Fire Spreads Faster Than Frangrance

(An article on ‘greed’, the tiny monster hidden in the human breast)

You are what your deepest nature is
As your nature, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
…Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

If any body asked me, “Asit, what is the greatest obstacle for a man to tide over on this earth?” I would say, “GREED, you bet!” It is a strange poison a human heart is endowed with. Consequently, it is indeed the main impediment to harness in order to excel in life. It is a potential seed that hides in the superficial realm and readily sprouts in a favourable mental soil. The moment you start watering the seed of greed, even a little, it grows quickly beyond all proportions. It would then inevitably tint a number of other positive traits also in the man. Ironically, greed does not have the capacity to destroy the positive traits; it only turns them in the negative direction. When the positive qualities come under the garb of greed, men run wild to achieve the object of greed by hook or by crook. As you know, ‘the fire spreads faster than the fragrance’; every evil force has a greater pick up than a nobler one.

Here are some positive human traits, which become thus psychologically corrupted being in the sway of greed:

Original +ve Traits > GREED> Redirected -ve Traits

· Patience Plot
· Intelligence Cunningness
· Confidence Desperation
· Rationality Selfishness
· Tolerance Stubbornness
· Creativity Tact
· Relationship Connivance
· Justice Vindictiveness
· Ethics Rationalization
· Trust Protest
· Principles Value-adjustments
· Alertness Opportunism
· Gratitude Blame
· Loyalty Self-justification
· Responsibility Ruthlessness
You can well see the catastrophic consequences of this single most vulnerable monster, which hides in the human nature. Let us, now, try to see how and why a man is victimized by greed; who are most prone to be overtaken by this demon and who are not.

First, we must note the fact that there is no greed- free soul on this earth. We all have greed. It is a natural emotion. In fact, we all have all kinds of negativities. It is just impossible to think of life without the negative emotions. But, what is more important is that we also have positive emotions. A man’s over all nature and character is, therefore, nothing but a manifestation of the consistent net effect of these two kinds of emotions. Lest there be any confusion, I must clarify; here we are only referring to the abnormal and excessive effects of greed and not the normally controlled aspect of it.

We pick up our thoughts from the environment. In the specific context, our environment is denoted by our homes, peers, schools, teachers, cultures, traditions etc. All these factors influence the man in varied degrees. It is scientific and reasonable to include the heredity factor also. {Another aspect is of rebirth. However, as all schools of thoughts are not ready to subscribe to the theory of past life’s influence in our present life, we shall not dwell on this issue in our discussion.).

The human mind is so complex that there can not be a logical explanation of the mode and mechanism of how exactly one picks up a specific behavioral trait in his personality. But, it is true that two aspects influence one’s acceptance of such a trait. These two are ’emotion’ and ‘rationality’. It is, however, interesting to see why one manages to pick up a particular habit or character trait amidst so many available incidences and experiences of day to day life. Some circumstances and communications are intrinsically so powerful that they spontaneously prevail over the comparatively less intensive stimuli; and appeal the human mind. The salient needs already prevailing in the core nature of the receiver also facilitates quicker acceptance of the preferred stimuli. Again, the inputs which are coupled with greater emotional force and rationality will obviously register quicker and deeper than the lukewarm ones. Generally speaking, the emotional punch, in itself, is more inviting, motivating and persuasive than its rational counterpart. The rational argument reinforces an almost pre-accepted idea. Consequently, restraining from greed becomes more difficult when the external greed-object, or the stimuli, relates to the deep emotional needs of an individual. Once we realize this, it will not be difficult to understand why the aspects of human character, principles and values are held with so much esteem and reverence in our society.

“Truth, purity and unselfishness wherever they are present; there is no power below or above the Sun to crush the possessor thereof” – Swami Vivekananda

In fact, most negative emotions are generally more prone to impatient and restless reactions than a restrained endeavour. However, some negative emotions like hatred and anger can, of course, induce long vengeful projects by some of their victims. In this case, these emotions would have already tinted, and gained support from, a few other stronger positive traits like courage and determination; which pre-existed in them.

Contrary to these emotions, greed, though grossly disastrous in the long run, often hides unobservant within the human breast. This concealed nature of this otherwise shallow emotion makes it most unpredictable and risky. Unlike other more aggressive and visible negative emotions, greed often betrays the good intentions of an in from innocent individual. Initially responded as a quick and impulsive behaviour, greed coupled with other negative traits and enriched by a number of minor fulfillments may later give rise to more organized unlawful and criminal actions. The greedy weak performs more defensive vices like falsification, manipulation, stealing, minor betrayal or cheating etc, while the greedy strong can generate more offensive habits like smuggling, treason, arson, extortion etc

Most important, when acted upon the harmless, helpful or innocent; the greed of a man will inevitably, either cause colossal downfall or will bring tormenting guilt and repentance for him in the long run. Whether this man of greed will be at all turned around or not will, however, depend on his other allied characteristics and over all personality traits. One, who repents, of course, stands a better chance of being spiritually rehabilitated. Either way, it will remarkably affect the wholesome values with which he will live his life.

“He who harms a harmless man pure and guiltless truth recoils back unto him as fine dust thrown against the wind” – Lord Gautam Buddha

If you ask me why greed is so epidemic in our society, I would say due to ‘competition’. The results of competitive rivalry have cast a visible disaster in every walk of our life. The most ironical and painful fact is that this phenomenon seems to have been almost accepted as a norm of business and society; and most alarmingly, even in educational sphere. Social and business leaders and educationists have complacently left the possibility of a solution to the destiny. The ills of competition are cruelly manifest in organizations, families, institutions and else where in the form of excessive stress, jealousy, back-biting, burnout syndrome, and a whole host of allied troubles. Talking about competition in contemporary American society Martin Luther King (Junior) had said:

“As a society we are prone to judge our successes by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than the quality of our service and relationship to one another.”
..Martin Luther King (Jr.)

The only solution to these refractory diseases is to reset the psychological equilibrium by substituting this excessive competitiveness by fostering a spirit of cooperation. The attitude of competition emanates from ‘ego’ and that of cooperation from ’empathy’. Ego is a product of the lower self and empathy of the higher Self. Accordingly, all negative instincts, including our today’s subject greed, are the outcome of excessive materialistic pursuits. Therefore, no short term strategies are good enough for getting rid of this negative behavior pattern. Only a spiritual empowerment at the grass root level is an effective solution to this problem. Those of you who are sustaining yourselves with a genuinely righteous life style amidst all odds will perhaps agree that the values sown by your parents or some wonderful teachers in your childhood have been primarily responsible for letting you survive with self respect and honour.

We, therefore, need an education system that can instill strong values in the students right at their impressionable age. A system which will practically inculcate the attitude of service before self, not only by imparting knowledge but also by implementing first hand experiential projects.

“Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other, if we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only for our own happiness, but for the world at large.”
….Mahatma Gandhi