Artha divorced from dharma leads to anartha

Artha, wealth, and anartha, inner weakness, have a revealing relationship. Artha is vital for living, whereas anartha takes away the vitality of living. We need artha to get our necessities and to fulfill our dreams, but artha can easily give rise to the anartha of greed, wherein we become obsessed with money.

Greed transforms money from a necessity for living to the very purpose of living. The greedy live to accumulate money – the Bhagavad-gita (16.13) describes how they constantly scheme to earn more and more. And their greed can even make them heartless, remorseless, conscience-less till they start scheming to eliminate their competitors in their pursuit of money – and delighting in the success of their murderous schemes. Far from feeling any pinch of conscience on killing someone, they feel proud of their cleverness in fulfilling their schemes. Thus, they give themselves to anartha.

Consider the example of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Both were scions of the royal Kuru dynasty, and both sought wealth, but they sought in very different ways. Yudhisthira performed virtuous activities such as sacrifices and built a prosperous kingdom that was centered on dharma – build using dharma and built for dharma. In contrast, Duryodhana sought artha by horrendously impious means till he courted a devastating war that killed millions.

Some people demonize artha, claiming that spiritual growth requires renouncing artha. Some people glamorize artha, claiming that without artha, nothing else is possible. Rather than going to such extremes of demonizing or glamorizing artha, we need to focus on dharma, on internalizing the spiritual wisdom that enables us to choose the right course of action. Gita wisdom gives us knowledge of dharma and also gives the process of yoga, especially, bhakti-yoga, by which we can get the inner strength to practice dharma – and use our artha for dharmic purposes.

Think it over:

How does artha lead to anartha?

Compare the Pandavas’ and Kauravas’ varying approaches towards artha.

How does the Gita help us avoid extreme attitudes towards artha?

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  1. dharma is the base of artha

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