In our series Kindle Life we have been examining various negative emotions and their influence in our quality of life. It is easier to define “Quality” in a tangible product like a motor car, but it is extremely difficult to define quality in Life. One simple way we can define Quality in life by taking clue from the nature is “Being in a state of happiness” irrespective of the situation. We go through several miseries in life and half of them are self-inflicted and avoidable. If we carefully examine the nature around us namely the flora and fauna, we find they are in perfect harmony with the creator as they align with the plan of the nature unlike human beings who are always in conflict.
We don’t find blood pressure and diabetes in the animal kingdom as they are prevalent in the human beings who are perennially in a state of incompleteness. I am of the view that the higher intelligence bestowed in human beings namely “Intellect” has been grossly misused to create a web around us which unconsciously shackled the modern race. Happiness is a state of a being and highly independent of our material possession. Let us examine how Greed robs our sense of happiness.
Anatomy of Greed:
Greed, also known as avarice or covetousness, is a sin of excess. However, greed is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of wealth, status and power. The few other words which have the connotation of GREED are “insatiability”, “self-indulgence”, “desire”, “Craving” and so on. We have a strange expectation that material possessions are only the purpose of our existence. If we examine our own thoughts, we always crave for something which we don’t possess and long for the same, thinking that the moment we possess them we will reach a state of happiness. Very strangely, we don’t see this syndrome in the creations in the lower rung of the evolution namely the plants and animals.
Please don’t misunderstand me that I am saying material pursuit is “Greed”. The excessive desire to possess those leads to the disruption of social balance is often referred as Greed. This planet has witnessed many tyrants like Hitler who managed to kill 7 million people within his life time in pursuit of an unknown and unreasonable desire. This planet also witnessed prophets like Lord Buddha who relinquished all ephemeral indulgences in pursuit of his quest to find an answer for the reasons for our misery. In any stretch of imagination, no modern man will be willing to relinquish the pleasures Gautama was bestowed by his father. May be if Gautama would have lived only for those carnal desires, we may not even remembering him now as we don’t remember our own great grand-father who lived few centuries ago!! People are remembered not for their greed but for the absence of it.
Effect of Greed:
There must be a merit in learning about Greed management before we discuss how to do it. All of us pursue our dream right from our formative years. The desire to become somebody was instilled by our parents by asking us the mundane question, ”what do you want to become?”. Most of us responded to this question very innocently “I want to become a pilot or a doctor or an engineer” and so on. We did not know what these positions are when we answered their question; only we knew was that we should become “somebody” when we grow. After we passed that innocent childhood, our journey of chasing the material wealth has started which is like holding the “tiger’s tail”. Once you hold the tiger’s tail, you have to hold it till you die or the tiger dies! If you leave it in between, the tiger can kill you!
Initially all of us felt that few alphabets after our name will make us look better in the eyes of our society and chased our degree. I grew up in the Tamilnadu where number of degree is directly proportional to you are looking good in the eyes of the people! We have started living not for ourselves but for the “non-existent entity” called “society”. People around us are busy in looking themselves in the mirror and have no time to see us; but still they exist as an important entity in our life influencing many of our decisions. The anecdote happened in my own life will illustrate this point:
“I pursued my education finishing my degree in engineering and post-graduation at IIT till I was 38 years of age and my daughter was 10 years old. My dream was to add “Doctor” at the beginning of my name although Swami Shukhabodananda calls “PhD” as “Permanent Head Damage”. I approached my classmate in M.Tech who became a professor in Bombay IIT to admit me as his doctoral student. He asked me a simple question “Whom are you trying to prove by this pursuit?” This question hit me hard for me to introspect, am I trying to do something for myself or for proving to the society? – I chose to stop my educational pursuits and focused on my career and family and I am happy about my decision!”
We don’t know when the desire to possess becomes greed; all that it does is put us in a perennial vicious circle of indefinite postponement of happiness. We have started believing that “if I get a good job, I will be happy”; “I will marry a beautiful girl, I will be happy”, If I have house of my own, I will be happy”; “once I retire, I will be happy” and so on. In essence, we found a recipe for postponing our happiness linking with our material possessions. It is like hanging a bunch of grass in front of the horse in the cart; the horse will keep moving to eat the grass and will never reach the same!
Am I advocating not having ambitions? No way! I am only suggesting let not ambition lead to greed and postponement of your happiness. All that happiness needs is your decision to be happy wherever you are and whatever you possess. Please don’t link happiness with material progress as there is no cause and effect relationship exist between them.
Greed & Performance:
All of us know that if we don’t perform our “personal equity” will not improve which decides our market value. Our performance is a function of our “attitude-knowledge & skills”. As companies performance improves their share value of the enterprise also improves, our personal equity is a function of our engagement and contribution to the company we are working for. Greed plays an important role in our “Equity” – let us see how?
“I have been recruiting people for our consulting firm in the recent past where I see the first information in the CV is how many jobs the guy has changed? I consider this as a dip stick to measure his “GQ – the Greed Quotient”. If he has not stayed in a job more than one year, he/she is unlikely to make any difference to the organization as his first question is “what is the package?”
Thanks to the software industry which has significantly improved the GQ of the modern youth particularly in India. I hear from the companies I consult that “we have no guarantee of a guy gone for lunch in the food court to come back as he might have been offered 10% raise by our competitors!”
The popular psychological test carried on children known as “Marshmallow test” revealed the relationship between performances of any individuals with their Greed Quotient. The test conducted by the scientists follows:
“25 children chosen for this test were 3 years of age were assembled in a room where Marshmallow ice cream was kept in many cups. The children were told that the facilitator will go out and come back after half an hour. Any children who can wait till then will get two cups of ice cream and those who cannot wait will get only one! As expected very few children waited till the facilitator came back. They could control their craving for eating and were found well balanced and centered. The children’s performance in school and later in employment were tracked and correlated with their GQ. The research shown that those who have control on their greed are the star performers.”
This is an illustration that our GQ has a bearing on our performance and in turn with our personal Equity.
How do we manage our Greed Instinct?
Shri. Ramakrishna Paramahansa has explained the mechanism of happiness through a beautiful story:
“A dog was running around for food in the forest looking for a dead animal carcase left over by the Lions & tigers. Normally it used to find one and strangely one day it could not find any. It continued its search for several days and was in vain. It was almost in a state of dying found a bone dried off and did not have any flesh in it. But the hungry dog in its state closer to death, hurriedly went and bit the bone greedily. Suddenly the blood was flowing from the bone! The dog was extremely happy to lick the blood thanking God for His kindness. In fact the blood came from the tearing of the mouth of the dog and not from the bone! Still the dog did not know the source but felt happy thinking that the blood is from the external source.
Similarly, our anxiety to possess material objects creates a vibration in our mind and stays till we possess them! The moment we possess them, the vibration or source of disturbance settles down in our mind creating a temporary sense of happiness. Like the dog we conclude that the happiness is due to the object while it is the result of temporary settlement of disturbance in our mind. The moment one gratification is satisfied the mind immediately ignites the next one and the chase starts.
As Chimayananda often questions “If the colour television gave you the happiness on the day of its possession has the ability to make you happy, it must do even after one year? Why it has a diminishing balance of happiness?”
Intellectual appreciation or understanding of the genesis of greed is not enough; it has to be an existential experience of guarding ourselves from the onslaught of greed is needed.
- Your happiness is independent of your material possessions. There is no cause and effect relationship between them.
- If you think material possessions can make you happy, you are heading towards a disaster! They can give you “comfort” but no “happiness”
- If name, fame and possessions can make someone happy then Elvis Presley, Michel Jackson and Marlin Monroe have no reasons to commit suicide.
- Don’t get mixed up with comfort and happiness. Water bed can improve your comfort but cannot make you happy! On water bed you may be comfortably miserable!
- Happiness is a state of your being. Don’t chase it. It is like butterfly which will fly away when you chase it; but sit on your shoulder gently when you ignore it!
- Greed is a killer of your happiness; try and distinguish ambition and greed! Ambition beyond the border line becomes greed. You don’t know where the border is!
- For happiness you don’t need any stimuli; only thing needed is your decision to be happy now and here!
- When you are greedy it affects your performance as you always think “what is there in it for me?” Those who made a difference to this planet like Benjamin Franklin, Mary Curie and Helen Keller were indifferent about their personal agenda.
- People who have grown to the pinnacle of corporate ladder or created institutions are those whose GQ is the lowest. They always came out of their circle of concern and operated in their circle of influence.
More to follow on the same topic.