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Greed can be good, but its fundamental destination matters, says Prasoon Joshi

Isn't the thirst for knowledge, or insatiable need for love, or hankering for everlasting peace, a form of wanting more, of harbouring greed?

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 06, 2015, 08.57 AM IST
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Isn't the thirst for knowledge, or insatiable need for love, or hankering for everlasting peace, a form of wanting more, of harbouring greed?
Isn't the thirst for knowledge, or insatiable need for love, or hankering for everlasting peace, a form of wanting more, of harbouring greed?
By Prasoon Joshi

Greed, especially in its material form, is viewed with the filter of evil as its very root. After all, the unbridled desire for more has led to seven-odd billion humans unleash infinite demand for depleting material resources. Greed, in its current avatar, reeks of a despicable disregard for nature, manifesting itself in destructively unstable lives with the moral compass seemingly gone amok.

But isn't the thirst for knowledge and more of it, the insatiable need for love and more of it, the aspiration to build intellectual capital, to hanker for everlasting peace, to obsessively stretch possibilities, desire of oneness with the supreme power, not a form of wanting more, of harbouring greed?

Isn't the validation of desire — material or spiritual — present in the ancient symbols of 'kamdhenu' or 'kalpvriksha' ? And hasn't greed been the driving force, the spirit that has led to growth in every sphere marking the making of mankind? Is a person not greedy when he wants to work more and chase bigger dreams? To desire a 100 centuries, to conquer the highest peak, to amass thoughts, ideas and feel more inspired.

So is greed justified, is greed good? Or is it evil incarnate? Let's for a moment view a child — perhaps the purest form of our species. Children befriend their devil. I recall a famous international awardwinning campaign for a brand of toys; it simply shows a close up of an insect, its feet broken. The headline says "Why should he have six legs when I have two?" The base line: "Makes sense to kids."

Kids have their own logic. Call it devilish if you want. They feel and do because they are not self-conscious. Innocent. A child is uninhibited — the devil part, very natural.

But an adult is taught to deny their devil, conditioned to avoid it. This only ends up in our devil becoming larger. The best food for the devil is ostracism, denial. Why do we attempt to disguise our devil? It's a counterforce. It is natural. There is a dark side in all of us.The more we deny its existence in us, the more potent, larger than life, will it become. When we accept, we embrace spontaneity and a natural state of being.

Let's not deny our devil. Let's not deny our greed.

But what kind of greed?

Arguably, a desire even in the creator or creation to multiply, to manifest manifold, exists.

The filter of intent has to be applied here. Greed is good. It all depends on where it's taking you, its fundamental destination. It depends what you are greedy for.

A desire to be more knowledgeable doesn't harm anyone in its wake, there is no manipulation to reach unity with the divine, and there is no viciousness when alleviation of pain, of suffering is hankered after. It depends on the 'taseer' — the essence of what you are after. If the intensity is 'ugra' in its very character, the means become mean. But if the intent is correct at its very core, the greed to actualise it is good. Like in a market economy, if the intention of a company is to share the goodness of life or create moments of happiness, its destination is not evil. Companies that do not seed in their DNA, the intent to do good, will ultimately be questioned. It's the greed for the good that makes for a gentler, a more giving and larger way of existence.

As I was reading in the Isha Upanishad, scarcity is of objects, of material resources.

If there is greed for love, harmony, spirituality, there is no scarcity of resources of consciousness.

As evident in the lines of Anne Sexton's poem, "Abundance is scooped from abundance, yet abundance remains".

This is the vantage point I have chosen, at the moment, to look at greed from. The seeking and desire of newer and different vantage points shall continue.

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