Does the desire for prosperity conflict with religious values?
BALPREET SINGH is legal cousel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
In the Sikh faith, the values we hold as essential are spirituality, equality of all, compassion and selfless service. If we look at prosperity simply as having the most money and material possessions, then it can probably be referred to as greed and it does, indeed, conflict with religious values.
Sikhs aren’t taught to renounce the world or to forsake their personal wealth and possessions. But, at the same time, it is important to understand that material possessions are not the source of happiness or “prosperity.” Prosperity is about inner tranquility and contentment, and the Sikh Gurus taught that these are not possible without having a spiritual relationship with God.
The path to prosperity for Sikhs is threefold: meditate on naam (God’s name), earn an honest living and finally share those earnings with others. Each of these three principles addresses a different kind of wealth and prosperity. Meditation on naam creates spiritual wealth and builds inner strength; earning an honest living allows an individual to have the material resources needed to live in the world; and finally, sharing one’s earnings helps create a harmonious society in which no one goes without.
A view of prosperity as simply having the most money creates a selfish and destructive attitude. Such an attitude is guided by self-interest and does not allow an individual to live in harmony with others. Guru Nanak describes a self-interested person as follows: “Whatever he takes, he does not share with others. Seeking to earn more and more, he is troubled and uneasy.” (ang 1412).
True prosperity is much more holistic than just personal wealth and does not conflict with religious values in any way. But if one defines prosperity as simply having the most money and possessions, then that is not only in conflict with religious values, but also social values.
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