The Role of Money in Spirituality and Religion
I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That’s too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball…
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich mans world
Money, money, money
In the rich mans world…
Ah yes, ABBA’s super hit song about the ageless and most dear human Mantra, Money Money Money. Of all the Mantras in existence, this is certainly the one that is most chanted. Everybody seems to chant this Mantra, the question here is should one seeking Enlightenment also chant Money Money Money? What does the dollar buy in the marketplace of spirituality? Does it have any value? The answer is… revealed by the story below.
King Shantanu, like was the tradition of his time, was in preparation for renouncing the throne and retiring to the forest for the rest of his days to spend in meditation and yoga. The prince was ready to be crowned King and King Shantanu was ready, as ready could be, to enter the spiritual phase of his life (sanyas). The same, though, could not be said of his Queen — Maharani Ria. She was not keen on the hardships of hermetic living and was desperate to know what kind of life was awaiting them at the forest dwelling. Unfortunately for her, the only person to have seen this ashram, was the timeless Sage Rudravakta. Now, no one messed with Sage Rudravakta. He was one fierce Rishi (Sage). He was not only known for having conquered time, but was also famous for being brutally blunt and extremely hot tempered. There was no way the Maharani was going to risk incurring his wrath with her questions so, as any capable wife, she convinced the Maharaja (King) to have a chat with Rishi Rudravakta.
“Swamiji,” asked the King very politely, “Can you please tell me something about the ashram we are retiring to?”
“Why?” came the bullet like reply from the Swami (Sage).
“Um, we are trying to decide what to take with us,” the King responded trying to think fast.
“You will take nothing. Everything you need will be provided for. I want to make sure you are clear on my instructions here. The instructions are that you are to take nothing! Period. Also, let the Maharani know that in the ashram there are no maids, no cooks, no gardeners and no one to wash the clothes either. End of conversation.” And that was that. There was no more talk about the ashram and after a few days the King and a troubled Queen made their way to the forest.
Upon arriving at the ashram, the royal couple were completely bewildered. The Queen had imagined a humble abode, a simple set-up but what she found was mostly just unbelievable and… quite puzzling. She was surrounded by the most strange devices, things she and the King had never seen before.
After enjoying their confusion sufficiently, Rishi Rudravakta explained, “These devices are from the future. They don’t say I have conquered time for no reason.”
“But, Swamiji,” inquired the King, “What are all these strange devices and why are they here in this place designated for Meditation and Enlightenment?”
The Rishi smiled. “One of the most important things you need in the Path of Realization is leisure. Remember this. Without leisure you will not be able to make progress. Those that are ever busy and have no leisure, will have no time to devote to the study of the Self. These devices wash your clothes, cook for you, keep your food fresh, wash your dishes, clean your house, among other things. This is so you can have leisure. What you do with this gift of time is up to you. I though will be checking in from time to time and I better find you making good use of this free time.” So saying, the Rishi instructed the delighted Maharani on how to use the devices and left the couple to get down to living a life of depth and inquiry.
This is the answer to if money is important in the spiritual path. It is important to the extent that it buys you leisure. Buys you time. All you really need is food, clothing and shelter. If you don’t have those in reasonable quantity for you and your family, it gets difficult to meditate. The poor and hungry don’t think much about enlightenment, they are trying to arrange the next meal for their crying baby. If you have been blessed with the basics then you have a great responsibility. You should try to leverage your financial blessings to maximize leisure and spend that time wisely. Endless entertainment is a criminal waste of that most valuable commodity — leisure. Leisure is time available to you to inquire and learn the ways of the mind and ego. This then opens the doors to what lies beyond.
So use the devices that Rishi Rudravakta has provided to make more efficient use of your time, and remember he checks in from time to time to see what you have been doing with the leisure he has so carefully tried to create for you. Guard your leisure fiercely. Be careful of the commitments you make so that your whole life you don’t just end up singing the Mantra Money Money Money to try and meet them. Instead, make a commitment to find out the True Nature of Reality. This then leads to the discovery of all the real treasures life has to offer.