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Sikhi and Capitalism

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Sinister, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. Sinister

    Sinister
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    Hello everybody,

    I have a few questions on Sikhism’s ideological outlook on a modern entity, capitalism:


    When Sikhism emerged we can say with confidence that it emerged in the midst of the Indian Medieval ages (a time of continuous political turmoil). Sikhism also emerged before the arrival of modern capitalism. (India experienced the full revolutionary strength of capitalism after the colonization of India by the British).

    Now,
    In Medieval India we had a pre-capitalistic society in which the ruthless acquisition of goods was permitted AND was bound to NO ethical norms whatsoever.
    (lots of crime: cheating, fraud and larceny were all common modes of acquiring capital)
    I am assuming with confidence that our guru's were also against this ruthless acquisition processes.
    With the emergence of Capitalism all this changed dramatically, Lawfulness greatly increased under the British rule as was not seen under the Mughal rule.

    My question now follows;

    What is the Sikh position with respect to Capitalism and the modern Corporation? (It seems to me that our faith is more communal/socialist oriented...especially when you have our guru's introducing the idea of Langar)

    Is the legal acquisition of goods permitted within Sikhi? or is a Sikh not permitted to attain too much capital?

    How should a wealthy Sikh wear his cloak of riches?

    AND

    What FORCE should motivate us (AS SIKHS) to accumulate capital to ensure our physical survival?
    --> Should it be Maya (A word that is --- very unpopular amongst Sikhs) or something else?
    ....note if you pick something else then I would like to know what it is?

    cheers.
     
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  3. dalsingh

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    Sinister, you've raised a really important issue and is not discussed enough by Sikhs in my opinion.

    What you are saying is disputable. Your ignoring the slave trade. Centuries of theft of foreign resources by the west. Theft of heritage (hence the museums are packed in London with foreign booty). Exploitation of the weak and uneducated, such as indentured trading which was used to replace black slaves on plantations with Indians (hence Indians in West Indies and other islands). Capitalism can be as ruthless as any system in the past for example alot of people think the invasion of Iraq is down to oil resources. The Enron scandal. Old boy networks which hire a small select bunch of usually upper class Anglo-Saxons to received huge salaries even when they cause the companies to lose millions.



    [quote=Sinister]My question now follows;

    What is the Sikh position with respect to Capitalism and the modern Corporation? (It seems to me that our faith is more communal/socialist oriented...especially when you have our guru's introducing the idea of Langar).[/quote]

    I would agree, there is a sakhi of Guru Nanak and Duni Chand (I think), who was what we would call today a capitalist (i.e. rich money hoarder). When the Guru was leaving Duni he asked the Guru if there was anything he could do for him. Guruji gave him a needle and said "You can give this to me in the next world" and left.

    After thinking Duni ran after the Guru and said "Take the needle back, how am I supposed to take this with me to the next realm?"

    Guruji said "If you can't get the needle across what use do you think your money will be there?"

    Duni Chand then became actively involved in charitable works for the poor.

    Other examples could include:

    Guru Gobind throwing his gold bangles in the river as a child and saying I don't want to be a slave of coloured clay.

    Guru Nanak staying with poor carpenter instead of rich lord, and saying that the blood of the poor was contained in the food of the lord hence his refusal to participate in a feast hosted by him.

    Daswand.

    We have many such examples in Sikh culture.

    From my limited understanding the Guru's were not against collecting capital, but one needed to do good in life by being generous to those in need and making your money honestly or without exploiting the poor/vulnerable.



    The concept of miri/piri explains this. Worldly power is not bad, but without spirituality or dharam it can be easily abused and turn one into a tyrant. so miri (worldly wealth/power) needs to be balanced with piri (spirituality). Once someone is on the spiritual path presumably they would be inclined to do some seva for humanity.

    I just watched J. S. Khalra's last speech in Canada and he said that the Guru's gift to this world was propagating a system which did not remove ethical values from government. Sikhs have failed to live by this in modern times though.

    These are just my opinions though, I'd appreciate constructive criticism of them.


    WJKK
    WJKF
     
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  4. No_One

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    _/\_ SSA,

    Socialism is very different from what we generally understand of it. It is about struggle of working class to achieve a system where everyone is given equal share according to his/her contribution. Guru Nanak have cited that rich/poor good/bad are all as per his Hukam. Its not that we must torture poor people or not work to uplift them, but we must not force to empty the houses of rich people. We must fight for saving the poor, i.e. exploitation, socialism is that there should be no rich or poor. Langar is a concept which points out that everyone is equal in his house and we get what we deserve in life. We must be satisfied and not worry about gaining more wealth. Asking the question as what should motivate us for wealth is totally irrational given that we must not aim at all for wealth. What ever he gives must be satisfied with it, a sikh can wear anything and do anything but should remember God always and fear him.

    About what should motivate us for survival, the answer is we must not worry about our survival in first place. If we trust our Guru as our father, He will feed us. All worldly desires bow on feet of a gursikh. Give your mann to Guru, when you do that, with what will you think?
     
  5. Sinister

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    Hello,

    "the answer is we must not worry about our survival in first place. If we trust our Guru as our father, He will feed us. All worldly desires bow on feet of a gursikh." (Quote)

    Dear No One,
    Not worry about our survival? interesting notion....what should we worry about if not for the survival of ourselves and that of our families? of the faith? does the faith not rest on the hands of the people who sustain it and practice it?

    How can you conceive that survival isnt the goal of an individual or that of a Sikh? Isnt survival an intrinsic property of the human psyche?

    While studying the tribal areas of Papua New Guinea, in the most primitive of societies Bronisław Malinowski (anthropologist) writes that:

    "A fisherman with a with a broken net recourses not to prayer but to the weaving of a new net"
    The intuitive action of the native is to re-weave his net from bamboo fibers rather than turn to the omnipotent God.

    So the veiw that God will help us is in itself unseemingly impossible given the notion that God helps those who help themselves? (an intrinsic beleif that is evident even in the minds of simpler/less complex societies)

    And as such every sikh knows well enough that their end would be near if they had no lust for material satisfaction (aka survival).

    So again I ask the question What force should motivate us as Sikhs to sustain ourselves for physical survival?.....Is it not Maya?
    I dont think this is an irrational question.
     
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  6. dalsingh

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    How about common sense?
     
  7. Sinister

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    Hello Dal singh, I thankyou for the quick reply but it fails to answer anything.

    I guess "common sense" is the knee-jerk answer to all problems, except it is inadequate of a conclusion considering us Sikhs are very much empiricists and practioners. Common sense is not an innate property but something that is at all times learnt. Common sense is in all regards Knowledge of the performance of a task.

    and somehow i doubt we can build and irrigate 1000 acre farms from mere innate common sense?

    A MOTIVATION MUST BE PRESENT IN ORDER TO SUSTAIN SURVIVAL!!!!

    And so again I ask;
    What force should motivate us as Sikhs to sustain ourselves for physical survival if it is not maya (lust for material goods)?.....

    example:

    1) I get hungary and my stomach lets out a rumble
    2) My first recourse is not to pray to God for food or for that matter result to my common senses
    3) My first recourse is to lust for food (maya). The lust brings about awareness (arousal), change in the bodily state and then MOTIVATION.
    4) The Motivation activates the so called "common senses" (knowledge of how to attain food)
    5) I activate all my motor systems
    6) I eat!
    7) My lust is satisfied, but only temporarily.

    Proof: refer to Robert C Solomon "as-if loop" of emotion/sensation.
    Scientific Proof: Mice injected with Obestatin (a hormone that supresses the region of the brain that has gastrin receptor (a hormone that initiates hunger sensation)) refuse to eat and die becasue of a lack of motivation to feed. The mice have not forgotten how to eat they just dont eat because they beleive they are full!

    Humanity is not sustained only upon common sense but also motivation and lust. Unless Motivation/Lust are a part of the vague term of "COMMON SENSE"

    A question so simple yet at the same time so complex?
    I have been reading Gurbaani and trying to figure this one out on my own but have not come across anything....most of the stuff i have come across is distinctly a negative portrait of maya (aka lust)
    Although Maya it seems is the the duality of humanity : It is responsible for both misery and sustenance!

    why is sikhism so against it, is what is so baffling!

    And I find it hard to beleive that a human does not have a "lust" for survival
    All my arguments are further expressed by Robert C. Solomon in a paper of psychology : "From emotions and Choice" (a good read)
    The Mice experiments are also true being performed by leading endocrinologist of our time there are a couple of leading papers on obestatin (their thinking on using it to shave the fat off Americans...hehe).

    It seems that the more sceince develops the more we become materialistic and the more Religion loses ground and authority. Especially when we have discoveries in the neurological sciences.

    I will try to read more Religious texts but I need somewhere to start and much more clarification!
    My faith is not as strong as many others (i will have to admit to that)
    I do charish the Sikh Messages of Morality but its this other religious mumbo jumbo that i do not understand.

    We have strayed off topic but this entire argument is directly related to Capitalism/Materialism and the lust for material goods (more of a Micro study)

    Ok ill stop talking and let someone else voice their opinions and or ideas.
     
  8. kds1980

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    DEAR SINISTER

    i think you are misinterpretting lust with physical needs.our guru's were not against
    physical needs they were against obsession for material goods.sikhism is not at all against physical needs.infact guru's rejected brahamchari way of life which was the way of sadhu sants of that time.
     
  9. Sinister

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    Hello KDS1980,

    "i think you are misinterpretting lust with physical needs.our guru's were not against
    physical needs they were against obsession for material goods." (quote)

    Physcial Needs = Obsession for Material Goods
    THis is where Capitalism comes into play!! its a system devised and perfected over the ages, to increase our obsession with material goods so that the physical needs of survival are easier to sustain for the majority (hence mass production and greed)!

    I think you are misenterpretting what I am trying to say! I never equated Lust to Physical Needs
    I am merely stating that Lust is needed in order to OBTAIN Physical Necessities of Survival.
    Lust is merely an agent (a catalyst) needed for obtaining material goods of necessity.

    Summary of my last post:
    You Cannot survive physically without the lust (aka "motivation to have", "drive"). lust puts food in our mouths, lust for something ensures physical survival (read my last post and try to understand the psychology of human behaviour: the Obestatin experiment is key to this argument!!!).

    please ellaborate your replies and stick to the question to keep this thread simple and argument focused.

    What force should motivate us as Sikhs to sustain ourselves for physical survival if it is not maya (lust for material goods)?

    P.S
    If you think its "common sense" please ellaborate on what you mean by Common Sense because nothing of the sort exists in a human world.
    I will try to put up some of my own answers to my own questions when i have more time do so.
     
  10. CaliforniaSeeker

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    "Physcial Needs = Obsession for Material Goods"

    I disagree with this equation. It's perfectly possible to satisfy one's physical needs without being obsessed with material goods.

    For example: When I get hungry, I know that if I don't eat something (provide fuel for my body), I will become light-headed and physically weakened and then, if I continue not to eat anything, eventually will die of starvation.

    So I eat. A bowl of rice and dal with a nice spoonful of raita and I'm set. It's simple and nourishing and keeps my body going so I can keep working on being the best seeker I can be and doing my best to become closer to Waheguru and do seva.

    If I spend all my time thinking about food, or about getting the best or fanciest food, or about going to the nicest, most expensive restaurants, or if I eat past the point when I've satisfied my hunger and fueled my body and continue on to gluttony, then I reach the point of obsession. But simply feeling hunger and eating in response doesn't automatically equal obsession. Rather than obsession, I see it as taking care of the body that Waheguru gave me. I don't know why Waheguru gave me this body, but while I'm in it I consider it my responsibility to take good care of it.

    If I've misinterpreted your argument, my apologies.
     
  11. dalsingh

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    Sinister,

    I've got a heavy workload dumped on me so I can't spend as much time as I would like or need to answer your question fully right now. Plus I don't claim to hold an exclusive claim to being right, we are just debating here.

    But I do agree with CaliforniaSeeker in that going beyond what is required for our needs often puts us on dangerous grounds spiritually.

    I'm trying to recall off the top of my head so forgive any mistakes but I think it was Guru Arjan or Bhai Gurdas that said eat little, sleep little. Something like eat until you are three quarters full, maybe someone else in the sangat knows the full reference.

    Overall the underlying message of Sikhi is restraint as I see it. The sakhis of Guru Nanak and Duni Chand and Bhai Lalo show an early interest of the issue of ostentatious living and money hoarding by the Sikh community, so for me that implies that overdoing the materialistic side of life is a no no.

    But this is balanced out by the miri piri concept which goes against the renunciant path that India is so famous for and encourages Sikh to hold political power. I've alwa interpretated this to be because this gives security and the ability to push the social and spiritual upliftment agenda that I fell is inherent in Sikhi. Degh Tegh Fateh, a very old Sikh slogan refering to teh charity of the degh, and tegh representing earthly power are a excellent conceptualisation of this point.

    Every Sikh should be aware of the plain fact that when exceesive materialism became a preoccupation for the Sikhs (under Maharajah Ranjit Singh), it ultimately led to their defeat at the hands of people whose attacks they should have easily repulsed (i.e. the British). That Sikhs with comparitively less resources and manpower were able to withstand a Moghul onslaught aimed at annilating them because of their beliefs and simple living. There a big lesson in that story.

    There is a really good shabad that talks about maya and I think may answer some of your questions. When I get time I will try and find it and post it.

    Do you think itis overly simplistic of me to say that what should motivate a Sikh is doing good and living truthfully, whilst sharing with others (vand ke shakna). I think Sikhi emerged as a positive force for the world and that fact should motivate us all.
     
  12. Sinister

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    California Seeker, Thanks for posting a direct reply to my question. I totally agree with you that lust is bad (but its also good), their is a duality in the emotion of Lust/desire and greed, let us explore more on this......
    “Although Maya it seems is the the duality of humanity : It is responsible for both misery and sustenance!” (quote, By me, previous post)


    "For example: When I get hungry, I know that if I don't eat something (provide fuel for my body), I will become light-headed and physically weakened and then, if I continue not to eat anything, eventually will die of starvation." (quote, California Seeker, october 23rd)

    Ok that was a fair and very direct reply to which i show gratitude....but.....this veiw that you have postulated is fundamentally flawed on several levels (Im not trying to pull your leg or for that matter argue with you....its just that this statement goes against all conventional science....I will provide u with proof.....please read on).

    This statement is in direct conflict with what I said earlier about human cognition/sensation and perception.

    You do not eat because you have knowledge, that if you dont, you will die, you eat because you have a desire (aka lust) to do so.

    Top examples:

    #1) Remember the mice I keep mentioning, well the same is true for humans. If I were to inject you with Large doses of a hunger suppressing hormone (such as obestatin) you would not eat because you would not have any *desire* to do so. Despite the fact that you knew you would die you would be repulsed by the very idea of putting food in your mouth. (which is why the mice lost extreme amount of weight in those experiments...some even starved to death!).

    #2) ANOREXIA NERVOSA (should I say more)....The very fact that this disease is so common amongst humans and goes against all "common sense" is proof enough that motivation is behind hunger satisfaction and NOT KNOWLEDGE. People with Anorexia know that if they don’t eat they will run into serious complications yet they continue to avoid food and not eat or vomit out what they have eaten. They have not forgotten how to eat, but they will not do so because they have a *desire* (driving FORCE) to be thin. Hundreds die from this disease every year.

    KNOWLEDGE CANNOT TELL YOU WHEN U ARE HUNGARY. KNOWLEDGE CANNOT PROVIDE MOTIVATION FOR PRIMARY GOALS. KNOWLDGE IS COGNITIVE THOUGHT THAT BALANCES AND ESTIMATES EVENTS BEFORE THEY OCCUR. HOWEVER KNOWLEDGE CAN BY MANIPULATED AND MUTATED IN THE MIND SO THAT THE INDIVIDUAL IS "GEARED" TO ACHEIVING LONGTERM EMOTIONAL SATISFACTION. DESIRES MAKE GOALS (LUST=DESIRE) THUS LUST MAKES LONGTERM GOALS. (HENCE THE DUALITY OF LUST/MAYA)

    Also note: Somehow we have allowed the fact that we are social beings to obscure the biological foundations upon which our behaviour ultimately rests.

    Most people are woefully ignorant of even the most elementary precepts of biological science.

    When you look at the Homosapien brain it consists of 3 layers, which were laid down one on top of another during different phases of evolution (Its called the triune brain). The oldest and deepest layer consists of the basal ganglia (brain stem and the cerebellum) these structures control mostly autonomic functions (heartbeat, temp, body pH etc.). The second layer surprisingly is the so called "Mammalian Brain" which consists of the Amygdala, Thalamus, hypothalamus, pituatory gland, hippocampus (ei- the limbic system). THIS IS THE EMOTION SENSING CENTER (also the memory center) but also has other physiological functions. The third and NEWEST layer is the Neo-mammalian brain (Neo-cortical region). This is responsible for higher cortical synapses (thought, analysis, visual processing, sound-processing, motor programs and many other physiological responses).


    NOTE: THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN CAME BEFORE THE HIGHER NEO-CORTICAL REGIONS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIGHER LEVEL ANALYSIS (KNOWLEDGE)! EMOTIONS PRECEDED RATIONAL THOUGHT AND CONTINUE TO DO SO TODAY!

    Reference: “The Origin and Role of Emotion in Human Society” American Sociological Review. Douglas S. Massey (2002).
    I find his work interesting because it explores both socio/natural sciences.

    Gallup Gordon G. 1982. "Self Awareness and the ermergeance of Mind in Primates" American Journal of Primatology. 2: 237-48
    (Another great scientific paper that explains what I am saying above)

    FURTHER PROOF THAT EMOTIONS PRECEDE THOUGHT AND THOUGHT IS GEARED TO PROVIDE THE LONG TERM SATISFACTION AND EXPRESSION OF OUR EMOTIONS. IN TURN OUR EMOTIONS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTROLLING AUTONOMIC RESPONSES (SYMPATHETIC/PARASYMPATHETIC INPUT) TO ENSURE THE ORGANISMS SURVIVAL (ITS LIKE A SYSTEM BUILT INTO A SYSTEM). TAKE AWAY EMOTIONS AND SIMPLE KNOWLEDGE IS LEFT GROUNDLESS WITHOUT DIRECTION AND PURPOSE (A SUICIDAL HUMAN BEING).

    This organization is the same for all mammals; the porportion of the sizes of the tHree regions varies… depending upon the mammal.

    #3) If I know how to build a super-effecient generator that can power homes, that doesnt mean I go out and start building it...first i need a motivation to do so.....I need an emotion.....I need desire and lust to provide incentive to do good.....I need greed to make me effecient and shrewd so that I increase the PROBABILITY of the success of my long term goal (THIS IS THE CORE OF CAPITILIST IDEOLOGY AND THIS IS THE CORE OF HUMAN BEHAVIOUR)


    And this is where everything that links sikhi to the contemporary world starts to become muffled. Because the sikh dream itself is embodied in a feudal dogma…that bears little relation to what society has become.

    AND THIS IS THE REASON SCIENCE AND SIKHISM WILL NEVER WALK HAND IN HAND. ONE PREACHES FOR MATERIALISM THE OTHER AGAINST!

    where should we stand? and what force should motivate us as humans to ensure our physical survival if it is not Maya?

    "Physcial Needs = Obsession for Material Goods" (I stand by this statement)

    you cannot obtain physical needs unless you have a desire to do so! (seemingly a sound concept)
     
  13. Sinister

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    Found this in the dasam Granth (chapter 8)


    ਗਯਾਨ ਗੁਰੂ ਆਤਮ ਉਪਦੇਸ਼ਹੁ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਭੂਤ ਲਗਾਓ ॥੧॥
    गयान गुरू आतम उपदेशहु नाम बिभूत लगाओ ॥१॥
    Consider the knowledge as the preceptor giving lessons to you and apply the Name of the Lord as ashes.1.

    ਅਲਪ ਅਹਾਰ ਸੁਲਾਪ ਸੀ ਨਿੰਦ੍ਰਾ ਦਯਾ ਛਿਮਾ ਤਨ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥
    अलप अहार सुलाप सी निंद्रा दया छिमा तन प्रीति ॥
    Eat less and sleep less, cherish mercy and forgiveness;

    ਸੀਲ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਸਦਾ ਨਿਰਬਾਹਿਬੋ ਹ੍ਵੈਬੋ ਤ੍ਰਿਗੁਣ ਅਤੀਤਿ ॥੨॥
    सील संतोख सदा निरबाहिबो ह्वैबो त्रिगुण अतीति ॥२॥
    Practise gentleness and contentment and remain free from three modes.2.

    ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਹੰਕਾਰ ਲੋਭ ਹਠ ਮੋਹ ਨ ਮਨ ਸੋ ਲਯਾਵੈ ॥
    काम क्रोध हंकार लोभ हठ मोह न मन सो लयावै ॥
    Keep your mind unattached from lust, anger, greed, insistence and infatuation,

    ਤਬ ਹੀ ਆਤਮ ਤਤ ਕੋ ਦਰਸੇ ਪਰਮ ਪੁਰਖ ਕਹ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੩॥੧॥
    तब ही आतम तत को दरसे परम पुरख कह पावै ॥३॥१॥
    Then you will visualize the supreme essence and realise the supreme Purusha.3.1.


    Its the second HIGLIGHTED quote is bothering me the most!
    The guru's say dont use lust, anger, greed, etc but these are fundamental physiological reactions for the sustenance of the body!

    And our guru ji did not provide us with an alternative route!

    What force should motivate us as sikhs to ensure our physical survival if it is not Lust/Maya?

    ILL KEEP SEARCHING THOUGH! MAYBE WE'LL FIND SOME MORE

    THIS IS THE MOST COMPLEX STATEMENT I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED ON MY SPIRITUAL PATH....THIS IS THE ROOT OF MY DISBELEIF AND FRUSTRATION (IT STRIKES A HUGE BLOW BETWEEN THE RATIONAL AND SPIRITUAL MIND!...ITS THE PERFECT INSULT TO REASON SUMMED UP IN A FEW WORDS WRITTEN 3 CENTURIES AGO)
     
  14. Sinister

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  15. ballym

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    Disagree. When survival issue comes, one eats whatever is available and desire part is absent.
    maya is delusion... not just lust. i am not sure if lust = delusion.
    Competitive spirit guides one to accumulate wealth... by hook or crook.
    the wealth acquired by wrongful means is not acceptable in sikhi.... By doing work/ kirat... you can accumulate wealth.
    When you see someone needing your wealth, you must help.... but do not give more than required. If you give dasvandh to a person who is going to misuse it then you should not give it.
    So, Sikhi says that wealth must be redistributed but not to make someone lazy. he has to do kirat. By feeding an able bodied person, we are committing sin.
    The question about "force' ... may lie in natural lust as initial motivator. Thereafter it becomes self-perpetuating.
    Quite often , a person is still not satisfied, comes under Maya influence and keep seeking more wealth by unfair means because that self-perpetuation is lost due to natural competitive forces.
    What is the motivation for Bill gates to earn now? his wealth generation is self -perpetuating. Is he going to fight monopolistic rule/judgement against MicroSOFT even when he comes to know that he is going to loose. Is he going to bribe that judge? No.
    What means do you employ to get the wealth.... it is important. Every businessman/ salesman lies to certain extent.
    For eample, a life insurance sales-person lies... at least in the beginning. After he get about 50 clients and his income becomes stable, most will reduce lying frequency and level.
    If you continue at same level... you are under Maya.

    Many person take Life agent licence but soon discontinue because they feel uncomfortable. It is not that they do not have skills or knowledge but they do not want to lie to someone for their own survival.
    This argument also apply when we say that a particular person is business minded. He is focussed about his own income even if he has to wrongfully promote his/her product.
    A milk man adding water may justify it because he will loose entire business ifhe does not ( atleast he thinks so). He even bring two three levels of milk with 10% , 20% and zero % water mixing. To maximise his profit by satisfying market needs!!!
    But if he adds fertiliser/ urea to MAKE milk and sell it... that is lust.

    So basic survival need forces you to lie. survival forces you to eat anything even if you like it or not.
    What constitues survival line? How much is needed to survive? It is guided by societal norms and keep changing. ( that is why religion must be changing.... another topic :happy:)

    So accumulating wealth by kirat is allowed always .Share it with real needy. It is not communism style.
     

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