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Embracing Trusteeship & Generosity For A Just Society

Spirituality is often equated with love for poverty. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to many that Sri Aurobindo has considered money as 'the visible sign of a universal force'. As in other spheres, so in that of making money, some of us are specially gifted, and can therefore earn much more than we need.

Sri Aurobindo, in a letter to his wife, once wrote that he would consider himself a thief if he kept more money than he needed. Somewhat along similar lines, says Krishn in the Gita , "Fostered by sacrifice, the gods shall give you desired enjoyments, who enjoys their given enjoyments and has not given to them, he is a thief (3:12)." The eternal truths hidden in these words are that the enjoyments have been given to us; the enjoyments received are rooted in the principle of sacrifice, the principle of give and take, the principle of recycling; enjoying, or taking, what has been given to us without giving, is a theft. These ideals are difficult to practise. For practice, spiritual teachers, Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, and Gandhiji included, have advised following the principle of trusteeship.

We do not own the wealth we have earned; we have been entrusted with putting it to proper use. Hence, those who have been blessed with plenty should share their wealth with those who have been cursed with scarcity. Since the current average level of human consciousness translates into an ego-driven personality, trusteeship, often, finds only a truncated expression in charity. But, according to the Mother, charity is an acknowledgement of the human inability to establish justice on earth. That charity fails to establish justice is known even to those who give in charity. But they still give to appease their conscience. While charity is voluntary, taxation is not. Taxation on income and wealth is enforced charity. However, neither charity nor taxation achieve justice. Superfluous wealth continues to exist, and poverty persists despite both.

One reason why many who grow rich choose to die rich is because of the possibility of inheritance. Inheritance is also responsible for attempts to make money, and to hoard money, using unethical methods. That is why, the Mother has said that money should not belong to individuals; as the first step towards that goal, inheritance should be abolished. However, our conditioning about the legitimacy of inheritance is so strong that even those who are otherwise sincerely on the spiritual path are often unwilling, or lack the courage, to will their wealth for general good. By design or default, they leave much of their wealth at the disposal of their legal heirs. One practical solution to the dilemma is to give generously while one is still alive. The other solution would be that the children who inherit share generously what they inherit. The legal solution to the imbalance is inheritance tax. None of these will abolish inequality.

Eradication of all evils, including inequality and injustice, has to wait for the average level of human consciousness to rise, which in turn will change typical human nature. The change has begun, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have assured us that the day is not far when human life will be guided not by the separative ego but by love rooted in a sense of oneness.

Authored by: Ramesh Bijlani