Savings as an instrument for better life
“Little little drops can go to make even an ocean, Little little savings can add up to make even a fortune, Little little steps can reach us even unto God.”
The saving habit has to be cultivated and developed by each one of us from our very early age in life, as it has a far reaching influence on the entire make-up of our personality, our attitudes and on the whole course of our life. Saving needs to be done at three levels, which are:
(i) at the physical level (ii) at the mental level and (iii) at the spiritual level.
At the physical level, there are two aspects, one being with regard to the objective materials (material resources) and the second being with regard to one’s own body or at the personal level. With regard to the former, there is need to save food-materials, money, natural resources such as water, etc. and those given by modern sciences like electricity, etc. At the body level, our own physical energy has to be conserved without being dissipated and wasted away, so that it can be utilised for righteous, proper and beneficial purposes. Lack of proper exercise, wrong eating habits and unrestrained living sap our physical vitality.
On the mental level, there is a need to save and conserve our mental energy and to strengthen and enrich our intellectual faculties such as sense of discrimination, will-power, power of concentration, etc., In Bhagawad Gita it is said that the mind alone is one’s own enemy as well as one’s own ally. It can degrade a person down and ruin him, or it can uplift him to divine heights. Mind is indeed the reins with which we can guide and regulate the course of our whole life. Fear, greed, jealousy, anger, anxiety and pride rob us of our mental peace and tranquility. Humility, forbearance, friendliness, compassion and love are aids to conserve our mental energy and maintain pose.
On the spiritual level, is in every one, the longing of the soul which is not to be smothered or allowed to be dried up. It has to be fostered and nurtured through duty, devotion and discipline to attain enlightenment and illumination of the soul.
It is to be remembered that the human birth is the most precious gift of God to us, as it is only through the vehicle of the human body that the soul can attain the acme of spiritual perfection and spiritual realization. Therefore we should not let this life get wasted away. Instead we should avail it to the best till we get the possible result from it, in all aspects.
Let us see how we should cultivate and develop the saving habit at all the three levels. Let us begin with physical and material level.
At the physical and material level:
Every one of us knows the importance of food. We cannot afford to miss our food even a single time in the day. It is indeed the giver of life. It nourishes not only the physical body but also our thinking faculty, memory (mind). Some of us have been so fortunate that we do not know what hunger really is and its pangs. God has been very partial (over-partial) to most of us. But if we really care to know, there are vast numbers of people, famished, not having any food to feed their babies even, leave alone themselves. We have sumptuous food in our homes generally. When we finish eating, lot of food is left out in our plates, which will be just thrown out into the dust-bin. We have no conception that food is God Himself. Annam Brahma, says our scriptures. We let too much food to be served in our plates. Mothers too are over-indulgent towards their children, though knowing that they (the children) will not be able to eat it all. We have not understood the value of food. What we leave in the plates could perhaps allay the hunger of another one or many in the street.
Again it is common practice amongst the children to have food fads. If there are, say three or four children in the family, each one wants a preparation of his choice. Mother has to toil and prepare three or four varieties of dishes to satisfy the fads of all the children and much of the preparations go wasted. Whatever food can be saved and spared to the hungry people on the pavements or in the hutments is, by itself, like doing a great merit socially, morally and spiritually as well. We should have that awareness that any food left out or thrown out is a sin and committing or blasphemy against God, because food is symbolic of God. It is said that food shortage in India is not really due to dearth of food materials, but is more due to wastage, lack of proper storing facilities etc., It is within each one of us not waste food. It is our primary and foremost social duty and obligation.
With regard to clothes also, we should not give ourselves to fashion fads. Plain clothes and modest dress add real charm to one’s personality. We should have the necessary clothes and dresses, but not too many which lie unused in the cupboards.
The same wastage habits, as in the case of food, are with us as regards the use of water, electricity etc., Some of us do not care to close the taps after we finish washing. If we see a tap open and water running out, we do not bother to close it. We think it is not our concern. Fans go on whirling and lights go on burning even when none of us are in our rooms. There are many hutment and slum dwellers neither with water to wash their bodies, nor light for their studies. Whatever we save goes for the national good ultimately. We can try to mitigate shortages of power, water, etc., in our own small and humble way too.
At the mental and spiritual level:
At the mental and spiritual level, a little meditation every day in the early morning hours or in the evening hours will very much relax one’s mind and body. One has to sit silently, calming all thoughts of the mind, excepting the God-thought (God-thought as per the concept of one’s own religion). The mid could be focuses on light, Jyoti. This habit invigorates the mind. One’s memory gets sharpened and the power of concentration increases several-fold. It increases our efficiency in whatever work we undertake. This practice along with the habit of taking the divine Name, i.e., offering of prayers to God, especially as one rises in the morning, before taking food and before retiring to bed will be a most a rewarding exercise.
The mind gets dissipated by reading vulgar books, seeing obscene cinemas. etc., Therefore, we have to be discriminative in what we read, what we see and what we think. There is the Vedic prayer Bhadram Pasyantu, Bhadram Shrunvantu, Bhadram Kurvanthu… meaning. “Let us see only good, let us hear only good, let us do only good, let only noble thoughts come to us from all directions.” There is a tremendous significance in this Vedic hymn for us to understand and imbibe, especially in the present times, with the distracting and degrading influences prevailing everywhere.
Regarding saving of money:
Money is, for all practical purposes, one of the most important things in the world. Dhana mulam idam jagat, it is said. Among the four Purusharthas of life. Viz., Dharama, Artha, Kama and Moksha, it will be seen that Artha, which means material well-being, the economic soundness of man, is also given a prime place. The injunction, however, adds that the acquisition of wealth and the fulfillment of one’s desires are to be based on, and are to be within the bounds of Dharma, and all these are to be oriented always towards the attainment of Moksha which is the ultimate goal of life.
Grihasthashrama, the house-holder’s life is the pivotal and the central fulcrum of the community-life and social structure under the Indian system. It entails several economic obligations on the house-holder. Not only has he to fulfill his duties to his children and family and look after their economic security, but also he has obligations to the community. It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that whosoever eats his food alone without sharing with others, is verily a thief. What this means is that everyone has an obligation to help the needy and his fellow-beings too. In this context, if one is himself in need, if he is himself without food, how can he feed another? Vivekananda says that empty stomach is no good for religion.
Upanishads say, “Work, earn, share, prosper and live for hundred years…” Thus, economic well-being, Artha, has been, given its due importance in the scale of values, but on the condition that all acquisitions are to be based on Dharma, and should have a social goal too, i.e., the good of others also, as an aim. How can we live happily for 100 years as the Upanishads declare? It is only by diligent work, earning, conserving, saving, putting in store for the rainy days, that this will be possible. Fore-thought, frugal-living, saving comes to importance in this context.
Nature herself teaches us the necessity of saving. Even the ant shows us the example – how diligently it stores food for the rainy day! The wise king Solomon said, “Go thou to the ant and learn its ways” What do we do with agricultural production which is only seasonal? Don’t we store the food grains for our sustenance till the end of the year! Don’t we see the farmer planting trees even in his old age? His conviction is “Planting trees now, for others to benefit later.”
The habit of saving is not only a prudent course of action but also a course of conduct dictated by sheer compulsion of circumstances over which we have no control. Life is beset with uncertainties. Akin to the vagaries of the seasons, there are also vicissitudes of destiny in every man’s life. Misfortunes can come in so many ways. Ill health, loss of job, accidents, etc can deprive one of his capacities to earn. Unforeseen expenditures might crop up. Even otherwise, when old age sets in, one’s limbs become unfit to make any earing. One should be prepared for all such eventualities, when he is hale and healthy; As soon as one begins earning, he should start the habit of saving too. Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s saying, “Start early, drive slowly and reach safely”, has its significance not only in the spiritual life but also on the material plane.
Little drops make an ocean, so also savings. However small they may be to begin with, they will pool to handsome proportions in course of time. Savings are not just an asset to the individual alone, but they will, in their turn, benefit the nation too. Depositing in banks etc., besides ensuring safe returns to the depositors, will build up an investible surplus which could be used for capital investment for commercial and industrial growth, etc., There are various saving schemes through banks, Life Insurance Corporation and other financial institutions to attract the investors and to help the nation to mobilise the available resources, whether big or small, for deployment in productive activity. It offers employment opportunities to many and provides people a better livelihood. Thus, saving helps the National Economy too, benefiting the people at large.
But it should be remembered that money is not all. “Man does not live by bread alone”, as Lord Jesus had said. Along with earthly wealth, spiritual wealth is as much important rather even more important. This aspect should be our main focus. Thus the “Habit of Saving” becomes an important thing in the moral and spiritual spheres as it is in the case of material wealth. Without earning spiritual wealth, life will be ultimately a waste. Is it not said, “What does it avail of man even if he has won the whole world but has lost his soul”?
When Sri Sathya Sai Baba inaugurated the “State Bank of India”, branch at Prasanthi Nilayam township years ago, he referred it as “this (worldly) bank and that (Spiritual) Bank” and said that “The saving of a person in a bank will no doubt serve as a security in times of need, but in the form of Aasthi, i.e., property. However, like life, these are evanescent possessions. What should be sought for is spiritual Lord. These possessions of the Asthika, i.e. a believer or a candidate for Self-realisation, are life-giving and imperishable. While material possessions are subject to decay and depreciate and are likely to change hands, spiritual possessions on the other hand suffer from none of these drawbacks”. So everyone should strive to build up reserves and deposits of Divine Grace, which alone can rescue man from death and bestow immortality and eternal security”.
It requires, therefore, balancing of our efforts for material as well as spiritual progress. But even so, saving of money does not lose its significance. Money is essential in the worldly life for everyone so that he will be able to discharge his responsibilities to himself, to his own family and to the society.
Points for the children and the young to especially note
Even if one, especially the young and the students, if they are unable to save in particular, they should, however, curtail their expenditure and be less exacting on their parents regarding their monetary demands. Students should bear in mind what hardships parents are putting themselves to, in meeting the expenses and for bringing their children up in the present day and during hard and difficult times.
Wasting of money, like wasting of food, is a social crime. Frugal habits are as important and, perhaps, are even more important than saving. Without frugal habits, saving will never be a possibility.
In conclusion, let us always remember the motto
If you don’t want to waste but to save, we need to practice the following values in our life, such as
- Saving food to feed the hungry poor;
- Avoiding all wasteful expenditure, and to help the needy,
- Speaking softly to convey love to all,
- Devoting time to purposeful work and in service of others,
- Daily taking the divine Name (prayer) and doing meditation (Dhyana) for rejuvenation of our body, mind and soul.
- Putting a Ceiling on one’s own Desires is the true Saving Habit.