Bhagat Ravi Das was an uneducated shoemaker in India, but he knew what true wealth is. In one of his hymns that is part of the beautiful Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Ravi Das sings to God:
O Lord of Wealth, what should I say about this delusion?
What we deem a thing to be, in reality it is not like that.
It is like a king falling asleep on his throne
And dreaming that he is a beggar.
His kingdom is intact,
But separating from it he suffers.
The Lord is the ocean of peace.
In God’s possession are the miraculous tree,
The wish-fulfilling gem, the cow who fulfills all desires.
The four greatest boons, the eighteen supernatural powers,
The nine treasures are all in the palm of God’s hand. . . .
O Lord, if I break with Thee, whom else shall I join?
This body is a skeleton of bones, flesh, and veins;
Within it lives the poor soul birds.
The soul perches in the body like a bird in a tree.
O mortal, what is mine and what is yours?
You lay foundations and build walls
But in the end your place is only three and a half cubits long. . . .
Without attaching myself with the world I have attained my Lord.
I repeat the Lord’s Name and now I have no concern with the messenger of death.
I myself live in India near the great Sikh teacher, Baba Virsa Singh. His communities are called Gobind Sadan, which means “The House of God.” We live very simply in village fashion, but yet we feel very wealthy. People so often ask me, “How can you, a Westerner, adapt yourself to these conditions? You have sacrificed so much to live here.” The question leaves me speechless, for I have no sense of deprivation. Quite the opposite: By meditating, remembering God, and doing voluntary service in a community of people who deeply love God, under the blessings of my revered teacher, I experience so much inner happiness, peace, and love that I feel very, very wealthy. God blesses us with the ecstasy of divine Light. No worldly pleasure can compare to the unspeakable pleasure of communion with God.
People with great worldly wealth and great worldly power stream to Baba Virsa Singh, longing to be connected to the true wealth that comes only from God. Babaji is unimpressed by their worldly status, for he lives in communion with the Master of us all. Once Babaji quietly said to me, “I have seen the Great King; what need do I have for these worldly kings?”
In the so-called “poor” people with whom I live, I see so much more of the great wealth of inner peace and happiness than I see in the worried faces of those who are materially wealthy. When I visit the United States, I see such tension, worry, and depression in people who seem to have so much.
If only we stop running after the things of the world and take time to turn inside in meditation, we discover that the real treasures lie hidden within our own mind. They are not physical treasures to satisfy the skeleton of bones, flesh, and veins; they are not worldly palaces which will someday give way to a narrow grave. The real wealth, both here and hereafter, lies in the bliss of remembrance of God. That Light, that Love, that Peace, that Power are the true and lasting kingdom of our soul. The more we lovingly turn our thoughts to the One who is doing and giving everything, the wealthier we become.
[for BBC World Service Words of Faith]