On recent travels, I’ve had quite a few interesting conversations with the old and wise. Just last week I met an 82 year-old retired banker. We conversed about his life journey, the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and the pearls of wisdom that he had acquired in the process. The conversation came to the topic of money. He looked at me and exclaimed “After all these years I have found the sure way to become rich!” Intrigued, I gave him my full attention. “Most people think that you have to earn a lot of money to become rich” he said, “but actually they’ve got it all wrong!” “So what’s the secret?” I eagerly inquired. “The secret is that you don’t have to earn lots of money to become rich, just be damn sure you don’t spend any of it!” Interesting perspective indeed! While financial pundits may dispute his miserly mentality, I instead reflected on the spiritual significance of his words.
From one perspective his statement made sense. On our life journey we gather so much spiritual wealth and credit through our meditation, study of wisdom, service to others and ritual observances. When we live around spiritual people and associate within a devotional community it’s inevitable that we are regularly drawn into spiritually significant acts. We can earn considerable spiritual credit without even being aware of it. Unfortunately, we may be unknowingly squandering that wealth through our negligence and insensitivity in other areas. If we are critical and judgmental, speak harshly and fail in our consideration of others, or fall prey to carnal desires and material temptations, we end up ‘spending’ our wealth and stunting our spiritual growth. Thus, by following the basic spiritual practices and remaining conscious and alert to avoid impulsive and imprudent acts, we can become spiritually rich very quickly.
From another perspective, his statement reminded me that spiritual and material successes depend on completely different parameters. In the material field one has to be calculative, cunning, crafty and crude. One has to be on guard and defend his position. The ancient wisdom traditions, however, were based on completely different paradigms. A spiritual life is a life of giving, a life of magnanimity, generosity, kindness and goodwill. As we aim to help others solve their problems, our problems become solved automatically. If we share knowledge and help to educate others, we become genuinely wise and realized ourselves. If we endeavor to bring out the best in others, then God surely brings out the best in us. And ultimately, if we distribute spiritual wellbeing in the world, our own internal stock exponentially grows. There is no harm at all in spending. In fact, spending and investing in others is the sure way to become rich!