I’m sure the reader who wrote in and asked about Sri Ramakrishna, spirituality and money wouldn’t mind if I reproduce my answer here, for others in a similar quandary and especially for Eastern readers.
The reader wrote: “I read your article about purchasing Vietnamese Dong. I read and try to follow Thakur [Master] – Ramakrishna. He tells us to keep away from money and concentrate on God. I feel a dilemma. How do we solve this?”
I also am a follower of Sri Ramakrishna, who is my paramguru.
These are my opinions on the matter. In my view, his strict teachings on money were meant for his later-monastic disciples and not for many of his householder devotees (with the exception of such disciples as Nag Mahasaya). Of such heroic devotees, Sri Ramakrishna said:
“A true spiritual devotee does not care for such things as wealth or health. He thinks: ‘Why should I practise spiritual austerities for creature comforts, money, or name and fame? These are all impermanent. They last only a day or two.’” (1)
But to most householder devotees he gave somewhat different advice:
“Live in the world like a mudfish. The mudfish lives in the mud but itself remains unstained. Or live in the world like a loose woman. She attends to her household duties, but her mind is always on her sweetheart. Do your duties in the world, fixing your mind on God.” (2)
“I ask people to live in the world and at the same time fix their minds on God. I don’t ask them to give up the world. I say, ‘Fulfil your worldly duties and also think of God.’” (3)
He stated that his householder devotees had to earn money to support their families and take care of their other duties.
“A householder has his duties to discharge, his debts to pay: his debt to the gods, his debt to his ancestors, his debt to the rishis, and his debt to his wife and children. If a wife is chaste, then her husband should support her; he should also bring up their children until they are of age.” (4)
“Paramahansas may not lay things up; but this rule does not apply to householders. They must provide for their families.” (5)
He advised us that “money is not harmful if it is devoted to the service of God.” (6) He asked his householder devotees to act with detachment, like karma yogis, in their dealings with money and others.
His teachings differed according to the situation of the devotee so it isn’t completely possible to make large and absolute statements about them, something he discussed often. You may remember that he said that the Mother prepares various dishes for her children?
“The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children. Suppose she has five children. If there is a fish to cook, she prepares different dishes from it — pilau, pickled fish, fried fish, and so on — to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion.” (7)
Working with money can forward one’s spiritual progress. Take for example the father of Paramahansa Yogananda who didn’t even bother to pick up back wages that were owed him by the railroad he worked for. Non-attachment can be practiced and enhanced even while helping others.
In purchasing Vietnamese currency for the good of the world, you might wish to see it as a means of serving Thakur by serving his children. Perhaps imagine and conduct yourself like Mathur Nath Biswas, owner of the Dashineswar Temple, or Balaram Bose, prominent householder devotees who acted as Sri Ramakrishna’s providers.
What was the fate of householders like Mathur and Balaram ? Let’s listen to accounts of their departures, upon the completion of their work.
“Soon [Mathur Nath Biswas’s] part in Sri Ramakrishna’s divine drama came to an end. On July 14, 1871, he died of typhoid fever after a short illness. … [On that day] Sri Ramakrishna … became absorbed in deep samadhi in his room for a couple of hours while his spirit went forth to help Mathur attain the goal.
“At five o’clock Sri Ramakrishna came out of samadhi and said to Hriday, ‘The companions of the Divine Mother took Mathur with love and care into their celestial chariot and his soul has ascended to the sphere of the Mother [Deviloka].’ Later that night the news reached Dakshineswar that Mathur had passed away just at five o’clock.” (8)
“The passing of each of the devotees of the Master is a wonderful event in itself. The departure of Balaram Babu was equally wonderful. His disease [cholera] had taken a serious turn, and all were anxious. … One day, before the final departure, the doctor came in and declared that he was beyond cure.
“At the last moment, we were seated around [Balaram], while his wife, stricken with unspeakable grief, was in the inner apartment with Golap-ma, Yogin-ma, and others. Just then she noticed something like a piece of black cloud in the sky, which became denser by stages and began to descend. Soon it assumed the shape of a chariot and alighted on the roof of Balaram Babu’s house.
“The Master came out of that chariot and proceeded towards the room where Balaram Babu lay. Soon after, he issued forth, taking Balaram Babu by the hand, and entered the chariot again, which then ascended and vanished in the sky. This vision raised [Balaram’s wife’s] mind to a very high plane where there could be no touch of grief or sorrow. When she returned to normal she related this to Golap-ma, who came to apprise us of the fact. Balaram Babu had passed away just a little while before.” (9)
Archangel Michael said (10) that one of the purposes of the prosperity program is to see that the poor have what they need. He didn’t add, but let me do so on my own recognizance: to recover, survive and flourish and to allow them the breathing room to prepare for Ascension. Can there be a nobler work for householders? Are those who take that path not what Sri Ramakirshna called “heroes”?
“They are heroes indeed who can pray to God in then midst of worldly activities. They are like men who strive for God-realization while carrying heavy loads on their heads. Such men are real heroes.
“You may say that this is extremely difficult. But is there anything, however hard, that cannot be achieved through God’s grace? His grace makes even the impossible possible. If a lamp has been brought into a room that has been dark a thousand years, does it illumine the room little by little? The room is lighted all at once.” (11)
Sri Ramakrishna has actually reincarnated and lives in India again although I’m not permitted to say where. You remember he said he would come again in about a hundred years’ time?
“I shall have to be born once more. Therefore I am not giving all knowledge to my companions. (With a smile.)
“Suppose I give you all knowledge; will you then come to me again so willingly?” (12)
“The Master said he would come again after a hundred years. Meanwhile, for those hundred years he would live in the hearts of those who love him.” (13)
“On a certain occasion the Master, standing on the semi-circular verandah of his room, said that he would be born again after a hundred years.” (14)
I’ve heard him speak on Ascension. He’ll be a shining jewel among the Masters.
If Sri Ramakrishna can come to help fulfill Ascension, and global prosperity is a part of that, is it not safe to say that he supports global prosperity? Swami Vivekananda once asked how people could be taught spirituality on an empty stomach. When we begin to plan the larger projects that AAM mentioned, we will be filling those empty stomachs so that the hungry and homeless can also enjoy Ascension.
I approach my work regarding global prosperity as a householder devotee of Thakur’s, a lightworker and a karma yogi. For me it’s not about “owning” money but about acting as a channel (with prudence) to get money to those who don’t have it and need it.
For more on Sri Ramakrishna, see: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna at http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/, “Selections from the Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna – 1,” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/diction/ramak1.html, “Selections from the Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna – 2,” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/diction/ramak2.html.
(1) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 286. [Hereafter GSR]
(2) Ibid., 246.
(3) Ibid., 828.
(5) PR in GSR, 250.
(6) Ibid., 114.
(11) Ibid., 34. It’s never easy to correlate spheres because commentators use so many different names for them, but I’m quite sure that the Devaloka is a sphere well above the Fifth that we’re going to.
(12) Ibid., 132-3.
(13) “Archangel Michael’s Counsel on the Reval,” Sept. 17, 2013, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2013/09/archangel-michaels-counsel-on-the-reval/.
(14) PR in GSR, 1014-5.
(8) Ibid., 359.
(9) Sri Sarada Devi in Swami Chetanananda, ed. and trans. Ramakrishna as We Saw Him. St Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1990, 31.
(10) TLWG, 65.