Louis CK has popped up on my radar again and I’m curious why I’m noticing this man so much. This time I wasn’t looking for him, I was reading about something else and there he was, with as sound advice as ever.
There’s this young man, Dustin Moskovitz, who is in the Guiness Book of Records as the youngest billionaire ever. He happened to be on the team that started Facebook and even though he left that company long time ago his original shares made him a billionaire when Facebook went public. The question was put to him how he feels about his money. That’s when he quoted Louis CK:
I never viewed money as being “my money” I always saw it as “The money” It’s a resource. If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system
Isn’t it just great? I mean how many people in the world are obsessed with money? How many don’t think twice about concept of “my money”? It’s all pervasive, and yet here we have a man with the most sober attitude of all time.
It’s just a resource, it’s neither yours nor theirs, it pulls around certain people and its purpose is to be spent, that’s all.
As devotees, of course, we see Lakshmi, as well as any other resource, as Krishna’s property that needs to be spent for His pleasure but otherwise Louis CK is amazingly right on the money. He already figured out that it doesn’t belong to anybody here, he just doesn’t know the real owner yet.
Also as devotees, we should admit that we spend money on ourselves. No one that I know follows the Vedic formula of giving fifty percent away but even if we did, it would still leave fifty percent as legitimately ours. Well, Louis CK’s attitude is even better than that – none of it is yours, or mine, it just needs to be spend in a certain way.
So the question is not whose money it is or who it is given to, it’s not even the question is how it is ultimately spent, it’s the need to spend it that’s important here.
It’s easy to consider pros and cons of any particular spending scheme, whether it’s done for Krishna or whether there are some selfish motives, it’s not very interesting.
What is interesting is that money needs to be “flushed back into the system”, you can’t just sit on it.
In this regard there’s a story of Avanti brahmana in Srimad Bhgavatam (SB 11.23). Before that brahman turned into an exemplary devotee he was very rich. Usually the problem with wealth is the way people acquire it, which is often less than savory and so karma eventually catches up, but in this case the wealth was acquired legitimately.
The problem was that it wasn’t spent.
The brahmana was miserly, the chief reason for his downfall was that he didn’t spent money neither on his family nor on himself: “He would not even allow sufficient gratification for his own body at the suitable times,” as Krishna tells us. Then he lost his wealth, realized that it was his stinginess that cost him his fortune, and became a renunciate.
This is probably the only time when NOT spending money for your own sense enjoyment is mentioned as a cause of a falldown, usually it’s the other way around.
This also gives us an important lesson in yukta vairagya vs phalgu vairagya – denying yourself your allotted pleasures is a false renunciation, proper renunciation is to go along with Lord’s plan for you. If you are given a certain amount of resources you have to engage it, not renounce it, and that’s true even for non-devotees.
Btw, Louis CK said that thing about money when he unexpectedly made a million dollars in ten days and was completely overwhelmed by the experience. What happened is that he decided to ditch usual agents and distributors for his show and offered to download it to anybody anywhere for five dollars, he only asked not to steal it, and in ten days he was a millionaire. The way he spent his money wasn’t kosher, but most of it he just gave away, leaving himself only about ten percent.
Dustin Moskovitz went even further – he invests his money into other people’s ideas and helps them grow. He does not give in charity per se, he gives it to people who will “flush it back into the system” in the best way possible.
This is a very responsible way to deal with wealth, even if these people don’t know anything about Krishna, the true proprietor.