16.15: Is the purpose of eating to get fatter?
Obviously not, we would unhesitatingly answer. We eat to get energy for pursuing worthwhile ends in life.
Gita wisdom urges us to apply this same reasoning to another fundamental human activity: earning money. Is the purpose of earning to get richer? Does answering no to this question seem a bit harder? That’s because our status-driven culture has made wealth a status symbol, an end in itself.
To grasp this point, let’s analyze: are people who flaunt their financial bounty much different from people who flaunt their physical obesity? Granted that our culture may make money-flaunters feel euphoric and fat-flaunters feel embarrassed. But, from the perspective of our real identity as souls, neither can provide us any real happiness. Thus it is that the Bhagavad-gita (16.15) declares those who seek money as an end, as a mere status symbol, as deluded by ignorance (ajnana-vimohitah).
Money can be valuable as a means to worthwhile ends, but not all people know or seek ends that are worthwhile. So many wealthy people abuse money for ends that harm others and even themselves, as in, for example, the sub-prime crisis a few years ago.
Nonetheless, the Gita doesn’t call upon us to reject money. Instead it shows us the best use of money by revealing to us the best use of life itself. Life is not meant to seek some tottering and flickering worldly status, but to reclaim our original and eternal status as beloved parts of Krishna. If we make reviving our relationship with Krishna the primary purpose of our life, and harmonize our pursuit of wealth with that purpose, then the wealth that we offer for Krishna’s glorification will enrich us emotionally and spiritually even in this life, what to speak of the next.