Money & Spirituality: Do They Mix?
By Asoka Selvarajah, Ph.D
Money causes most people more emotional problems than almost any other life issue. How many times have you heard that "Money doesn't grow on trees", that "The love of money is the root of all Evil" or that anyone who is rich must, by definition, be either a crook or extremely hard and tough? Most people have extremely negative associations about Wealth and Money that were gained subconsciously whilst growing up.
The world's spiritual traditions seem to be in agreement:
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Other world religions say much the same. Buddhism certainly sees earthly wealth as a source of desire and attachment; both of which are viewed as detrimental to spiritual growth.
Yet, most personal development teachers today tell you that you can "have it all" and extol the virtues of becoming wealthy. Moreover, it seems to be a very modern version of spirituality that says you can be rich AND highly spiritual. So who is right?
Within a strictly limited sense, both are correct. However, the balance is extremely hard to maintain correctly.
Given that the Universe and the Source that created it are infinitely abundant, it is entirely correct that you should expect to be similarly abundant in your life. You have a right to wholesome expansion and wealth. Poverty is not intrinsic within creation - rather it is created by Man himself!
However, there is a big problem, and this is what the teaching from Jesus above highlights perfectly. It is the problem of focus.
Whatever we focus our minds upon, for good or ill, always expands. This is one of the fundamental laws of life. No matter what anyone tells you to the contrary, making money is hard. It does not come easy to most people. Moreover, making a LOT of money is VERY hard and takes a tremendous level of concentrated focus. It also requires a commitment that is primarily EXTERNAL, i.e. devoted to the outer material world.
Herein lies the apparent conflict. The truth is that powerful spiritual development ALSO requires a tremendous level of focus and commitment. It is not a part-time activity either. Moreover, the focus is primarily INTERNAL. If you now read the verse from Jesus again, you will receive a fresh perspective. It is not that money is intrinsically evil: rather, the accumulation of it, for someone with limited years on this earth, is a major distraction because of the level of focus it requires.
Whatever you focus upon expands. If you set your mind upon the external world, this will assume increasing importance in your life. Spiritual growth will increasingly become a hobby or something to be crammed into your spare time. If you vigorously dispute this, ask yourself the following questions.
Do you make sure you get three full meals a day?
Do you also make sure that you meditate (or pray) three times a day for the same amount of time?
Do you see the point and the problem? Whatever is most important to you is what you spend most of your time doing and thinking about. This is why most spiritual traditions advise against the external focus which the pursuit of material wealth entails. The Spiritual Masters know human nature too well. They know that given half a chance, we will veer off the path and go off chasing soap bubbles.
Happily, there can be a satisfactory resolution to this. The answer is twofold.
The first principle is that if you make the spiritual path (and this does NOT mean exclusively the Christian path) your primary focus, then you will eventually master laws of the universe that will ensure your abundance forever. Moreover, abundance here is interpreted in the widest possible way, as well as many ways that we can't conceive of with finite minds! If you can truly tune yourself to the ultimate Source of all abundance in the universe, then how can you remain poor in any sense?!
This is what Jesus had in mind when he said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you."
In other words, bring your finite Mind and Being increasingly in tune with the Source of infinite abundance, and you cannot help but manifest abundance too. Moreover, you will do it with ease, at will, and to a greater level than you ever believed possible for yourself and others. If the universe is infinitely creative, then you can be too, once you are in tune with the spiritual laws by which the universe functions.
The second principle - also implicit in the verse above - is to decide from the outset what your true life purpose and hence priority is. Then determine NEVER to let that balance between spiritual commitment and external effort be undermined. When we work upon an external goal - particularly financial abundance - it is VERY easy to allow that goal to consume an increasing amount of time and mental capacity.
Decide from the outset that you are going to focus upon the process of being excellent in the field of endeavour that is your life's purpose. Then pursue it with the intention of being the very best you can be, rather than focusing primarily upon some monetary result/goal at the end of the process. You can certainly have a monetary goal. However, just be aware of the danger of letting this becoming the primary obsession. Don't ever let it happen. Also, always continually re-assess the balance and level of commitment between your externally focused activities and your spiritual goals. Never let that balance slip.
In conclusion, it is possible to be financially abundant whilst following a spiritual path. However, it is very difficult - much more so than most personal development gurus would have you believe. It is for this reason that the great Spiritual Masters strongly discouraged trying to do both. However, by using the two principles mentioned here from the outset, it is possible to create abundance in your life in the widest possible sense of the word.