By Saurabh Bhattacharya April 2001 Like it. Loathe it. Want it. Waste it. But you just cannot ignore it. What is the value of money, that rumpled piece of printed-paper in your wallet that the world bows to its power? The secret lies in your own mind! The four prosperity principles 1. Intention: It is being clear about your life purpose. Your life purpose is what you are here to do. You will know that by paying attention to what works for you and what does not.2. Preparation: Reading, going to school, formal and informal discussion and above all, questioning everything. Argue pros and cons until you come to a point of understanding the ‘why’ of something. This helps convert information into wisdom. 3. Attention: It’s about staying in the present moment. Actually being in your body and observing what is going on with you and around you. Your body will give you very important clues, which will help you make more informed choices. 4. Action: This is the purpose for which you have prepared. You are now in the driver’s seat. Choose the best you can and take action.Money mantra To get the blessings of Ma Mahalakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity, chant the following thrice a day, and watch abundance and affluence surge into your life. Believers say that many lives have changed, many fortunes have been made overnight as the ‘mantra’ recital has been rewarded with the blessings of the Goddess of wealth, through a shower of wealth and riches. (Recite thrice) Om shreem heem shreem kamle kamalalaye praseed praseed, shreem heem shreem om mahalaxmi namaye. Let’s talk money! Mammon‘s earthly incarnation. Satan‘s weapon of temptation. Capitalism‘s rightful expression. We are talking about a piece of paper, right? A scrap created from wooden goo that wouldn’t even fetch a glass of water if used for trade on the basis of its actual worth. So what makes money tick? We love it, we condemn it. We go all out to get as much of it as we can, then we berate it for being a temptation! We live with it and realize our dreams through it, yet are the first to say ‘money can’t buy everything’. Why? But then, how do you evaluate the worth of something that in itself defines worth, at least commercially? Is money a capitalist weapon for exploitation? Or the most tactile evaluation and reward of our capabilities? Perhaps it’s only fair that we begin with one of the few people who actually championed money and its philosophical and ethical worth. VALUE FOR VALUE ‘Money,’ wrote Ayn Rand, cult author and controversial propounder of objectivist philosophy, ‘is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.’ The catchphrase is ‘value for value‘. And, maybe, trust in a promise made on a piece of paper. In this sense, money or trade recognizes the belief that nothing in the world is free. Whatever we wish to have, has to be earned. So, if A wants what B owns, or is in a position to give, then A has to give B something of equal worth. Rand believed that only those who did not want to trade would condemn money. Who wanted for free what others had created with their effort and capability. ‘Money has served as a medium of exchange after trying a variety of other items, which were found lacking,’ explains N.K. Somani, CMD of Shree Vindhya Paper Mills, Mumbai. ‘Every person needs products and services in life. Money plays the role of a recognized value for the exchange of commodities and services. If there was no commonly-accepted unit for these transactions, there would be anarchy in the world.’ Rand went a step further in recognizing money as the means of sustenance. ‘Money is the source of survival,’ she wrote in Atlas Shrugged. ‘The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life.’ Perhaps it is worthwhile to wonder why money still draws so much flak. Why is it that most people hesitate to proclaim that they actually like money? What’s the taboo all about? When did a simple tool for exchange metamorphose into an ambivalent entity that is at once a source of shame and exultation? ‘The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it,’ proclaims Ayn Rand boldly. IS MONEY EVIL? Remember your first salary check? And the pride you felt to have earned something? How would you have felt if somebody had pointed out that it was wrong to like money? That the pride you were feeling was evil? A large part of this negative image has come about thanks to a misreading of the scriptures by the world’s major organized religions, notably Christianity and Brahminical Hinduism . Wealth, claimed the pundits of yore, was a sin if it was not accumulated for a ‘godly’ purpose. Renunciation was the catchword, poverty the goal and austerity the norm of the day. If you did not practice these, you were a sinner, decreed to being either reborn as a lower animal if a Hindu, or to be barbecued in the fires of hell, if a Christian. There was, however, an easy way out. Just keep donating money to religious institutions and God would turn a blind eye to how you earn your wealth. As Canadian Nathan Lester says: ‘Do you see a pattern here? Religion denounces money and then accepts 10 per cent of our earnings!’ But the scriptural truth was far from this bribe-God-be-happy image. Notes American financial consultant and inspirational author J. Grady Cash in his book Value-Based Money Management: ‘Money is not evil. The actual Biblical quote that leads to this common misconception is ‘for the love of money is the root of all evil‘. The ancient Aramaic text might more accurately be translated as ‘for the lust after money is the root of all evil‘. It’s perfectly acceptable to want to make more money. Only when money is accumulated for its own sake or its accumulation hurts others does money become bad.’ Ditto in Hinduism. Artha, or wealth, is legitimate; money is indispensable in the present state of society. A man of the world without money is a failure; he cannot keep body and soul together. In fact, according to an injunction of Hinduism, first comes the body and next the practice of religion. Furthermore, money is needed to build hospitals, schools, museums, and educational institutions, which distinguish a civilized society from a primitive one. Money gives leisure, a key factor in the creation of culture. But money must be earned according to dharma; otherwise it debases a man by making him greedy and cruel. The basic issue, therefore, is not whether money is evil but whether it has been earned ethically. THE ETHICS OF WEALTH Despite knowing this, many of us still shy away from talking about it openly. As New Age guru Deepak Chopra puts it: ‘Most people find it difficult to tell someone exactly how much money they make. This is because they believe that they are worth only what they earn.’ Why should this be so? American journalist Marjorie Kelly tried to answer this question in her article ‘Are you too rich if others are poor?’ (Utne Reader, Sept/Oct 1992): ‘One of our unconscious but profound beliefs about money is that it is a zero-sum game, and that for one person to have more means another has less. In short, that wealth is made on the backs of the poor. But there is an assumption here that is only partly accurate, and that is that money is a physical commodity that can be moved about like a pile of marbles. I suspect that the truth is that money has a dual nature. For if the zero-sum theory holds part of the truth of money, the other part is this: prosperity can beget prosperity.’ John Stussel, host of the 20/20 American TV show’s episode on the positive side of greed, accurately puts it: ‘Bill Gates is a good example. He’s now one of the world’s richest men. He’s got about $40 billion. But does his having $40 billion mean the rest of us have lost $40 billion? No.’ According to Stussel, in a trade-driven economy even if a person is greedy for more wealth, he just can’t grab it from others. ‘To get your money, he has to persuade you, entice you. To do that, he has to make something that you will willingly give him money for. All commerce requires both parties to benefit. Take the simple example. I buy a quart of milk from a farmwoman. I hand her the dollar; she gives me the milk. We both benefit, because she wanted the dollar more than the milk, and I wanted milk more than the dollar.’ Ram Piparaiya, Chairman, Aridhi Hitech Industries, Mumbai agrees: ‘Money does not corrupt. It depends on the user. Corrupt people become more corrupt with it.’ He, however, feels that those who don’t earn but win money, especially through lotteries or gambling, are more likely to be corrupted by it. B.R. Tangri, chief manager (PR) at the Oriental Bank of Commerce, Delhi, has a pointblank response to the debate: ‘How can money be evil? After all, can one survive without money?’ Actually, the notion that money corrupts is itself debatable. Money, intrinsically, is a means of trade. And the person who holds more money has greater power to dictate the terms of trade. Now, we have all heard that ‘power corrupts‘. But does power corrupt all? What about great leaders who have had the power to shape history, yet did it with integrity and wisdom? Then, shouldn’t the responsibility of not being corrupt lie with the pers
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