Hinduism on Wealth and Poverty
On the Indian subcontinent wealth, poverty, and charity have been governed by the overarching social values of the caste system. Within Hinduism, wealth is regarded as a beneficial and positive value, just like love and morality—if pursued within limits. Social rank in ancient India was dominated by religious prestige while economic success and the accumulation of wealth did not lead to a higher social standing. Still, especially for those engaged in commerce, generosity and hospitality were also highly regarded. Traditionally, these are not only private values. Among the roles of the state, embodied in the office of the king, was the social mandate to feed the poor and support religious institutions. Today Hindu temples continue to promote charitable and community activities. Still, the highest praise in Hindu history is not reserved for the generous but for those who regard wealth with indifference and are able, when the proper stage of life arrives, to renounce all their belongings.