Practicality in Investments
There are two aspects to this subject. The first is investment for financial gain or security. The other is one’s investment of time and energy. Where the second aspect is concerned, material success is less tied to money than to the effort and energy one puts forth.
The first kind of investment seeks to profit from other people’s time and energy. This might be called modern absentee landlordism—a practice which got the French aristocracy hated by the peasants, and ended in the social explosion that was the French Revolution. When an individual invests money in stocks, although he is helping others to succeed in their business, he is also hoping they’ll devote their time and energy to making him rich. Rarely do people invest in the stock market as a service to others. Their usual motive is self-service: greed, in other words.
That is how most people see their investments. They want to become rich with as little effort on their part as possible, and hope to see all their investments grow magically in value without continuing effort on their part. A disadvantage to this way of making money is that it is, of course, risky. In a rising market, every investor may seem a financial genius, but when the bottom falls out of the market even those who may have been brilliant often end up bankrupt. The main danger, however, in karmic terms, is that stock market investments are made from a desire to gain without effort. For business to be in harmony with karmic law, it should have also, as an important motive, service to others. Business nowadays, unfortunately, is becoming motivated instead by increasing greed.
My purpose in writing this lesson is not to teach businessmen the principles of money investment. Those principles are adequately taught in business colleges. The imponderables in such investments, moreover, are many, and have little or nothing to do with our present subject: material success through yoga principles. Too often, the main reason behind people’s investments is in conflict with yoga principles.
I shall begin this lesson by discussing a probable event in the near future of which every student of this course ought, I believe, to be aware. It concerns a financial crash that Paramhansa Yogananda predicted frequently toward the end of his life, speaking with great fervor and conviction. He said it would be disastrous for humanity, and would come as a simple result of man’s greed. Greed, in fact, has been people’s principal motive for investing in the stock market. Because this prediction was made by a great spiritual master, and was seen in visions in a state of divine consciousness, it deserves consideration primarily for that fact, and only secondarily as a logically possible outcome of the present situation. He said it often: “A great depression is coming.” It would be well for people everywhere to take this warning very seriously.
Often I heard him speak of these things in public. “The next depression,” he warned, “will be far worse than that of the 1930s.” A senior disciple of his told me she had heard him say, “The dollar won’t be worth the paper it is printed on.” I never personally heard him make this statement, but it is perfectly in consonance with everything I did hear him say.
India’s suffering will, I suspect, be less than America’s. He was speaking in America, which has been profligate in its spending. In India, I believe people are traditionally more careful to save their money, and to invest it safely, if at all, instead of taking foolish risks to achieve wealth without effort. Americans have been too long accustomed to overall prosperity, and are to some extent intoxicated with the expectation that their prosperity will never end. Thus, instead of saving their money they spend it “like water,” going far beyond their actual income by using credit cards and going into debt. At present, American personal indebtedness amounts to an average of $20,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.
There is another reason why I believe that India will suffer less in a global depression. A person who falls to the ground from a low ledge may suffer only light bruises. One who falls to the ground from three storeys up, however, may be killed. Americans generally speaking have farther to fall, economically, than Indians, who are also more accustomed to the sight of poverty. Thus, Indians may find it easier to adjust to a serious depression.
Yogananda did not predict destitution for America. Rather, he said that Americans would lose half their wealth. So spoiled have Americans become by wealth, however, that they will see even a lesser loss as devastating.
There is a positive side to this picture also, however. My Guru added, “But they will be more spiritual.”
On one occasion when he was uttering these warnings publicly, I was startled to hear him say after a brief pause, speaking with great force, “You don’t know what a terrible cataclysm is coming!”
Perhaps he was only emphasizing his general theme of depression. It seemed to me, however, that these words were an insertion into his theme. The word, cataclysm, usually refers to some massive natural catastrophe, perhaps threatening the entire planet. I’ve not known it to refer to a man-made disaster. In any case, his words were dire enough, whatever their actual intent. If he meant them only to emphasize what he was saying about preparing for economic hard times, it is certain that he meant at least, “Take my warning very seriously!”
He explained repeatedly that the reason for the coming depression was greed. Would it not be fitting, indeed, for such a depression to begin with a stock market crash? The stock market is an exact expression of people’s growing greed, and their hope of attaining wealth without actual effort.
Money earned by the sweat of one’s brow, or by straining one’s intellect, is honorably earned. When people try, however, to gain wealth by other people’s efforts, they are treading on “thin ice,” for the attempt goes counter to karmic law. If one seeks gain without giving anything in return, he gains bad karma. Nowadays, more and more of the wealth of America is being produced in other countries, where labor is relatively cheap. Can Americans afford indefinitely to sit back and let others do their work for them? In what way can this attitude be considered honorable?
The Indian people, perhaps because of their long habituation to at least seeing poverty, may prove more generous than the French peasants, for they will probably not cast blame on others. I have not observed in India an envious attitude toward America, for example. I believe they are only determined to “come up” economically, also. I imagine they’ll think, “Well, we don’t want the Americans to suffer.” In any case, they may feel that America’s problems are its own; they may even imagine they won’t be affected by them. The trouble is, the whole world’s economy is inextricably intertwined. That economy, fortunately or unfortunately, is also tied to the American dollar. As Brazil has been endangering the planet by clear-cutting vast tracts in the Amazon jungle, so America is endangering the whole world by its fiscal irresponsibility.
Will everything work out for the best in the end? Of course it will! Everything does, for duality swings back and forth. Good times will always turn bad again, in the end! That phrase, “in the end,” however, can cover a long period of time. My Guru stated that the coming upheavals will eventually produce an era of worldwide peace and prosperity. It is even a good thing for America, in the long run, that so much of her wealth is presently being produced in other, relatively poor countries. Thus, international production is equalizing the prosperity of all peoples, even if Americans fail to realize that non-productivity at home will be, in the long run, to their economic detriment.
Prosperity will eventually become relatively equal all over the world. Obviously, such an outcome is desirable. The process, however, will be initially painful for everyone—for Americans, because they will wake up to the fact that, in actually producing less, they have less real wealth; and for poor countries, because they are much too dependent at present on the strength or weakness of the dollar.
No one country deserves to be singled out for sole blame. What is really happening is that the leading disease of modern times, greed, is infecting the whole planet. Until things balance themselves out, the worldwide upheaval will cause pain everywhere.
Anyone, moreover, who believes that world wars are a thing of the past is closing his eyes to the obvious. Again and again one hears the comforting words, declared with firm conviction: “A nuclear war is impossible: No one would accept something so horrible!” Everywhere, however, hatred seems to be on the increase; fear is on the increase; envy, jealousy, and anger are on the increase. People are willing—indeed, they seem eager—to blame everyone but themselves! How can peace come to a planet that seethes with such negative emotions? If you accept the dictum I proposed in the last lesson, “Do what works,” you cannot ignore its obvious corollary: “Avoid doing what doesn’t work”!
Understandably, no one wants to hear predictions of doom and disaster. Most people, perhaps, would rather stop their ears than listen to such words.
I myself, as a boy in the 1930s, lived in Europe. I knew at first hand the fear Jews held of persecution. I also saw them react in two ways to that fear. One group emigrated abroad to safety. The other group kept on affirming that fear was groundless. “Germany needs our prosperity,” they frequently insisted. Someone explained to me years later that the Jews believed in keeping their money in gold, in addition to using the official paper currency.
Meanwhile, everyone in Europe saw Adolph Hitler on newsreels, inflaming his countrymen with hatred of the Jews. The motivation for that hatred was envy. Those Jews who decided it would be wise to leave Europe while there was still time were the pragmatic ones. The wishful thinkers dismissed fear as “negative thinking.” The realists asked, in reply, “What is so negative about facing facts?”
I was on a train once, traveling across Germany on my way to school in England. When the train reached the Dutch border, a man in my brother’s sleeping compartment was arrested by the German Gestapo. What could we assume but that he ended in a concentration camp, where, as we were to learn in time, millions died?
Terrible things have happened in our times. Think of the mass slayings, after the partition, of Hindus by Moslems, and of Moslems by Hindus. Is it “negative thinking” to face the possibility that these things may happen again?
I don’t insist that you accept this view of the future. I do consider it my duty, however, to share with you what I consider to be a more than likely event. Why not make a few preparations, at least, for that eventuality? It is evident that there is a danger of hard times ahead. If I am wrong, you will anyway have made a sensible investment. If a global depression does arrive, and perhaps even a global war of terrible proportions, you may be able with a little preparation not only to help yourself and your family, but also to save many friends as well as others. These are difficult possibilities to face, but surely it would be unwise to do nothing to prepare for them. There are at present too many signs pointing in the direction of disaster. On the other hand, if no disaster occurs, at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you took sensible precautions. Wishful thinking cannot change the world’s karma. Positive thinking may help to mitigate that karma, but even mitigation will require a far greater change in mass consciousness than we are seeing today. As long as greed rules the mass consciousness, it must be accepted there are serious lessons needing to be learned. Since what I am speaking of concerns mass consciousness, humanity en masse will have to learn the same lesson, whatever other lessons they need also.
Were everybody to turn to God, the trials would certainly be mitigated. Karma, however, which is simply energy in action, cannot be destroyed: It can only be minimized, by an equal and differently directed energy. How likely is it that mass greed will be dissolved by mass love? Not likely at all! Too many people have turned away mentally from God. Foolishly, they blame Him for their suffering when it is something they’ve brought on themselves. Meanwhile, a consciousness of greed, hatred, and increasing violence is festering in too many hearts.
“After the coming disasters,” Paramhansa Yogananda prophesied, “humanity will have grown so tired of violence that it will live in peace for three hundred years.” It will be, he said, a new and wonderful world. Meanwhile, the question forces itself upon us: “Have they suffered enough yet?” In answer to that question, one cannot help observing that the main causes of man’s present suffering—hatred and greed—are on the increase. They are not diminishing.
“Someday,” the Master predicted, “America and India will join hands and lead the world to a right balance between spiritual and material practicality.”
A vitally important question is sure to be asked: How soon will these dire predictions be fulfilled? And the truth, surely, is obvious: their fulfillment has begun already! Never has the world’s economy been so unstable, despite everything that politicians and newspaper editorials declare in an attempt to reassure everyone. I don’t mean that everything is getting worse all over the world. India, for example, still seems to be on an economic upswing. The American economy still looks fairly strong, but it is much weaker than the propagandists insist.
Please be very careful from now on about how you invest your money, as well as your time and energy. Don’t live in a dream world of wishful thinking. Numerous investment newsletters, which are free from the influence of political considerations, foresee imminent disaster. Even they, however, try to keep their readership by promising the possibility of emerging from hard times more wealthy than ever. I challenge that promise. The world, instead, is speeding rapidly toward bitter disillusionment. Even those newsletters, which are more truthful than the newspapers, still fan the flames of greed. Humanity must learn its lesson. Only then will it rediscover the only thing that, forever, has really worked: Doing what is right.
Meanwhile, why join the lemmings crowding forward to leap into the ocean of self-destruction? The surface of the water shimmers, the radiance seeming to suggest wealth, but that superficial appearance is destined to end, with the eternal impersonality of karma, in the financial drowning of millions. Follow what my Guru’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, counseled, “Learn to be comfortable within your purse.”
In my own life, there have been times when I’ve had to live on very little. By the standards of India’s villagers I was not poor, but by the standards of my own country, I was well below the accepted poverty line. For three months I lived on only $10 a month—bare subsistence, Americans would call it. Nevertheless, I found that I could actually enjoy my poverty! It challenged my ingenuity to shop around for foods that cost little but that were nonetheless nourishing.
Instead of bread I made chapatis. Instead of fresh milk I mixed powdered milk with water at a third of the price. Instead of a bowlful of dessert I made a single bowlful last me a whole week by eating only a teaspoonful after each meal. Well, I don’t suppose Indians need lessons from me on how to live economically! Still, I’d like to add this thought: I found the experience not only acceptable, but enjoyable. All I did was adjust my expectations. I did lose a little weight, but not drastically.
People will need to adjust their expectations to a lower yield. They will find it not so difficult to accomplish. Think of it as a challenge, not as a disastrous deprivation. By glancing even briefly at the innumerable signs all around us, you may realize even now that the most practical investment you can make is simply that: to adjust your expectations. Learn to think in new ways.
From today onward, make it a principle to avoid debt. If for any reason you need to borrow, make a serious attempt to pay off that debt as soon as possible. It simply won’t be worth the cost, in terms of your peace of mind, to have debt of any kind hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles.
Try—every week, if possible—to put a little money aside. Don’t place too much faith in banks. During depressions of the past, many banks had to close their doors, leaving their depositors without recourse.
Above all, don’t place too much faith in paper currency. The way in which governments the world over are printing money these days in attempts to meet their national commitments, all the currencies of the world may well lose all their value in time.
In 1958, when I first came to India, I seem to recall that the exchange rate was about eight rupees to the dollar. At present, it is about forty-five and a half rupees. And what of the dollar? I have read that America is currently printing one and a half trillion dollars a year! Where do you think all that printing will take us? A nation awash in paper cannot in reality be considered prosperous.
If possible, keep a certain amount of money in solid assets. Don’t rely too heavily on your government’s promises. Democratic governments everywhere try to be responsive to the will of the people, but that will is guided almost entirely by self-interest. It is a recipe for disaster. The question people generally ask, when voting, is, “What’s in it for me?” It is this consciousness which elects their representatives to government posts. The persons most likely to be elected over and over again are those who make outrageous promises, each one of them targeted toward satisfying people’s greed. Will those promises ever be fulfilled? All of them? Impossible! Already people’s mind-set is to get much more than any sane government can possibly supply. The governments keep on trying, but they know there is a limit to how much they get by taxes. The solution they hit upon, inevitably, is to print truckloads of paper currency. This is monetary inflation. It is also called “hidden taxation.” The way governments everywhere manage to have more money than they dare to demand in taxes is by way of the printing press.
In Germany, during its time of hyperinflation (in 1923), the father of a friend of mine went into a shop and left outside it a wheelbarrow full to overflowing with his earnings for the day. The money, being worthless, seemed safe enough; who, after all, would steal it? When he came out later, his money was blowing about in the street: Someone had stolen his wheelbarrow, first emptying it of its contents!
Gold and silver are better understood in India than in America, where people have been conditioned by government propaganda to view gold as a “barbarous relic.” It isn’t that those who own gold are less likely to be spoiled by greed, but at least gold can’t be printed like paper money. Its relative scarcity makes it a protection against hyperinflation. Should the dollar no longer be “worth the paper it is printed on,” don’t expect other currencies in the world to fare any better. Place your trust in God first; then invest some of your money in things of solid worth. Tomorrow, paper money may be “gone with the wind.” Gold and silver are safer investments, and are likely to increase in value astronomically relative to the value of paper currency.
I myself have never been interested in money for money’s sake. As the founder of several communities, however, which have been dependent on my practical and not only my spiritual guidance, I’ve considered it important to keep abreast of the broader economic picture. I’ve reflected deeply, therefore, on my guru’s predictions regarding the world economy. He, too, was concerned for others’ welfare. In trying to keep abreast of these matters, I’ve made a study of things that would otherwise have been of little interest to me.
From what I have studied, it seems clear to me that the safest investments, monetarily, are silver and gold. These investments are the ones most highly recommended by people whose counsel I incline to believe.
Of other investments I am more doubtful, even though these, too, are highly recommended. I consider the sustained value of such collectibles as paintings, for example, to be less reliable. Large items, moreover, are more susceptible to damage or theft. Gems, though small and easy to transport, undergo wide fluctuations in their market value.
What my Guru particularly urged people to invest in was land. He wasn’t thinking of its monetary yield; in other words, he wasn’t counseling people how to be greedy with safety! Rather, he urged them to think in terms of having life’s basics, so as to be free to concentrate on higher things, and of course especially on the search for God.
Peasants and others who sometimes live in desperate poverty have no spare time or energy for seeking God. It is no accident that most of the residents of ashrams in India come from well-to-do homes. One who lacks food for his stomach is too hungry to think of higher matters!
I want to emphasize that the Master wasn’t recommending investment in income-producing property such as apartment houses. Certainly he wasn’t trying to make zamindars (landlords) of people. His recommendation was to purchase only enough land as one needs in order to supply one’s self and a few others with the basic needs. With land, they could grow their own food, have a sufficient water supply, and if they buy with discrimination, not burden themselves with heavy mortgage payments.
During economic hard times, the definition of material success is not money, but security. Whatever assets you have, invest as much money as you can in things that you can control. You cannot control the stock market. The “get rich quick” schemes of stock investors are as foolish today as would be investments in sandy wastes with the rationale that there is oil beneath the sands of Arabia! Put whatever money you can spare into buying land with arable soil. Plan to grow your own food. Buy property in a low-tax area, and preferably where there is a minimal danger of social unrest.
There is a supposedly true story about a man who, in the aftermath of World War I, realized that there was likely to be a World War II. In an effort to avoid it, he traveled throughout the world in search of some place that would, he hoped, be trouble free. Finally he bought land and settled on the island of Guam. That was in the mid-1930s. As many still remember, in only a few years Guam was the epicenter of the Pacific war theater in World War II!
Place your faith in God above all. He expects you to use common sense also, but don’t concern yourself too fearfully with finding a place of perfect safety. Your very fear might attract danger like a magnet. Human life will never be perfectly secure. Do what seems reasonable to you, then leave the results in God’s hands. Remember, sooner or later you will have to leave this world anyway; it is not your true home. Do what seems reasonable, therefore, but be free of attachment to the results of your actions.
If you hold that attitude, you will certainly find it in keeping with yoga principles to be sensible also. Don’t imagine that God will be more pleased with you if you face life passively with the thought, “Whatever comes is my karma. I can’t control anything in my life.” The purpose of karmic law is to teach us, through punishment and reward, to act always for the best. Don’t expect to be protected by faith alone—unless, indeed, your faith is so strong, and focused so one-pointedly, that all your energy flows toward God.
Buy land within your means. If you can’t buy it outright, get property that you can pay off in a reasonably short time. Try to settle in the general vicinity of a small town, where others can help you in times of need. Don’t get land too near a large city, where violence might easily erupt during general social upheaval. If that land should contain a house, all the better, but if it doesn’t and you can afford to build, or if you have the skill to build a home for yourself, it may be to your advantage to build exactly according to your own tastes and needs.
Food, clothing, shelter: these are life’s basic necessities. If possible, store basic food supplies: foods that will retain their freshness a long time. Make sure that whatever food you buy for future use is tightly sealed, in an air-proof container, safe from mice, insects, and other pests, and safe also from excessive heat and humidity.
In this modern age, many people are accustomed to such amenities as electricity. In times of emergency, however, electricity can be dispensed with relatively easily. At Ananda Village it was years before most of us could install electricity in our homes. We were perfectly comfortable with bottled gas for cooking, and, for lighting, kerosene, candles, or oil lamps. Interestingly, our homes were more peaceful before we introduced electricity into them. My impression has long been that the magnetism generated by electric wiring in the walls makes a house less peaceful even if electricity enhances a home’s efficiency.
One thing that will help your home very much during extremes of cold and heat will be insulation in the walls—particularly in the ceilings. That insulation needn’t be expensive. Even newspapers, wadded up and crammed into the walls, can be very effective. Books are available on this subject. Study them, and see what kind of construction will be the most cost-effective, efficient, and practical in your area.
If you can’t live immediately on your property, try to get away to it for weekends, and also for longer periods occasionally. Even if there has to be someone on the property to take care of it, you may be able to supervise from a distance the creation of a small vegetable garden.
Energy: Your Most Essential Investment
The most important investment to keep at your command is your own energy, mental as well as physical. All human energy is mental primarily. I’ve quoted my Guru heretofore as saying, “The greater the will power, the greater the flow of energy.”
Some of the wealthiest families in the world have been reduced to penury as a result of relying too much, and too passively, on their handed-down inheritance. India won her freedom not only because of her moral vigor under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, but also because England had begun to lose its moral vigor—the consequence of centuries of taking from others without compensating them generously in return. Your energy can be expanded, quite literally, to infinity. Alternatively, it can contract to virtual nonexistence. Some of the greatest fortunes on earth have been made by people who started with almost no money, but with great zeal.
Money is one of mankind’s three great delusions, the other two being sex and “wine” (that is to say, intoxication of all kinds, including hallucinogenic drugs). Money is listed with these three for several reasons. One is the expectation it gives of happiness. The second is the expectation of security. And the third is the false belief that, with money, one becomes powerful, important, and superior to anyone with less money.
With the sense of superiority money very often gives a further delusion: the thought that people without money are worthless. Wealthy people often succeed in imposing this delusion on the poor, making them, by contempt for them, actually feel worthless.
What makes these three delusions supreme is the fact that they strengthen the ego, alienating people thereby from their eternal reality: soul-identity with Infinite Consciousness.
The delusion that money can bring happiness evaporates not long after its acquisition. Wealthy people are seldom happy. If they are newly rich, they may delight for a time in the thought of being able to buy whatever they want. That delight soon palls, however, for the very desire for things is itself an affirmation of lack, which in turn is a kind of poverty. Though they can remove that lack with money, their very consciousness that they lack anything becomes, in time, a habit! The more constant they are in seeking fulfillment outwardly, the more difficult they find it to be happy. It is not possible to fulfill every desire; thus it happens that wealthy people are often less happy than those who have relatively little.
In poverty, a person is obliged to limit his desires to the essentials: food, clothing, and shelter. The rich, however, want far more. Their desires are never ending. They want utterly unnecessary “necessities,” necessary, to them, only because they imagine they need them. In fact, these things can become suffocating luxuries; they create an inner emptiness, which people excavate with the shovel of ceaseless desires. Their emptiness of heart may not show outwardly, but it cries to them from within.
The proof that money doesn’t bring happiness is underscored by the sad fact that statistics show suicide to be more prevalent among the rich than among the poor.
Money, ultimately, brings happiness only if it is shared. When it is used generously to help others, one feels happy in himself and finds his happiness expanding to include others’ well-being. Money, in this case, can be a real blessing, not a misfortune. Rich people who center their attention on themselves, and on their own needs and interests, find the initial sense of self-expansion which comes with the acquisition of wealth shrinking in an ever-tightening vice.
The thought that money makes one powerful, important, and worthy of admiration seems again, at first, expansive by its swelling affirmation of the ego. As one basks in the sense of personal power and of others’ admiration, however, the heart’s feeling shrinks. And it is in the heart that happiness resides. Thus, it becomes increasingly difficult to regard others with sympathy for their needs. The more one separates himself, in sympathy, from the needs and interests of other people, the more constricted his consciousness becomes. That ensuing narrowness causes him to suffer. This is the very opposite of fulfillment.
The belief, finally, that with wealth one is now secure causes some people to relax their energy output, and others to turn the energy into a whirlpool of fear. At first, of course, the acquisition of wealth increases one’s energy-flow as he realizes he can accomplish so much more than before. This realization is embraced with enthusiasm. New wealth, therefore. conveys the illusion of increased happiness. This is an illusion, however, and lasts only temporarily. The expansive sense of self-importance makes one imagine himself fulfilled. Gradually, however, he begins to feel the limitations of too many possessions, as it dawns on him that his sense of self-importance comes from others, and that the fulfillment it gives him is entirely vicarious. Those things which brought satisfaction at first fade like autumn leaves, then become brittle, and one realizes that no amount of material security is a sure protection from personal disasters like disease, betrayal, and natural calamities. At such times especially, one is made aware that material security is an illusion. Misfortune, when it falls, is the more disappointing for the fact that delusions of power, self-importance, and self-assurance have been so fondly nourished.
None of this is to say that wealth is, in itself, a misfortune. Everything can be enjoyed, provided certain basic conditions are met:
First, one must enjoy money—indeed, all things—in moderation. One must rigidly exclude the temptation to define himself by them. Second, he must employ his gifts to be of help to others also, and not only for selfish ends. Third, he must develop non-attachment, realizing that nothing possessed can be permanently one’s own.
Finally, one must understand that the source of all happiness lies in oneself, never in outside things. One must develop an inner life—particularly by meditation, and by offering himself to God.
Years ago I prepared a slideshow called “Different Worlds.” It showed the many different worlds men live in, and made it clear that those worlds depend not on a person’s nationality, race, age, or status in society, but on states of mind. In photographs that I’d taken around the world—from exotic places to the most familiar—people are shown trying to eke happiness out of life for their own ends, and finding, instead of fulfillment, only dryness, bitterness, and pain. Then I showed people in many countries who obviously felt concern for others, instead, and for their well-being. The faces of these people all radiated inner peace and happiness. This lesson-in-pictures carries conviction. The different worlds we live in are not outside ourselves. No society, no scenes of natural beauty, and no amount of wealth can give people what all are seeking. Only one’s own state of consciousness defines the world he lives in.
Include Others in Your Investments
Sharing with others is particularly important when it comes to simplifying your lifestyle. Simplicity will probably be more natural to country living.
Do you, personally, know how to grow food? how to build a home? how to maintain a home? If you want to live alone, or with only your intimate family, you may find country living more difficult than you thought.
One of the advantages of living in community with others is that the larger the group, the greater the chance that someone among you will have at least one special skill needed by the community to maintain itself.
I am aware that in India, especially, social restrictions exist on doing work that is considered beneath one. I myself grew up under similar restrictions, and have a better understanding of it than most Americans would. When I was a child, and our family went on vacations to America, we stayed with relatives. At the home of an aunt and uncle of mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it shocked me to be served meals in the kitchen, where the cook and the other servants ate. It took me time to recognize this attitude for what it was, and to reject it.
I remember working, years later, at my Guru’s desert retreat. We were shoveling sand when, one day, he paused from his writing, came out of doors, and shoveled sand alongside us for a while. I noticed him panting slightly from the exertion, and remarked lightly, “It’s hot work, isn’t it?”
He looked at me a bit sternly, and commented, “It is good work!”
He very much appreciated the spirit he’d encountered in America, where every type of wholesome work is considered dignified and is given respect. Once I’d learned this lesson myself, after my family moved to America in 1939, I discovered that it was a joy to do hard manual labor, provided I balanced that work with other interests. Sometimes, during a heavy snowfall, cars found it difficult to move. I saw it as a privilege to help them out of snowdrifts with a shovel. Often they offered to pay me, but I refused; it was a joy to be able to serve in this capacity.
Yes, I overcame the foolish class prejudices of my childhood. I am aware that I had them, however, and I realize that prejudices of this sort cannot be dismissed lightly. Let me only say, then: Try to look upon all labor as honorable that is done in a spirit of joyful freedom.
Thus, if you need to hire someone to farm for you or to build your home, give him respect, and the honor and dignity every human being deserves as a child of God. Affirm your kinship with everyone, in God, including especially those who serve you. Consider no one beneath you, and no one above you. All men equally are born of the same Father, God.
My Guruji said, “Every nation has its own misery-making karma.” The caste system, to which he referred particularly in that statement, is India’s “misery-making karma”—not because the system itself is wrong—indeed, it is rooted in divine law—but because people, in their egotism, have misunderstood it. In a future lesson I will address that misunderstanding, for the subject is of vital importance. Above all, what is needed is to understand that what one is derives not from race, nation, system of beliefs, or place in society: It derives entirely from who and what one is in himself.
One should respect all men equally as God’s creations. That respect should include also respect for their realities. One who has been accustomed to owning very little may preen himself, to his own detriment, if, on finding himself thrust suddenly into company with people who are accustomed to plenty, he is treated by them as an equal. They would be wise in his presence to behave toward one another, even, with a certain circumspection—not by a display of arrogance, but by calmness and a little reserve.
Let me explain something here about our Ananda Villages which, as an international network of autonomous communities, are sufficiently numerous for their membership to demonstrate a variety of skills. Indeed, among our members someone, usually, has some skill in anything that is required. Such variety would be difficult to find in smaller groups, who may not find it easy even to be minimally self-sufficient. Ananda Sangha’s communities exist in a variety of locations, some of them miles from any town. Others are close to the center of cities. All follow the same spiritual path. There is a great advantage, spiritually, in satsang, or spiritual fellowship with fellow seekers. It strengthens everyone’s commitment to the spiritual life.
The homes in each community may be widely separate from one another, or they may be clustered together. The concept of community living doesn’t at all require crowding everyone together in one building, or even onto a small space of land. Economic self-sufficiency may require hiring outside help. A community may earn money to buy some of life’s necessities outside the community.
A large community also has certain disadvantages. It can increase the problems of human interaction. I wrote in the last lesson about how I faced some of these problems when I was founding Ananda Village. Today, those problems have for the most part been resolved. It took years, however, and many trials, for us to achieve our present level of harmony, which now is considerable. Without the strength and inspiration that come from affiliating with an already-functioning network of communities, the wisest thing may well be to “think small.”
Paramhansa Yogananda himself recommended to most people that they pool their resources with a few friends. If you can find a few in your circle of friends who would like to join you in this venture, get them to join you also in investing a certain sum of money. My Guru suggested $10,000 each. Today, that sum would be considerably more. In India, however, the problem must be reconsidered in light of India’s economic realities. Even the present rupee equivalent of ten thousand U.S. dollars might be too much to ask of people. This I don’t know. Try, then, when holding meetings with friends, to agree on a sum that all of you can afford. Help them to understand that this investment is vitally important for their own future safety and well-being.
Let me repeat, Paramhansa Yogananda’s advice to people was to “get land.” This was among the most urgent things I ever heard him say in public talks.
It is important for those joining you to invest at least some of their own funds in this project. Without that commitment, you may find it difficult, later on, to get their help in other vital matters also, when that help is really needed.
If you join hands with others, you will probably want to set up some kind of legal society. I strongly suggest that the basic sum of money people invest be non-refundable. Otherwise, even one person dropping out might cause the whole venture to collapse. At Ananda Village we insisted on the non-refundability of the basic membership fee.
In future lessons, we shall have several opportunities to explore this subject further and from a variety of angles. For now, I suggest that each of you take on a special assignment: Study one particular aspect of the project. Hold regular meetings to discuss these matters further. It may be wise, initially, to get no more than ten families involved. This figure is not absolute, of course. The main point I want to make is, Don’t admit too many members at first. At the same time, don’t have too few, for too small a number may severely hamper your beginning efforts. The number you envision must be flexible enough, of course, to accommodate actual realities.
Much more might be said on this subject. Some of it will be covered in future lessons. I suggest here, in addition, that before actually moving on such a project, and after all of you feel sincerely committed to this idea, a few of you visit me in India, or visit the people directing our communities in Italy or in America. Try, if possible, to spend some time in one of our Ananda communities; live among us for at least a week. This is a matter in which understanding must come largely by osmosis. It cannot come only through the written or spoken word.
Greed is in the process, at present, of attracting global poverty. It is also alienating mankind at present from divine blessings. The universe functions on certain clear principles, which are emphasized in the yoga teachings: loving energy, conscious harmony, mutuality of sharing. It has been said that subtle forces are consciously responsible for plant life on this planet, and that these forces are, at the present time, withdrawing their energy. In ancient times, the Vedas taught that one should give energy to the devas, who create and sustain plant life. By giving them energy, we can live in reciprocal harmony with them, through nature.
People nowadays scoff at this as “superstition.” My Guru said it is a mistake to do so. It is, he said, important not only to draw what we can from nature, but also to give back to it, by praying to God through those subtle entities, and by loving and showing them gratitude. It is an error to treat them as though they had no existence. In seizing what we can only for ourselves, we withdraw ourselves from nature’s abundance. When we do that, nature, in return, withdraws her abundance.
Famines, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters are on the increase these days. My Guru said it is because of the growing disharmony in people’s hearts. Everything in the universe is conscious. Man, being more conscious than the lower forms of life, has a powerful influence on his environment and, in the aggregate, on the planet. When people live in harmony with one another and with nature, all good things flourish. When people live in disharmony, however, they starve themselves of divine energy. Our planet then reacts with outrage.
In meditation, picture to yourself a large garden in the springtime. Flowers abound everywhere. Alas, they feel the coldness of human selfishness and greed. Even though the weather has been growing warmer, the flowers keep their buds tightly closed.
Now, pass mentally among them. Instead of demanding that they open their buds, so that you may enjoy their beauty, smile at them with warm sympathy. Mentally breathe on each of them, offering them your kindness and love. Watch now: See how, wherever you pass, the petals open in gratitude for your love and good will.
Develop an attitude of generous giving. Don’t take from life, selfishly. All nature, now, is responding to your love. Feel love for everything, and feel your love expanding like a roseate cloud, blessing and bringing everything joyfully to life.
You and all life are one. You and infinite life forever share together, dancing in rhythms of perpetual laughter and love.
Affirmation“I am one with all life! I am one with all Nature. We are all dancing together in God’s joy.”
Points to Remember1. Toward the end of his life Paramhansa Yogananda frequently predicted a financial crash. Speaking with great fervor and conviction, he said it would be disastrous for humanity, and would come as a simple result of man’s greed. Because this prediction was made by a great spiritual master, and was seen in visions in a state of divine consciousness, it would be well for people to take this warning very seriously.
2. “The next depression,” he warned, “will be far worse than that of the 1930s.” My Guru added, “But people will be more spiritual.” My Guru also stated that the coming upheavals will eventually produce an era of worldwide peace and prosperity.
3. When people try to gain wealth by other people’s efforts (investing in the stock market, for example), they are treading on “thin ice,” for the attempt goes counter to karmic law. If one seeks gain without giving anything in return, he gains bad karma.
4. The world’s economy is inextricably intertwined. If a crash happens in America, the whole world will be affected.
5. It is not “negative thinking” to face the possibility that depression, cataclysm, and war may happen. Why not make a few preparations, at least, for that eventuality?
6. Please be very careful about how you invest your money, as well as your time and energy.
7. The most practical investment you can make is to adjust your expectations. Learn to think in new ways.
8. Make it a principle to avoid debt. Make a serious attempt to pay off any debt as soon as possible.
9. Try—every week, if possible—to put a little money aside. Don’t place too much faith in banks.
10. Place your trust in God first; then invest some of your
money in things of solid worth, such as gold and silver.
11. Paramhansa Yogananda’s advice to people was to “get land.” This was among the most urgent things I ever heard him say in public talks.
12. He recommended purchasing only enough land as one needs to supply one’s self and a few others with the basic needs: food and water. Buy land with arable soil. Plan to grow your own food. Buy property in a low-tax area, and preferably where there is a minimal danger of social unrest.
13. Place your faith in God above all. Use common sense also, but don’t concern yourself too fearfully with finding a place of perfect safety. At the same time, don’t expect to be protected by faith alone.
14. Try to settle in the general vicinity of a small town, where others can help you in times of need. Don’t get land too near a large city.
15. If possible, store basic food supplies: foods that will retain their freshness a long time.
16. Make sure your home is well insulated, and that you are prepared to live without electricity.
17. If you can’t live immediately on your property, try
to get away to it for weekends, and see to the creation of a
small vegetable garden.
Include Others in Your Investments
18. Wealth can be enjoyed, provided certain basic conditions are met: First, one must enjoy everything in moderation. Second, he must employ his gifts to be of help to others also. Third, he must develop non-attachment, realizing that nothing possessed can be permanently one’s own. Finally, one must develop an inner life—particularly by meditation, and by offering himself to God.
19. One of the advantages of living in community is that the larger the group, the greater the chance that someone among you will have at least one special skill needed by the community to maintain itself.
20. Try to look upon all labor as honorable that is done in a spirit of joyful freedom.
21. Paramhansa Yogananda himself recommended to most people that they pool their resources with a few friends. Try to agree on a sum that all of you can afford. It may be wise, initially, to get no more than ten families involved.
22. I suggest that before actually moving on such a project, a few of you visit me in India, or spend some time in one of our Ananda communities in America or Italy. This is a matter in which understanding must come largely by osmosis.
23. Develop an attitude of generous giving. Feel love for everything, and feel your love expanding like a roseate cloud, blessing everything.
Ananda Sangha India ©2004-2011