internal void has to be filled in. The internal void cannot be filled in. So, you will have to keep earning money that will keep you busy, occupied. So, you will be protected against the real questions of life. If you are free then you will have to face certain very testing questions. But if you are occupied with earning money, then you can keep those questions aside and feel safe and feel protected.

The man who is busy earning money, will he ever ask “What is liberation?” Will he ever ask, “What is falseness?” And that’s exactly what you wanted. Respite from these pressing and cruel questions. Now he has respite. Now to avoid the truth, now to avoid the fact of death, now to avoid the fact of this fleeting world, he can keep telling himself that he has a meaningful occupation in life and that is why he is not paying attention to the other matters. What is that meaningful occupation? Earn money! That is the role money plays in our life. It helps you not to look at the real matters. It helps you avoid the sessions. If money doesn’t remain a big factor on the mind, you will have to come.

The trivial is not just trivial, the trivial has a very important role to play. What is that role? To keep you occupied. So, the trivial is trivial and yet not trivial at all. It is like using a Rs. 2 paper napkins to envelope a Rs 2 billion diamond. Now is the knack trivial? Trivial, yet not trivial at all, it is serving a very important purpose. It is hiding the 2 billion diamond. Money is that napkin.

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