To Ramakrishna, money had no value. He used to say “Taka mati, mati taka” (Bengali: টাকা মাটি, মাটি টাকা). Here Ramakrishna compared “money” with “mud” or “soil” which is valueless. In the early days of his spiritual practices, Ramakrishna sat by the river- bank and reportedly used to threw silver coins into the river. He could not even tolerate touch of money or silver coins.
His disciples Swami Vivekananda, too, did not give enough importance to money. In a letter written to Alasinga Perumal on 31 August 1894 from the United States, Vivekananda States—[Source]
You know the greatest difficulty with me is to keep or even to touch money. It is disgusting and debasing. So you must organise a Society to take charge of the practical and pecuniary part of it. I have friends here who take care of all my monetary concerns. Do you see? It will be a wonderful relief to me to get rid of horrid money affairs.
After that in a letter dated 21 September 1894, Swami Vivekananda wrote to Alasinga that he was hoping to return to India. In that letter too he wrote—[Source]
I have had enough of this country and especially as too much work is making me nervous. The giving of too many public lectures and constant hurry have brought on this nervousness. I do not care for this busy, meaningless, money-making life.
In this post we’ll make a collection of Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes on money.
Swami Vivekananda’s quotes on money
- Aye, who ever saw money make the man? It is man that always makes money. The whole world has been made by the energy of man, by the power of enthusiasm, by the power of faith.
- Be perfectly pure in money dealings.[Source]
- He is truly a man to whom money is only a servant; but, on the other hand, those who do not know how to make a proper use of it, hardly deserve to be called men.
- Hold your money merely as custodian for what is God’s. Have no attachment for it. Let name and fame and money go; they are a terrible bondage. Feel the wonderful atmosphere of freedom. You are free, free, free! Oh, blessed am I! Freedom am I! I am the Infinite! In my soul I can find no beginning and no end. All is my Self. Say this unceasingly.[Source]
- Money and all will come of themselves, we want men, not money. It is man that makes everything, what can money do?
- My Master used to say, “This world is a huge lunatic asylum where all men are mad, some after money, some after women, some after name or fame, and a few after God. I prefer to be mad after God. God is the philosophers’ stone that turns us to gold in an instant; the form remains, but the nature is changed — the human form remains, but no more can we hurt or sin.”
- Neither money pays, nor name, nor fame, nor learning; it is character that can cleave through adamantine walls of difficulties. Bear this in mind. . . .[Source]
- Sri Ramakrishna’s purity was that of a baby. He never touched money in his life, and lust was absolutely annihilated in him. Do not go to great religious teachers to learn physical science, their whole energy has gone to the spiritual. In Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa the man was all dead and only God remained; he actually could not see sin, he was literally “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity”.[Source]
- The moment we acquire money and power, we turn very conservative. The poor man is a democrat. When he becomes rich, he becomes an aristocrat. In religion, too, human nature acts in the same way.[Source]
- The salvation of man lies in the great love with which he loves his God. Your wife says, “O John, I could not live without you.” Some men when they lose their money have to be sent to the asylum. Do you feel that way about your God? When you can give up money, friends, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, all that is in the world and only pray to God that He grant you something of His love, then you have found salvation.[Source]
- Wait, money does not pay, nor name; fame does not pay, nor learning. It is love that pays; it is character that cleaves its way through adamantine walls of difficulties.[Source]
- “…What if you have money, what if you have not? You are the Atman ever pure. Say, ‘I am the Atman. No bondage ever came near me. I am the changeless sky; clouds of belief may pass over me, but they do not touch me.'”[Source]
Money is a motive
Man works with various motives. There cannot be work without motive. Some people want to get fame, and they work for fame. Others want money, and they work for money. Others want to have power, and they work for power. Others want to get to heaven, and they work for the same. Others want to leave a name when they die, as they do in China, where no man gets a title until he is dead; and that is a better way, after all, than with us. When a man does something very good there, they give a title of nobility to his father, who is dead, or to his grandfather. Some people work for that. Some of the followers of certain Mohammedan sects work all their lives to have a big tomb built for them when they die. I know sects among whom, as soon as a child is born, a tomb is prepared for it; that is among them the most important work a man has to do, and the bigger and the finer the tomb, the better off the man is supposed to be. Others work as a penance; do all sorts of wicked things, then erect a temple, or give something to the priests to buy them off and obtain from them a passport to heaven. They think that this kind of beneficence will clear them and they will go scot-free in spite of their sinfulness. Such are some of the various motives for work.[Source]
Excerpt from Diary of a Disciple
The following conversation took place between Swami Vivekananda and Sharatchandra Chakravarty, which he recorded in his Bengali book Swami Shisshya Sambad (translated as Diary as a disciple)
The following excerpt is taken from the Complete Works Volume VI—[Source]
Swamiji: Just read the history of the world and see whether it applies or not. You will find that excepting yours, it holds good in the case of all other nations. It is you only who are in this world lying prostrate today like inert matter. You have been hypnotised. From very old times, others have been telling you that you are weak, that you have no power, and you also, accepting that, have for about a thousand years gone on thinking, “We are wretched, we are good for nothing.” (Pointing to his own body:) This body also is born of the soil of your country; but I never thought like that. And hence you see how, through His will, even those who always think us low and weak, have done and are still doing me divine honour. If you can think that infinite power, infinite knowledge and indomitable energy lie within you, and if you can bring out that power, you also can become like me.
Disciple: Where is the capacity in us for thinking that way, sir? Where is the teacher or preceptor who from our childhood will speak thus before us and make us understand? What we have heard and have learnt from all is that the object of having an education nowadays is to secure some good job.
Swamiji: For that reason is it that we have come forward with quite another precept and example. Learn that truth from us, understand it, and realise it and then spread that idea broadcast, in cities, in towns, and in villages. Go and preach to all, “Arise, awake, sleep no more; within each of you there is the power to remove all wants and all miseries. Believe this, and that power will be manifested.” Teach this to all, and, with that, spread among the masses in plain language the central truths of science, philosophy, history, and geography. I have a plan to open a centre with the unmarried youths; first of all I shall teach them, and then carry on the work through them.
Disciple: But that requires a good deal of money. Where will you get this money?
Swamiji: What do you talk! Isn’t it man that makes moneys Where did you ever hear of money making man? If you can make your thoughts and words perfectly at one, if you can, I say, make yourself one in speech and action, money will pour in at your feet of itself, like water.
Disciple: Well, sir, I take it for granted that money will come, and you will begin that good work. But what will that matter? Before this, also, many great men carried out many good deeds. But where are they now? To be sure, the same fate awaits the work which you are going to start. Then what is the good of such an endeavour?
Swamiji: He who always speculates as to what awaits him in future, accomplishes nothing whatsoever. What you have understood as true and good, just do that at once. What’s the good of calculating what may or may not befall in future? The span of life is so, so short—and can anything be accomplished in it if you go on forecasting and computing results. God is the only dispenser of results; leave it to Him to do all that. What have you got to do with on working.
One should not be attached to money
In a lecture delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, on 1 February 1900, Vivekananda discussed on “Mahabharata”, “non-attached work“, “Bhagavad Gita“. In that lecture he told—[Source]
Our misery comes, not from work, but by our getting attached to something. Take for instance, money: money is a great thing to have, earn it, says Krishna; struggle hard to get money, but don’t get attached to it. So with children, with wife, husband, relatives, fame, everything; you have no need to shun them, only don’t get attached.
Poor man and a ghost
In the book Karma Yoga, Vivekananda told a story of a poor man and a ghost. The story is not money, but it involves it—[Source]
There was a poor man who wanted some money; and somehow he had heard that if he could get hold of a ghost, he might command him to bring money or anything else he liked; so he was very anxious to get hold of a ghost. He went about searching for a man who would give him a ghost, and at last he found a sage with great powers, and besought his help. The sage asked him what he would do with a ghost. I want a ghost to work for me; teach me how to get hold of one, sir; I desire it very much,” replied the man. But the sage said, “Don’t disturb yourself, go home.” The next day the man went again to the sage and began to weep and pray, “Give me a ghost; I must have a ghost, sir, to help me.” At last the sage was disgusted, and said, “Take this charm, repeat this magic word, and a ghost will come, and whatever you say to him he will do. But beware; they are terrible beings, and must be kept continually busy. If you fail to give him work, he will take your life.” The man replied, “That is easy; I can give him work for all his life.” Then he went to a forest, and after long repetition of the magic word, a huge ghost appeared before him, and said, “I am a ghost. I have been conquered by your magic; but you must keep me constantly employed. The moment you fail to give me work I will kill you.” The man said, “Build me a palace,” and the ghost said, “It is done; the palace is built.” “Bring me money,” said the man. “Here is your money,” said the ghost. “Cut this forest down, and build a city in its place.” “That is done,” said the ghost, “anything more?” Now the man began to be frightened and thought he could give him nothing more to do; he did everything in a trice. The ghost said, “Give me something to do or I will eat you up.” The poor man could find no further occupation for him, and was frightened. So he ran and ran and at last reached the sage, and said, “Oh, sir, protect my life!” The sage asked him what the matter was, and the man replied, “I have nothing to give the ghost to do. Everything I tell him to do he does in a moment, and he threatens to eat me up if I do not give him work.” Just then the ghost arrived, saying, “I’ll eat you up,” and he would have swallowed the man. The man began to shake, and begged the sage to save his life. The sage said, “I will find you a way out. Look at that dog with a curly tail. Draw your sword quickly and cut the tail off and give it to the ghost to straighten out.” The man cut off the dog’s tail and gave it to the ghost, saying, “Straighten that out for me.” The ghost took it and slowly and carefully straightened it out, but as soon as he let it go, it instantly curled up again. Once more he laboriously straightened it out, only to find it again curled up as soon as he attempted to let go of it. Again he patiently straightened it out, but as soon as he let it go, it curled up again. So he went on for days and days, until he was exhausted and said, “I was never in such trouble before in my life. I am an old veteran ghost, but never before was I in such trouble.” “I will make a compromise with you ;” he said to the man, “you let me off and I will let you keep all I have given you and will promise not to harm you.” The man was much pleased, and accepted the offer gladly.
Bhakti Yoga — The preparation
The following quotes on “money” are taken from Swami Vivekananda’s Addresses on Bhakti-Yoga—[Source]
- We see what a strong love men, who do not know any better, have for sense-objects, for money, dress, their wives, children, friends, and possessions. What a tremendous clinging they have to all these things! So in the above prayer the sage says, “I will have that attachment, that tremendous clinging, only to Thee.” This love, when given to God, is called Bhakti. Bhakti is not destructive; it teaches us that no one of the faculties we have has been given in vain, that through them is the natural way to come to liberation. Bhakti does not kill out our tendencies, it does not go against nature, but only gives it a higher and more powerful direction.
- He who wants to love God must get rid of extreme desires, desire nothing except God. This world is good so far as it helps one to go to the higher world. The objects of the senses are good so far as they help us to attain higher objects. We always forget that this world is a means to an end, and not an end itself. If this were the end we should be immortal here in our physical body; we should never die. But we see people every moment dying around us, and yet, foolishly, we think we shall never die; and from that conviction we come to think that this life is the goal. That is the case with ninety-nine per cent of us. This notion should be given up at once. This world is good so far as it is a means to perfect ourselves; and as soon as it has ceased to be so, it is evil. So wife, husband, children, money and learning, are good so long as they help us forward; but as soon as they cease to do that, they are nothing but evil. If the wife help us to attain God, she is a good wife; so with a husband or a child. If money help a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better.