Artha means wealth. Hinduism recognizes the importance of material wealth for the overall happiness and well being of an individual. A house holder requires wealth, because he has to perform many duties to uphold dharma and take care of the needs of his family and society. A person should not seek wealth for wealth sake but to uphold dharma and help the members of his family and society achieve their goals. Hinduism therefore rightly places material wealth as the second most important objective in human life.
While dharma and moksha are meant for oneself, wealth and sex are to be pursued for the sake of others. Lord Vishnu is the best role model for any householder. He leads a luxurious life, served by the goddess of wealth herself, but is very dutiful, helpful, responsive and righteous. So was Lord Krishna while he was in human form. He lived a very luxurious life, but was righteous, detached and balanced. Hinduism advocates austerity, simplicity and detachment, but does not glorify poverty.
Wealth is not an impediment to self-realization, but attachment to wealth is. Desire for wealth is different from greed for wealth. Selfless desire for wealth is preferable to selfish desire for wealth. Money and wealth are a form of divine energy. God is abundance. He is endowed with eight kinds of wealth. But as Sri Aurobindo pointed out we have negative attitude mostly about wealth because hostile and negative forces want us believe so and thereby prevent its use for righteous reasons.
Seeking wealth through human actions is not discouraged in Hinduism. The vedic hymns are mostly invocations addressed to gods and goddesses by men desiring wealth and prosperity. However they also emphasize the need for right intention, right means and moderation in the pursuit of wealth. Aiming for wealth is a virtue, but greed is not. Amassing wealth for the family and for the welfare of oneself is not sinful, but taking what does not belong to one is. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism benefited greatly in the past by the individual contribution of rich merchants, their wives and children.
Poverty has become a grotesque reality in present day Hindu society and erroneously considered by many as a virtue. This is a Christian influence. Hindus have become so poverty conscious that if a saint or a sage leads a comfortable life, they scoff at him, saying that he is not a true yogi. They have to remind themselves of the simple fact that none of the Hindu gods and goddesses are really poor. While they always help the poor and the needy, none of them glorify poverty as a virtue. According to Hinduism all experiences are self created and provide an opportunity to learn. So is poverty and so is wealth.
Renunciation does not mean to leave aside wealth or denounce the wealthy. It means detachment from wealth. To become indifferent to the comforts and discomforts of life caused by wealth. Hinduism advocates moderation and balance in the pursuit of material and spiritual goals. Some Hindus think otherwise, ignoring the fact that what is applicable to an ascetic does not apply to a householder. Swami Vivekananda rightly said that religion was not for the empty stomachs. When a person is beset with survival problems, he would hardly find any solace in religion. Soothing words would not comfort a hungry soul as much as a morsel of food...Posted by Barry at 5:52 PM