Money gives us a sense of freedom and ownership. We feel that with money, we can own anything or put a price tag on anybody’s services.
Ownership of something means total control of its existence from beginning to end. When we pay for a piece of land, we feel that we own it, although the land continues to exist even after the owner is long gone. How can you own something that outlives you?
Money also gives the idea that you are powerful and independent, blinding you to the fact that we live in a world of interdependence. We depend on farmers, cooks, drivers and the services of so many other people around us. Even an expert surgeon cannot operate on himself; he depends on others.
Why are most rich people arrogant? Because of the feeling of independence that money brings. The awareness of dependence, on the other hand, makes one humble. The basic human tenet of humility is taken away by this false feeling of independence.
Today, we have gone to the extent of measuring people in terms of their net worth on the money scale — “so-and-so is worth five hundred million” etc. Can money reflect the worth of a person? Calling someone a millionaire or a billionaire is not a compliment. You cannot assign a monetary value to human life.
When people lack faith in divinity, in their own abilities and in the goodness of society, they suffer from a deep sense of insecurity. Then, all that appears to provide security is money. Some among the wealthy feel insecure in relationships — they don’t know whether their friends are truly their friends or are just interested in their fortune. Money can only provide a temporary, illusory sense of security.
Wealth is attained through one’s skills and abilities, inheritance or through corrupt means. Each means of attaining wealth brings with it its own consequences. The very motive for corruption is peace and happiness. Yet peace and happiness remain elusive when the means are corrupt.
Due to the illusory notions of independence, ownership and security that it brings, money is considered a part of maya: 'miyate anaya iti maya' means 'that which can be measured is maya'. Hence everything in the world that can be measured is considered maya, money being one such thing. Human values are eroded when you try to put a price tag on all that cannot be measured, like love, truth, wisdom and life itself.
On the other hand, there are those who criticize money and blame it for all the ills of society. There are some others who even consider it as evil. Not only does possessing money bring arrogance, rejecting it does too. Some people who renounce money take pride in their poverty, just to draw attention and sympathy.
However, the ancient sages never denigrated money nor maya. In fact, they honored it as a part of the divine and thereby transcended the grip of its illusion. They knew the secret that when you reject or hate something, you can never transcend it.
They honoured wealth as Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Narayana. She is born out of Yoga (yogaje yoga sambhute). It is Yoga that transforms bad karma and brings out latent skills and talents. It also brings up ashtasiddhis — the eight perfections, and nava nidhis — the nine wealth’s.
It is this wisdom of Yoga that transforms one from arrogance to self-confidence, from meekness to humility, from the burden of dependence to the realization of interdependence, from craving for freedom to the recognition of unbounded-ness, from a limited ownership to a transcendental relationship with the whole who is Krishna.