Money and spirituality is always a tricky subject. Is money the root of all evil? What is our outlook on money as practitioners?
Actress Charlotte Rampling (who spent time in a Tibetan monastery in Scotland) was once asked in an old interview how it felt to be beautiful. Her answer? “I don’t have a relationship with it. It’s there, but I don’t need to have a relationship with it.” This is, in many ways, like Samurai who refused to touch money.
Our modern world is complicated. Everything is expensive and bills pile up fast. Supporting a family is becoming increasingly difficult as labor’s share of income is being increasingly overtaken by capital’s share (the rich get richer) at an alarming rate in our current system. But this inequality has never not been the case since our hunter gatherer ancestors, and people’s standard of living has never been objectively higher than it is today. Not that any of this really matters to us when we need to make rent.
Although money itself is neutral, the desire for money can cause problems because it can become an illusory store of value against reality. It can become an acute representation of samsaric desire and selfish attachment. Things like the “law of attraction” and other “God wants us to have money” messages can be misleading if they draw us into a perverted and selfish mental relationship with money that is not necessary for our lives. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our hearts are in our bank accounts, this is a sad condition indeed.
Instead of focusing on money, we may focus on what we can offer to the others in our society that is wanted or needed. In these somewhat barbaric times fear can make us focus on hoarding money and security for ourselves and our family against some hostile image of the world, as if we could somehow stroll through a tsunami with our umbrella. We forget to realize that we are all one family and need to take care of each other. If we approach work from a perspective of offering something of value to others instead of taking for ourselves then we will become aware of new avenues through which to offer our time and our effort. This shift makes for better business relationships and gives us renewed focus and energy.
Though money may symbolize freedom it can never offer real freedom and is, in reality, only a tool. If another needs this tool, give it. If you have extra, invest it wisely but do not consider it yours. Be careful not to overextend your lifestyle and never take pride in anything that can be bought. If you have a “special relationship” with money then this is no different from any other vexation – simply see what you’re doing and drop it. Practice and work hard for the sake of others and this moment will always be provided for.