Two Extremes In Economic Circumstances

[Vishnu and Bhrigu]“My dear father, O great sage, I know that your feet are very soft, like a lotus flower, and that My chest is as hard as a thunderbolt. I am therefore afraid that you may have felt some pain by touching My chest with your feet. Let Me therefore touch your feet to relieve the pain you have suffered.” (Lord Vishnu, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)

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1. Windfall

Sudden money. An unexpected turn for the better. A large sum coming your way. So much of a gain that the primary concern is the tax bill due at the end of the year. You really can’t believe it. What a tremendous thing to occur.

Ideally, there will not be any issues moving forward. At least in terms of the economic problem. Enough money to live comfortably for a long time. The family members nipping at your heels, the spouse constantly complaining that life at home is not comparable to friends and neighbors, second-guessing your investments and their rate of return – these should no longer be of concern.

2. Hardship

You really can’t believe what is going on. You put so much risk and effort into this venture. You thought you were doing a service to society. You had visited similar establishments previously and were not impressed by their standard of business.

So you decided to sail into unchartered waters. Taking out a business loan, finding the proper location, working harder than anyone else, you built a name for yourself. A brand well-respected throughout the community. More than the steady cash-flow, there was pride from having a satisfied customer-base.

Then everything got taken away, overnight. The government shut down your business. This is supposedly to keep the people safe. Except your patrons want you to open up. They keep asking when that will happen. You have no idea, as your business is not deemed “essential.” Who is the government to draw such a distinction, anyway? Your tax dollars certainly were essential. The paying customers sure do like the business. It is important to them, but now you have no choice.

Sudden destitution. Property taxes are still owed on the building, which is currently locked up. There is a mountain of debt. You might never recover from this. All of that work down the drain, and through no fault of your own.

Unfortunately, these are the ways of the material world. Constant change. Swinging between happiness and distress, like the arrival and departure of the different seasons.

मात्रा-स्पर्शास् तु कौन्तेय
आगमापायिनो ऽनित्यास्
तांस् तितिक्षस्व भारत

mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
āgamāpāyino ‘nityās
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

One of the advantages of advancing in spiritual life is the ability to tolerate either of the above mentioned extremes in economic condition. The realized person is part of a class known as brahmana. This has a specific meaning. They understand the spiritual energy, Brahman.

When they are within a windfall condition, they know that the sudden change is only temporary. Money will not buy happiness and it will not carry over into the next life. At the same time, it is not rejected outright. It is considered Lakshmi, who is a devi.

[Vishnu and Bhrigu]She is the goddess of fortune, and she is the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu. It is said that the brahmana community tends to live in poverty because of a curse from Lakshmi Devi. She was upset one time that the brahmana named Bhrigu conducted a test against her husband.

Bhrigu kicked the chest of an unsuspecting Vishnu. The Supreme Lord was not offended in the least. He was concerned that the brahamana had perhaps injured his foot in the process. Lakshmi declared the curse that she would not remain in a brahmana’s home for long.

The self-realized person views this as a blessing, since with less distractions they are better able to concentrate and meditate on service to Vishnu. This is the source of the greatest bliss. A brahmana like Sudama can live in abject poverty and still always be dear to the Supreme Lord.

He can tolerate the sudden reversal of fortune accounted for by the generosity of Lakshmi in her incarnation of Rukmini Devi. This is a valuable advantage that is one of the side benefits of practicing the ancient art of yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the eternal way of living, and the science is explained through the descending parampara system.

[Sudama visiting Krishna]If I learn the proper way of bhakti-yoga, if I am sincere in my efforts, if I wish only for the happiness of Lakshmi’s husband, then the changing economic conditions will no longer be an issue to me. I will always have what I need to continue in my devotional efforts.

In Closing:

Bhrigu conducting his test,
Delivering blow to Vishnu’s chest.

But okay with Lakshmi’s curse,
Whether in abundance or reverse.

Because in bhakti to proceed,
Having everything I need.

Like Sudama though palace to give,
With same strong devotion to live.

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