Can Wealthy People Be Spiritual?

By Will Donnelly

Though it seems a familiar formula for those on a spiritual path to rebuke money and keep things simple (many holy people have taken vows of poverty), I now wonder if it isn’t time for light workers, those doing the most healing work on the planet, to be unafraid to be the next billionaires.

It begs the question: Is it more “spiritual” to be poor? Should people who truly desire to serve the world take a vow of poverty? Or can being wealthy offer us its own unique spiritual path?

Over the years I have explored spiritual work with several different communities. Many people, including myself at times, have felt guilty about the idea of being rewarded monetarily for our work helping others. We seem to want to bring healing and change to the world through acts of kindness, perhaps like Mother Teresa. Side by side with our capitalist mainstream culture there seems to be an insidious idea that money is the root of all evil and gaining it is selfish.

But real change, especially in a capitalist world, requires, well, capital.

A dear friend of mine wanted to start a wellness house, but realized in our visioning group that she believed money was bad; that having too much money was “unspiritual,” an idea she had held since parochial school.

I pointed out that she would need money to build the home to house the women she dearly wanted to support. She would need cash to run the business, and to take care of herself and her family so she could continue to do the work she loved to do. We both had an “aha” moment. Money is just energy, to be used however we see fit. So we agreed to sit in meditation and heal the negative connotations we had of money.

Sure, having the means to do anything you want or go anywhere you wish would have almost aphrodisiac-like qualities that many people might find too delicious to resist. I get that there is a bit of danger on this path. If you are greedy and become rich, you would probably use the money for greedy purposes.

Yet, imagine a world filled with driven light workers, all easing the suffering of humanity. J.K. Rowling, famed Harry Potter author, has lived a classic rags-to-riches story. In five years, she went from living on state benefits to being a multi-millionaire. Now, she is one of the richest women in the world.

Recently, she was bumped off of Forbes billionaires’ club for giving money to charity: $160 million of it. Her second career is now full-time philanthropist.

Rowling said: “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” She’s never forgotten her humble roots, and the power of societies helping those who need it the most.

In yoga, we might call this non-hoarding, or aparigraha (one of the famous sutras that leads to enlightenment). We could use more J.K. Rowlings in the world, and given our limited resources on the planet, we also need more aparigraha.

But you don’t need to be a billionaire to be part of the solution. If we are to make a change and improve life on earth, perhaps we can stop perceiving money as evil and use our “excess” to help others in need.

 

Spirituality & Health magazine is for people who wish to explore the spiritual journey—the journey to self-knowledge, authenticity, and integration. We draw from the wisdom of many traditions and cultures, with an emphasis on sharing spiritual practices. We explore the health of body, mind, and spirit, and we recognize that in our language the words "whole," "health," and "holy" share a common root. To subscribe to Spirituality & Health, click here.

 

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