Anyone who follows the news occasionally, or spends time on social media, has by now come across articles, posts and memes about corporate greed. It has been linked to environmental damage, climate change, exploitation, social divides, the increasing wealth gap, modern slavery and public health threats.
Our economic system demands constant growth to maintain the status quo, which means we need to continually produce or work more to earn more money to consume more. Companies invest heavily in the advertisement sector to convince us that we need their products. This creates a constant sense of privation in us, a feeling that we have to acquire a particular product or pay for a service to satisfy this need. Like clothes and cars, Possessions have become status symbols that place us on an individual level in our social hierarchy. Education, beauty, youth and health are also highly valued and often tied to opportunities for advancement, and companies supporting our quest for success know how to mine our insecurities. A system that depends on constant growth ultimately relies on the greed of corporations, governments and individuals alike.
In this context, greed is valued by some as the engine of success while others revile it as the root cause of many tribulations that plague our society.
Greed is probably the most controversial of the five drivers. While a discussion of the role of greed in our society at large is beyond this blog's scope, I find that we urgently need to look at the role this driver plays in our individual lives.
In previous blogs, I have already introduced you to the concept of the five drivers we are working with in Naad Yoga. But let me emphasise again that in contrast to other spiritual or yogic schools, we don't aim to reject or suppress the five drivers (Anger, Lust, Attachment, Greed and Ego). Instead, we channel their energy without distorting the law of nature. The idea is to harness those drivers' energy to power our lives – but in a way that maintains health and an overall balance.
After listing some of the harmful side effects of greed, it hardly seems possible that it could be put to any constructive use, right?
However, if we look at ourselves as individuals and the role this driver plays in our lives, a different picture emerges.
Greed as a driver is a neutral force that only brings about trouble when it is out of balance. While greed is primarily the longing for materialistic possessions, it extends into a general urge to draw yourself towards something you consider valuable. This can be attention, status, friends, knowledge, influence as well as food. The function of greed is that it keeps us grounded in physical reality. It helps you create a comfortable life on a physical level and ensures that you keep growing as an individual. Greed provides you with the energy to work hard for a promotion, to keep learning, to leave your comfort zone, and to become open-minded to new experiences. In essence, greed is what helps you fulfil your dreams and ambitions. Even on a spiritual level, we would not be able to get anywhere without greed. It is also behind the perseverance of the ascetic monks and yogis who endure harsh discipline and years of solitary practice. Here it is greed for the divine experience, for the bliss that they once had a glimpse of for an instant, and they can't help but want more of it.
If greed is out of control and starts to dominate your life, it will result in a constant craving for more - money, possessions, food, beauty etc. while other aspects of life get pushed to the side. On the other hand, if you suppress this driver or can’t access it properly, you will lack ambition and have little appreciation for a material life. A person like so ends up giving away possessions (even essentials) and cannot provide for basic needs. On a mental or spiritual level, such a person would be drifting aimlessly, without purpose, and would cease to grow. Like a coin has two sides, so does this driver: on one side, there is greed, and on the other is generosity - one would not be possible without the other. You know the expression “you can't pour from an empty cup,” but it is not just that you could not, but also that you would not. Why is that? Because if you have never felt the lack or never experienced the need for something out of your reach, then you can't empathise with someone else who does. And without empathy, you can't act from genuine generosity.
The excesses of greed, especially those perpetrated by large corporations, governments or whole societies, are a danger to our future and the future of our children. Those need to be urgently addressed, and we all play a role in making that happen.
Our responsibility starts with ourselves, as it always does. Let us first get acquainted with this driver in our daily lives and learn how it makes us feel, what activates it, and in which situations we try to suppress it. What do you think about yourself in moments when you realise that greed is driving your actions? Do you judge yourself? Do you feel ashamed? I implore you to be as open-minded and compassionate as you can with yourself and just observe. When you start to understand your patterns, you will also begin to realise why you act a certain way and what motivates your thoughts. Then you can choose how to use this driver and where you want to direct its energy.
You might wonder at this point what all of this has to do with Naad. Naad is the sound of your emotions, an expression of your being - anything that is audible to the human ear is Naad. To make something audible requires energy and a drive towards expression. Simply put, without drivers there would be no Naad. Ultimately, Naad Yogis can balance the drivers by deliberately channelling their energy into sound, and they can alter their emotional state just as fast. But that is only possible if they first get to know themselves deeply and intimately.
Are you ready for a little adventure? Then turn your focus inward, and explore the glorious mystery that you are! One more driver is waiting for you in my next blog, but for now, let's become friends with our greed. You might just make the world a bit better while you are at it... who knows!