Thought for the Day
30th October 1997
Good Morning. After a week of roller-coaster action on the Stock Markets, many will be relieved to see the share index recovering from the brink of a crash. Such turbulent trading reveals the worrisome fragility of the modern economy.
Despite being indoctrinated as a youngster that “money doesn’t grow on trees”, I’m now convinced that the opposite is true. In Hindu culture, real wealth is defined as that which can be produced sustainably from the earth. Land is always a good investment - after all, it’s not being made anymore. Treat the land kindly, and it will provide everything we need for food, shelter and clothing - continuously.
Over the millennia, we replaced cumbersome bartering with a gold standard. Now, we have a type of cyber-currency with our fortunes, assets and pensions stored as electronic bytes in some distant computer.
The unpredictable stock markets will surely inspire many Hindus to be even more attentive to the Diwali observances this week, and especially to the ceremony of Laxmi-puja, to-day. Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth and good fortune, and most Hindu businessmen will try to propitiate Her in the hope that She blesses them with a healthy profit. But, there is more to it than simply praying for money.
Good fortune comes from God, so money which is recognised as a gift of God is also termed laxmi. And this is particularly illustrated in the Diwali story.
Diwali celebrates the return of Ram and His wife, Sita, to their capital city after an exile during which the evil tyrant, Ravana, abducted Sita . After the defeat of Ravana, Ram and Sita were re-united. Ram is considered to be an incarnation of God and Sita is Laxmi. The villainy of Ravana lay in his attempt to separate Laxmi from God and to enjoy Her as his own.
The whole episode demonstrates how avarice and selfishness eclipse good judgement and lead to frustration, despondency and self-destruction.
Ravana was able to obtain Laxmi by deceit. Similarly, it is clearly possible to gain money by wrongful or unethical means. However, the Diwali message is that, in such circumstances, Laxmi will not stay long with Her kidnappers. Money will disappear as fast as it arrived, causing distress en route.
For long-term prosperity, we need to win Laxmi’s favour. She is pleased if we trade honestly and ethically; and consider that all income placed in our charge is a gift to use wisely for our own needs and for the welfare of others. Happy Diwali.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.