By Suma Varughese November 2004 How does one reconcile spirituality with money in the kaliyug? there is no single right answer, discovers life positive. it all depends on where you are at. If you think a single rupee is insignificant then you develop a wrong and wasteful habit of losing Money Suresh Padmanabhan People with wealth consciousness settle only for the best. This is also called the principle of highest first. Go first class all the way and the universe will respond by giving you the best Deepak Chopra The universe exists only to fulfil our dreams and desires. It has no other purpose. If it is unlimited abundance we want, we will get it Vikas Malkani Money, next to sex, is probably one of the most contentious issues in the seeker’s life. Is it okay to have money or to pursue it? Should one renounce it and live on sackcloth and ashes? Do money and spirituality go together as New Age prophets assert? If so, where do you draw the line of conspicuous consumption? Where does all this leave environmental issues? And world poverty? The more the questions, the more the answers. Everyone has their solutions to the problem and many a New Age guru has coasted his way to easy street by writing books on the subject. When we confront a subject on which responses are mixed and varied, creating strong viewpoints and rousing passions, it is a sure sign that the subject is complex, multi-layered and demands deep and dispassionate inquiry. Money is just such a juicy subject, promising us a long and circuitous chase before yielding up its secrets. So where do we start? At the beginning perhaps, of our tortured relationship with money. All, or most of us, have an uneasy equation with it. Our attitude towards money reflects our attitude towards life. Money is an exchange system between ourselves—our goods, services, skills and creativity, self-expression—and what we need from the world—approval, admiration, status, lifestyle, goods, services. Therefore, our attitude towards money is intimately tied up with our sense of self-worth and self-belief, our sense of security, our value system and our worldview. Many of us draw our cues from the scientific understanding of the universe which portrays it as a random and fragmentary phenomenon, of which we are an insignificant part. Alienated and alone, we must fend for ourselves as best as we can, fighting the rest of the universe for our share of the pie. Such a belief system creates huge insecurity and fear, generating a scarcity-ridden mentality. The spirit of scarcity Writes Eknath Easwaran in his commentary on the Isha Upanishad in his book, The Upanishads, “Our economic thought operates, as social historian Ivan Illich put it, ‘under a paradigm of scarcity.’ The fundamental assumption is that there is not enough to go around; so we are doomed to fight one another (and an unwilling nature) for material, human, natural resources; each person or group for itself.” This attitude percolates to our personal relationship with money. The objects of desire seem infinite and the resources so little. I know of a retired college professor who is relatively well-off but still frets about her money situation and denies herself many little luxuries such as a good holiday or a meal in a fine restaurant, because she fears that she may run out of cash in her old age. Nor is this the only perversion that insecurity and poor self-worth drives us to. There is the opposite response, which is to spend money without control and limits. This malaise is spreading rapidly in today’s consumerist society which forces people to be identified with the things money can buy. Ashok Mathur (name changed), an advertising executive, shares this horrific tale. A big spender, he was drawn to credit cards for their ease of transaction and the credit facilities. Before he knew it, he had four cards and was heavily overdrawn on each. Unable to pay the amount due and facing arrest or worse any time, Mathur went through agony until he gathered the courage to meet his creditors, confess the sorry truth and work out a repayment plan. He stuck to it doggedly, but his moment of liberation arrived, he says, when he took a scissors and cut up three of his cards, retaining the last only for emergencies. Spendthrifts get a high out of spending, of buying things they don’t need but covet. No amount of money is sufficient for their needs, for their real void is within and things are a way of filling it up. Like the scarcity-ridden, spendthrifts too are driven in their response to money and do not act in freedom. Compulsive reactions Then there are compulsive philanthropists who give to feel good about themselves or to rule others. Another issue common to many is fear of money or a reluctance to face it. Writes Suresh Padmanabhan, who conducts workshops on money and has written a book called I Love Money, “Being lazy, not learning about the money world, being disorganised, never having proper accounts, not being bothered about money, escaping from the problems and making excuses are all things which will surely take you away from the money world.” Many of us are also guilty of disrespecting money. Writes Padmanabhan, “If you think a single rupee is insignificant then you develop a wrong and wasteful habit of losing money. Do not be surprised if you lose an entire fortune by this irresponsible way of handling money. Valuing every single rupee… has everything to do with us being aware, being methodical and in control.” Padmanabhan also speaks of many negative concepts concerning money that blocks our rational and positive attitude to it. For instance, that money is the root of all evil. He writes, “The misconception is that if money comes in, then it would be natural to lose precious things like friends, sleep and finally our “higher” self. This fear stops us from aspiring for wealth. We thus end up blocking the flow of money into our lives.” His recommendation: “Learn the art of spending money wisely and consciously… One should not hate, fear or feel guilty while spending. The purpose of money is to circulate and the more it circulates the more you become prosperous.” If this advice rings like a New Age truism, it is not without reason. The New Age creed that abundance is our birthright stems from a concern for our cramped and compulsive relationship with money. Level ll We could therefore refer to the New Age stance as level ll. It is a step up from the earlier approach and to that extent positive and corrective. What are the tenets of this belief? One is that we create our worlds through our belief system and therefore it is as easy to create a belief system of abundance as it was to create our earlier scarcity-ridden world. Writes Deepak Chopra in his book, Creating Affluence, “E also stands for the principle that expectancy determines outcome. So always expect the best and you’ll see that the outcome is spontaneously contained in the expectation.” The New Age gurus advise you to change your belief system through affirmations, intentions and creative visualisation. Chopra, for instance, gives a four-step plan to strengthen the flow of money in our lives. Step one: You slip into the gap between thoughts. The gap is the window, the corridor, the transformational vortex through which the personal psyche communicates with the cosmic psyche. Step two: You have a clear intention of a clear goal in the gap. Step three: You detach yourslf from outcome, because chasing the outcome or getting attached to it entails coming out of the gap. Step four: You let the universe handle the details. For Chopra, the way to enter the gap is through meditation. The second tenet therefore is that we live in a responsive universe which is amenable to suggestions and requests from us. The universe cares for us and it is a positive place to be in. Writes Vikas Malkani in his book, The Yoga of Wealth, “We use this science to create whatever we want because the universe exists only to fulfil our dreams and desires. It has no other purpose. If it is unlimited abundance we want, we will get it.” The third is that the universe is naturally abundant. The conclusion arriving from such premises is reassuring and positive. Free from our earlier belief in an uncaring and fragmentary universe we just happen to be a part of, we nestle safely in its arms, assured that we are loved and valued. This knowledge is enough to get rid of insecurity and subsequent scarcity mentality. We become aware that we matter and the seed of faith in a higher power is born. A columnist for the Yoga International journal reveals that her children had once fought disgracefully over an apple pie. To reassure them that there was plenty and that there was never a need to fight, she bought them each an apple pie. According to her, the kids were far less grasping after that. Moving from the scarcity mentality to that of abundance is a bit like glimpsing heaven. The fear and anxiety drain off and one experiences freedom and expansion. Instead of denying yourself the things you have long coveted, you buy them, confident that you deserve them and that the universe will provide. Writes Deepak Chopra in Creating Affluence, “People with wealth consciousness settle only for the best. This is also called the principle of highest first. Go first class all the way and the universe will respond by giving you the best.” Free of fear, you can chart out a rational plan for your life, budgeting holidays, big purchases etc, at a time when the price is right. Says businesswoman Leena Thakkar, “I ensure that I get value for money. For instance, I may travel by air but I plan long enough to avail of apex fares.” Spirituality and money And yet New Age thinking on money has its own limitations. Such thinke
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