“Affluenza” – The Most Dangerous Virus

“Some revel in wealth and power, some enjoy premier positions;
But this wealth, power and grandeur are meaningless;
If one does not work for the welfare or rescue of others;
That life is no life in which we are not able to liberate ourselves”

You must have heard of influenza, the virus. In 1970’s, Oxford Dictionary added a new word to their list – Affluenza. This is a kind of pandemic but is more mental in nature. Its symptoms include the anxious desire and unending quest for wealth, pride, respect, grandeur and the like.

Verily, innumerable people can be found affected by this pandemic. To cite some references in this regard – Howard Hughes – an American business magnate. A single owner of oil and gas company, airspace group, aircraft group, airlines, producer, director and investor. He seemed to have had it all, but despite all his success and fame, his death was the result of attacks of insanity. It is said that at the time of his death, his net worth was the whopping sum of $11 billion. The former Queen of England, Elizabeth, while on her deathbed said that all her wealth, riches and power were of no use as she could not use them to buy a life. Roman emperor Vespasian was almost in tears when, lying on his deathbed, he said that he had nothing left except for dejection and lament. He said that he considered himself the king, but that the real king is the Almighty.

These are only a few examples from history, but if we look around, we are surrounded by several people going through the same life cycle. Wealth, glory, power, grandeur, success, reputation, etc., are not in short supply around the world. Yet we all know the kind of dismal condition the world finds itself in today. We are the witness to this reality. Someone had rightly said that the eyes of greed of man can either be fulfilled by satisfaction or by the dust of the grave.

When the Pandavas were exiled from Hastinapur, A frustrated Bhima said to Rishi Ved Vyas – “What did Duryodhana lose by sending us into exile? I have come to believe that adharma (unrighteousness), deceit and manipulation alone are the ways to material prosperity and success in the world. By treading this road only, one can attain happiness in life!”

Rishi Ved Vyas replied that that was perhaps how an ordinary man would think. However, he explained that this was a delusion. Rishi Ved Vyas solemnly asked Bhima as to who was happier – Duryodhana or him (i.e., the sage)? Bhima replies with folded hands that Rishi Ved Vyas was happier. Then he asked as to who was more successful, “Me, or Duryodhana?” Bhima again answered that it was him, Rishi Ved Vyas. Then he was asked as to who had attained a higher spiritual growth – “Me or Duryodhana?” Bhima’s answer was the same. To this Rishi Ved Vyas said that was true even though he had no material wealth, no kingdom in his name, no army and no luxury.

He asked Bhima to always remember that wealth and power feed adharma (unrighteousness). The only things worthy of being pursued and attained in a lifetime were the purity of mind, the upliftment of the soul and the liberation from the bondage that we create in life. You are happy because you do not harbor the lust for a kingdom and power. You are happy because you do not nurture greed for money. If you did, you would never have been able to renounce Hastinapur in your lifetime. Remember that joy is not in hoarding, but in dispensation. It is not in acquiring, but in renouncing. It is not in attachment, but in detachment.