14. The Wealthy Have the Most | The Wealthy Need the Least
Modern life is complicated – people have two cars, two houses, two phones and two television sets... is it all too much? As we rush around the world, we may well trade in our values for our ‘valuables.’ We strive to acquire and achieve – to create a life that looks good on the outside, but may not feel so good on the inside. Wealthy are those, the Bhagavad-Gita says, who don’t necessarily have the most, but who need the least. Internal satisfaction and contentment are the most prized possessions in the world.
Years ago people would walk or cycle from place to place. Then we advanced our civilisation and invented the car – convenient, quick and comfortable. The net result of this fast-paced lifestyle: at the end of a gruelling day at work, we drive that car to the gym, pay a monthly membership fee of £30, ride an exercise bike and pace on a treadmill, sweat our hearts out, and go absolutely nowhere! Stranger than this pattern of events is our unquestioning acceptance of it as ‘normal.’ It’s worth stepping back and reflecting on the way we live. In our youth, we lose our health to gain wealth, then in our old age, we’re forced to spend that wealth to regain our health. It’s nothing short of crazy!
In Chapter Fourteen, Krishna presents a model of material reality that helps us recalibrate our desires, reflect upon our decisions, and reposition our eventual destiny. The environment, and everything within it, carries a certain influence – in principle, everything is tinged by goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) or ignorance (tamas). These are known as the three modes of material nature. The influence of goodness clarifies and pacifies. From it, qualities such as joy, wisdom, compassion and humility are born. Passion is said to confuse and provoke, giving rise to greed, anger, ambition and envy. Ignorance obscures and impedes, drawing one into laziness, delusion, indifference and idleness. The food we eat, the state of our environment, and the time of day, to name but a few, all carry the influence of the modes of nature. They all have an impact on our consciousness.
Krishna encourages us to engineer a lifestyle in the mode of goodness. This will help us maximise our potential, develop our character, and increase our overall sense of wellbeing and happiness. Since every decision builds our destiny, each one carries importance. Understanding the influence of the modes refines and empowers our decision-making, and facilitates a progressive destination in life.
Living in the mode of goodness can be summed up in the famous phrase coined by Srila Prabhupada – ‘simple living, high thinking.’ Individuals who embrace this ideal are rare. They strive for purity in a world of degradation, they embrace simplicity amongst rampant materialism, and they cultivate selflessness in an atmosphere charged with exploitation. Anyone who goes against the grain in such a bold way will undoubtedly be faced with temptation, doubt, ridicule and moments of weakness. This lifestyle and mindset in the mode of goodness, however, is the springboard from which one can develop their spiritual consciousness. In this consciousness, one experiences the happiness of the soul, incomparable to anything we may have encountered in this world.
“Material nature consists of three modes—goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty- armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes.” (Bhagavad-Gita 14.5)
14.12 – Dangers of mode of passion and an unbalanced lifestyle.