Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Desire and Needs - Why appreciate greedy people?

All desires cannot be needs and shall not be.

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It is curious to note that when we speak of greedy people, we immediately have images of pot-bellied politicians and industrialists with bikini-clad babes by their side. Never a film star who keeps working and working and working and working, making crores for every day of work. Or a sports-person who keeps playing and endorsing and playing and endorsing and endorsing and endorsing and still demanding tax exemptions for his gifts. No, the film star and sportsmen is just honest hard-working people who are exploiting no one: surely they cannot be classified as greedy.

  • This is where the confusion starts. We confuse greed with exploitation and corruption. Greed is seeking more than you need. Exploitation and corruption are simply means to get what you seek. It is possible to be honest and upright and hard working and diligent and pay your taxes on time and never exploit or abuse or be corrupt, and still be greedy. Very very greedy.
  • Notice how every advertisement and every brand is hogged by just dozen or so superstars from Bollywood and cricket. Their combined income of these 12 people will be quite enough to feed several villages for several years. But we do not see this as greed, perhaps because some of them make programs about the poor and the dispossessed and the exploited, and often appear in charitable events, for a fee of course, to tell the world they should be socially responsible.
  • As we become increasingly Westernised  we believe that rules and rationality will solve the problems. Hence we hold conferences on corporate responsibility and ethics and governance, hoping that the law will make the greedy (once we identify them) make sense. Every Bollywood star and cricketer has not broken a single of these laws. They may run people down on the streets, they may kill endangered wild life, they may keep illegal weapons at home, they have alleged strange bedroom habits, but they remain ethical and law-abiding citizens in our eyes, and we are eager to forgive them. Why? Because they entertain us. Not the politicians , who seem to be making our lives miserable.
The sages of India did not believe that any law or punishment can stop the greedy from being greedy.  You may know the story of Ganesha and Kubera.  The point here is not the humbling of Kubera by Ganesha , but the idea of Shiva, the idea of outgrowing hunger that liberates us from the desire to hoard. We cannot stop hoarding until we appreciate why we hoard? We hoard in fear.  Fear is the most primal drive (instinct) of human emotions. In fact, fear came to this world before death. It is the emotion that propels all animals to fight for their survival.  By practising Preksha Meditation it is possible to control emotions.
  • Fear has been around for three billion years; humans have been around for less than a million. And with humans comes imagination: which means our fear is amplified by imagination. And that fear amplifies our hunger. We hoard and we hoard to protect us from future poverty . Remember how one Bollywood star keeps reminding us that he works like a maniac and continues to make zillions because once he experienced bankruptcy. He cannot get rid of that baggage; thus he rationalizes greed and we all sob at his well-rehearsed story.
  • We live in world where we are admired for what we have: For example, more marks in exam, more salary, more income, more houses, more cars, more mobile features, and so on.  We celebrate stars and sports celebrity and they strike us with the advertisement by becoming brand ambassadors.   We forget that they are paid crores of rupees (millions of Dollars) to impress on us to buy a product or a service that we really do not need.  Brain washing is at the best.  Hundreds time they will tell you a lie and you will start believing in the same.   We are actually celebrating greedy materialistic world every time we make a list of richest people in the world.  We are giving wrong message to the next generation that ‘have more and more and more’.
  • We create a wrong benchmark in the society and when someone is found with crores of Rupees in Swiss bank account we cry ‘foul”.  The relative economics in the light of the philosophy of non-violence propounded by Mahavira and in recent time by Mahatma Gandhi and the Jain Acharya Shri Mahashraman. For any person living in the society the principles of ahimsa, non-violence and aparigraha (less-possessions) can be practised only in a relative sense. Immorality, unethical needs, violent cruelty, exploitation and excessive consumption, lead to negation of our dictates ignoring what is just for the society in terms of ahimsa (non-violence). Similarly, limiting one’s desires and accumulation is relative aparigraha. Violence and accumulation are inseparable and so is non-violence and non-accumulation. Economics can therefore be considered as economics of non-violence. Absolute economics encourages violence. On the contrary relative economics discourages violence.  A person cannot listen to the religion and experience pure enlightenment without learning about renouncing the two factors of domestic violence and increasing possessiveness of material means.

Based on teaching of Acharya Shri Mahapragna and
recent article in Times of India (26 Nov 2012) by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Do you agree that "All desires cannot be needs and shall not be".  Your comment below will be appreciated, thanks in advance.     - Zaveri.


  1. Greed and Fear are an integral part of our self destruct mechanism, which is evident in every life form. Unfortunately, we as humans have taken this axiom at a devastating scale, which would eventually consume each and every one of us.

  2. Yes, Shantesh, I appreciate your comments.

    'Showing off' of the wealth in the religious places is not a good idea. Instead of donating money for a 'Golden door' and similar thing and glittering ceremonies, devotees should help other needy people.



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