I’m sure you’re all aware of the global financial situation. So many economies are collapsing, and this is reflected on a local level, with so many families facing massive financial debt. Why are people in so much debt?
One simple reason why, is because we cannot control our spending. Credit cards provide us a facility to buy the goods now, with money that we don't actually have. This is fine, so long as we have control of our mind and senses, and we monitor how much we're spending. But when we start enjoying the freedom of paying by credit, and buying what we like, when we like, it can easily spiral out of control. Before you know it, you need a loan to pay off the original loan!
Lord Krsna says in the Gita: “The senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a person of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them. As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a person's intelligence.” (BG 2.60, 2.67)
The line between what we NEED and what we WANT is disappearing. Nowadays, we NEED to have an IPAD, we NEED to have the latest fashion shoes, we NEED to have that expensive, wild holiday. 6 year olds are telling their parents that they NEED to have a mobile phone.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is enough to satisfy every person's need, but not every person's greed.” What is the difference between a NEED and a want? A need-to-have is a necessity, a matter of life or death, or it's vital to help you achieve your goals. A want-to-have is a luxury, something you can easily live without. Bear that in mind next time you go “window shopping” and end up spending £100. Ask yourself 3 times, do I NEED to have this, or this a luxury? And can you really afford it?
So how do we control our spending, and stop ourselves spiralling out of control?
Will Smith once said: ”Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.” Why do we do it?
Advertising makes you want things that you don't need, but they convince you, that you HAVE TO have it, you NEED it…if you wanna be popular, if you wanna be COOL, and if you wanna be part of the crowd, then you just got to have one.
How do they tempt us into buying something that we don't really need? Lord Krishna explains how the whole process works (in BG 2.62): “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops” and from lust, you just HAVE TO go out and get an IPad2.
What happens is initially we get attracted by the advert and think, “wow, what a kool gadget, wish I had one”, and then we see the advert a few more times on TV and bill boards, then we see other people with one, and slowly slowly we start to become attached to the idea of having one, and the more we think about it, the stronger the lust becomes, until eventually we go running to the shops screaming “I NEED TO HAVE ONE TOO! And I don’t care how much it costs!” Am I exaggerating a bit? But you get the point.
Once you lust it, you’ve “lost it”, you’ve lost control. Arjuna asks the Lord: “O Krsna, by what is one impelled to buy an IPad2, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?” (Hahaha! Original text in BG 3.36)
“Lord Krsna said: It is lust only, O Arjuna, which is born of contact with the mode of passion, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.” (BG 3.37)
Lust is the 2nd most powerful force in this universe. Advertising works on your lust. Not so long ago there was a billboard advertising campaign (in UK) which had a woman wearing a bikini plastered all over it, and she had a white moustache – it was an advert for milk. The reason why so many campaigns use half-naked good-looking girls/boys is because they are trying to incite your lust. It is lust only, O reader, that makes us go and buy something that we don’t really need. At full capacity, lust is an unstoppable force.
So, how do we control our lust, before it controls us? Lord Krishna advises: “Therefore, O Arjuna, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses. Mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” (BG 3.41, 3.42)
The whole process starts with your thoughts, ie you THINK about it first. If you use your intelligence to stop those thoughts right from the start, then it won't have the power to develop into lust. If you see an advert and it starts inciting your lust, look away! If you start thinking about it, distract your mind, and focus on something more important. And the ultimate best way, is to chant Hare Krishna! Lord Krishna is His holy name, and by chanting, the Lord cleanses all unwanted desires from our heart. Chanting or meditating on Lord Krishna is the most powerful process for controlling our mind and senses, because it gives us a higher taste.
So next time you get attached to that thing that you don't really need, and that you can't really afford, try chanting: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Ys, Nitai Kirtan das☺
PS. I hope you can see from the quotes that the Bhagavad Gita - As It Is has all the answers. You just have to apply the teachings to the modern day environment.