“They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.11-12)
cintām aparimeyāṁ ca
etāvad iti niścitāḥ
“You’re supposed to be good. You’re not supposed to do bad things. But look around. The bad people are winning. They’re driving fancy cars, living in luxurious homes, and spending money left and right. The good people are poor and helpless in comparison. They don’t wield as much influence as a result. Doesn’t this mean that shastra is wrong?”
Actual enjoyment comes through consciousness. An example helps to better understand. Let’s take one person who earns a lot of money. They get a high salary, and to earn that they must work very hard. They spend long hours at the office. They may enjoy what they do, but outside of work they aren’t too happy. They miss time with their children. They have a large home, but hardly spend any time in it.
Another person doesn’t earn that much money. By the same token, they don’t work as hard, at least measured by time. They are satisfied with the simple things in life. They have time to contemplate the higher matters, like life and death. They are not stressed out because they understand that work is work. They know that material objects alone will not make them happy.
In the case of wealth earned through ill-gotten means, there is little happiness. This is because deep down the person knows that they are on the wrong path. Does the thief enjoy their loot? After robbing a bank and using the money to buy jewelry, are they at peace? Actually, they worry far more than the honest person does. They are paranoid, as they know the authorities are on the case. They know that they can be caught at any moment.
na sukhāya kadācana
mṛtasya narakāya ca
“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)
Sometimes it looks like conscience is completely lacking. Even in that case there is misery. The person who acquires money dishonestly is prone to becoming a miser. A miser lives a hellish life because of always being consumed by the thought of money. Their afterlife is hellish too, since they were too stingy to share their wealth. They assumed everything belongs to them, including fortune.
There is the famous example of Ravana. He acquired the city of gold through his own effort. At least this is what he thought. He got invincibility in battle through prayer. He satisfied the creator, Lord Brahma, and received boons as a result. He had the favor of Lord Shiva, who gave him the name Ravana because of his terrifying roar.
Ravana invaded the city of his brother Kuvera and then took it over. He had more wealth than can be imagined. This was real opulence too; not like anything we can find in the modern world. Ravana had plenty of wine to consume and many queens with whom to enjoy. He had it all. Was he satisfied? Was he content? Did he live in peace?
Actually, he was constantly miserable. He went too far one time by stealing the wife of another man. Ravana was a king, so it would be understandable if he won a queen through fighting another king. This time he avoided the fight, since he knew he would lose. Therefore he stole in truth; he set up a ruse.
Then came the intense worry. Though Lanka was situated far away from any mainland, there was the chance that the prince would come to retrieve his beloved princess. The fearless messenger named Hanuman arrived first. By burning down the city he warned Ravana of what was to come. Then eventually came Rama, the husband of Sita. He brought Hanuman and the indefatigable Vanara army with Him.
The devotees of Rama can live with or without physical wealth. They know they are rich because they have the most valuable thing in an existence: devotion to the Supreme Lord. They understand that wealth is the benediction of Rama’s wife Sita. She is also known as Lakshmi, and that name is synonymous with fortune.
The person who properly understands Lakshmi knows that her benedictions are to be used for pleasing her husband. Everything belongs to God, after all. Honest wealth is used for pleasing the Supreme Absolute Truth. The devotees are satisfied with the benedictions of Sita Devi, while to the dishonest like Ravana, the goddess of fortune is the cause of their ultimate demise.
When acquired through dishonest means,
Never there peace to be seen.
To hoard In this life acting miserly,
Then in future living again miserably.
Fortune from Lakshmi Devi coming,
When for Narayana then honest becoming.
Rich or poor, devotees living in peace,
To please God using every moment each.