Financial Crisis and Gurbani
The global financial system is currently in turmoil. Some one overwhelmed by the situation asked a question: "What are down-to-earth answers drawn from Gurbani to help people tackling this world financial crisis; in pragmatic terms is it possible to create a counseling service based on Gurbani, the Guru’s words"?
Another person who heard this question thought the questioner was being humorous because Gurbani cannot be dealing with such mundane matters. The fact however is that while Gurbani is not a study of management practices specifically it is a complete guide on almost all aspects of life. It gives some practical guidelines to mange finances both on long term and short term basis for individuals as well as for organizations. Gurbani identifies ‘Arth’, which means ‘economic well-being’ as one the three fundamental criteria for a successful life. The other two are ‘Dharam’ or ‘dutifulness’ which means doing one’s duties sincerely, and ‘Kaam’ or fulfillment of desires and aspirations. There is also the fourth criterion of ‘Mokh’ or ‘Mukti’ i.e. release from bondage of evil and ultimately from the cycles of reincarnation by way of the soul merging in God. All these criteria are to be satisfied being a part of the society and not in self-interest alone. Efforts for personal economic well-being are therefore to form part of one’s contribution towards development for the benefit of the society.
One can work towards economic well-being either by taking a job or being self employed in a profession of one’s choice. Self employment avenues are identified in agriculture, industry and business or trade. In all cases man (or woman) is motivated to work in righteousness.
As may be expected many of the teachings are through metaphors whereby mundane ideas understood in every day life are applied to spirituality. For example telling the farmer that to get a good crop, he must ensure that the seed is good (whole, not split) and is sowed in the right season, also means that for spiritual success one must shed duality and have the right state of mind. Similarly when the dyer is advised that a raw fabric must be bleached before it is dyed it also implies that without getting rid of the evil thoughts and having faith one cannot expect to be imbued with spirituality. Guru Nanak says:
ਜੇ ਇਕ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਉਗਵੈ ਰਤੀ ਹੂ ਰਤਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਪਾਹੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਕੋਰੈ ਰੰਗ ਨ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਖੰਬਿ ਚੜਾਈਝ ਸਰਮ ਪਾਹ ਤਨਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤੀ ਜੇ ਰਪੈ ਕੂੜੈ ਸੋਇ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੧॥ ੧ ੪੬੮
A seed can blossom when it is whole and is sowed in the right season; a raw fabric cannot be dyed without being bleached; condition the mind with obedience to laws of nature and hard work; now dye the mind with devotion and the color will be lasting (M: 1, SGGS, p 468).
Unless the farmer and the dyer follow the correct procedures their investments and efforts will not be profitable.
Another very important teaching is to follow the laws of the land in order not to be found guilty of misdemeanor resulting in loss or punishment. Guru Nanak says that one who is honest and clean in business dealings never suffers loss. ਲਾਹਾ ਸਾਚ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਤੋਟਾ ॥ ਤਰਿਭਵਣ ਠਾਕਰ ਪਰੀਤਮ ਮੋਟਾ ॥੨੮॥ ੧ ੯੩੩ If we aim at honest profits there will never be loss;
the laws of the master of the universe (and the land) are powerful (M: 1, SGGS, p 933). As further elaboration of this, if one’s dealings are clean, there is no fear of loss or need to ciecumvent any thing:
ਸਚਾ ਸਉਦਾ ਸਚ ਵਾਪਾਰਾ ॥ ਨ ਤਿਥੈ ਭਰਮ ਨ ਦੂਜਾ ਪਸਾਰਾ ॥
ਸਚਾ ਧਨ ਖਟਿਆ ਕਦੇ ਤੋਟਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ਹੇ ॥੨॥ ੩ ੧੦੫੦
Have genuine merchandise and clean dealings; there will then be no doubt or extraneous considerations;
a discerning person knows that there can be no los when money is earned honestly (M: 3, SGGS, p 1050).
The ultimate test of merchandise being acceptable is the liking of the customers. They say in business buyer is the king:
ਵਣਜ ਕਰਹ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਹੋ ਵਖਰ ਲੇਹ ਸਮਾਲਿ ॥ ਤੈਸੀ ਵਸਤ ਵਿਸਾਹੀਝ ਜੈਸੀ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
ਅਗੈ ਸਾਹ ਸਜਾਣ ਹੈ ਲੈਸੀ ਵਸਤ ਸਮਾਲਿ ॥੧॥ ੧ ੨੨
A business man should ensure the quality of the merchandise; choose only such merchandise that will last (be in demand for long); the king (buyer) is wise, he will then accept the merchandise (M: 1, SGS, p 22).
All merchandise is not accepted by all; expensive items like jewels or high quality goods will fetch the correct value only from those who understand them and have the resources to purchase them:
ਰਤਨਾ ਪਾਰਖ ਜੋ ਹੋਵੈ ਸ ਰਤਨਾ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰ ॥ ਰਤਨਾ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਈ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਅੰਧ ਅੰਧਾਰ॥ ੩ ੫੮੯
Only one who understands jewels can evaluate them; an ignorant person does not know their value (M: 3, SGGS, p 589).
This envisages that demand evaluation should determine the type of merchandise to be marketed.
There is water under and on the earth but the plants and crops wither if not watered. Similarly God abides within us but if the soul does not refresh itself through remembering and emulating Divine virtues it also withers. Using this metaphor Gurbani says that a miser hoards money but by not putting it to use himself lives in a wretched state. Money should therefore be put to use and not just kept stashed somewhere:
ਗੋਬਿਦ ਭਜਨ ਬਿਨ ਬਰਿਥੇ ਸਭ ਕਾਮ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਕਿਰਪਨ ਕੇ ਨਿਰਾਰਥ ਦਾਮ ॥ ੫ ੨੬੯
The soul achieves nothing without remembering the Master, the way nothing is achieved by a miser’s money (M: 5, SGGS, p 269).
Too little or too much money is a cause for worry. One should work to earn enough for now and the future but not hoard it. Running after money creates more craving and one is never satiated:
ਜਿਸ ਗਰਿਹਿ ਬਹਤ ਤਿਸੈ ਗਰਿਹਿ ਚਿੰਤਾ ॥ ਜਿਸ ਗਰਿਹਿ ਥੋਰੀ ਸ ਫਿਰੈ ਭਰਮੰਤਾ ॥
ਦਹੂ ਬਿਵਸਥਾ ਤੇ ਜੋ ਮਕਤਾ ਸੋਈ ਸਹੇਲਾ ਭਾਲੀਝ ॥੧॥ ੫ ੧੦੧੯
One who has excessive wealth worries about its security; one who is short of money runs around to get it; one who is outside these two states is happy (M: 3, SGGS, p 1019).
ਸਹਸ ਖਟੇ ਲਖ ਕਉ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥ ਤਰਿਪਤਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਛੈ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
ਅਨਿਕ ਭੋਗ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਕੇ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਨਹ ਤਰਿਪਤਾਵੈ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮਰੈ ॥
ਬਿਨਾ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਜੈ ॥ ਸਪਨ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਬਰਿਥੇ ਸਭ ਕਾਜੈ ॥ ੫ ੨੭੮
When man has earned thousands he runs after millions;
there is no satisfaction when one chases wealth;
with money man indulges in vices but gets no satisfaction and wears himself out;
because no one who lacks contentment can be satisfied;
(one must not keep running after money because)
life is transitory like the experience in a dream (M: 5, SGS, p 278).
Some people will say that with this attitude there will hardly be any development. That is not true because development is not only for the present but also for the future. Man should realize that what he inherited was due to the efforts of his predecessors and he should work for the generations to come. It should also be noted that wealth is created with the efforts of a lot of people at different levels. It would therefore be unjust if the work force is not appropriately compensated and the owners keep pocketing most of the wealth. This results in agitations, strikes or shut downs with adverse effects. It is also a fact that wealth does not accompany one on death but is left behind. The fifth Guru says:
ਕਰਿ ਅਨਰਥ ਦਰਬ ਸੰਚਿਆ ਸੋ ਕਾਰਜਿ ਕੇਤ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲਣੈ ਕਰਮ ਇਹ ਖੇਤ ॥ ੫ ੭੦੬
What good is wealth earned through unfair actions;
remember life is the field of deeds, one reaps as one sows (M:5, SGGS, p 706).
It may be argued that man earns money and leaves for his progeny. That is right but the curses by those unjustly deprived of their rights will also affect those who receive this money and ultimately those mortals also will depart empty handed:
ਲੈਦਾ ਬਦ ਦਆਇ ਤੂੰ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਰਹਿ ਇਕਤ ॥ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਤੂੰ ਪਤੀਆਇਦਾ ਸੋ ਸਣ ਤਝੈ ਅਨਿਤ ॥ ੫ ੪੨
You receive curses when you gather wealth unjustly; your family members for whose benefit you do this will, like you, also not last for ever (M: 5, SGGS, p 42).
One of the major problems being faced in the world today is trying to live beyond available resources. This has resulted in huge deficit financing by governments and individual debts. These cause unnecessary worries and stress. It is therefore important that budgets are kept balanced at all levels; Gurbani advises:
ਜੇ ਕੋਊ ਅਪਨੀ ਓਟ ਸਮਾਰੈ ॥
ਜੈਸਾ ਬਿਤ ਤੈਸਾ ਹੋਇ ਵਰਤੈ ਅਪਨਾ ਬਲ ਨਹ ਹਾਰੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ੫ ੬੭੯ One who knowss his financial strength, and uses the resources according to availability, does not suffer :Pause: (M: 5, SGGS, p 679).
As an extrapolation, it also means that when expecting financial support from some one or looking for a job it should be seen if the concerned benefactor will be able meet your aspirations based on his financial position. Any expectation beyond that may cause embarrassment.
Sheikh Farid puts it this way:
ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੇ ਜਾਣਾ ਤਿਲ ਥੋੜੜੇ ਸੰਮਲਿ ਬਕ ਭਰੀ ॥ ਫ ੧੩੭੮
When I know that the kitty is limited I should be careful when taking out (Farid, SGGS, p 1378). This also applies when making investments. In this regard investments using borrowed money are risky because it may happen, as it some times does, that the interest keeps building and at the same time the capital goes down. Bhagat Kabir says: ਮੋਹਿ ਝਸੇ ਬਨਜ ਸਿਉ ਨਹੀਨ ਕਾਜ ॥ ਜਿਹ ਘਟੈ ਮੂਲ ਨਿਤ ਬਢੈ ਬਿਆਜ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕ ੧੧੯੫ I will have nothing to do with a business in which the capital keeps reducing while the interest on borrowed funds keeps rising (Kabir, SGGS, p 1195). When one takes a job it should be kept in mind that at work personal choices are to be subordinated and supremacy of the employer accepted. If this is followed the employee is liked by the boss and also rewarded financially, if not he suffers:
ਚਾਕਰ ਲਗੈ ਚਾਕਰੀ ਜੇ ਚਲੈ ਖਸਮੈ ਭਾਇ ॥
ਹਰਮਤਿ ਤਿਸ ਨੋ ਅਗਲੀ ਓਹ ਵਜਹ ਭਿ ਦੂਣਾ ਖਾਇ ॥
ਖਸਮੈ ਕਰੇ ਬਰਾਬਰੀ ਫਿਰਿ ਗੈਰਤਿ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਪਾਇ ॥
ਵਜਹ ਗਵਾਝ ਅਗਲਾ ਮਹੇ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਣਾ ਖਾਇ ॥
ਜਿਸ ਦਾ ਦਿਤਾ ਖਾਵਣਾ ਤਿਸ ਕਹੀਝ ਸਾਬਾਸਿ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਹਕਮ ਨ ਚਲਈ ਨਾਲਿ ਖਸਮ ਚਲੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥੨੨॥ ੨ ੪੭੪
If an employee works according to the employer’s directions,
he receives recognition and better compensation;
if he shows arrogance and shows to be equal to the boss he will be sorry;
he will lose compensation and be punished.
One who provides the source of livelihood should be acknowledged
(M: 1, SGGS, p 474).
Gurbani cautions against speculation or gambling for making money. It is best to evaluate the investment avenues based on merit. A speculator or gambler ultimately goes empty handed. Bhagat Kabir says:
ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਕਿਛ ਗਨ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਚਲੇ ਜਆਰੀ ਦਇ ਹਥ ਝਾਰਿ ॥੪॥੨॥ ਕਬੀਰ ੧੧੫੮/੩
Always go by merit; the gambler leaves with both hands empty (Kabir, SGGS, p 1158).
All in all Gurbani asks people to play by the rules and plan business and expenses wisely.
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