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Aug 31
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Inspiration and Money

miksang image by Charles Blackhall

miksang image by Charles Blackhall

COLUMN: Shambhala Economics

Welcome to Shambhala Economics, a column in the Shambhala Times where we publish articles on uplifted ways to view and engage in the economic side of life. Layth Matthews who is a long time student of Shambhala Buddhism and author of, “The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: a Buddhist View of Economic Life” is host, editor, and contributor for the column.

article by Layth Matthews

This is part I of a two part article on the psychology of money.

It could be said that Buddhist Economics, if there is such a thing, is about clarifying the difference between wealth and money. I think that’s because Buddhism is more about view than strategy. The Buddha’s discovery of awakened nature could be described as the realization of an unconditionally wealthy outlook because the non-judgmental perception we practice in meditation enables us to see the basic goodness of everything.

As far as practical life is concerned, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said if you develop wisdom and compassion first, the practical knowledge, like how to live a decent life in this crazy world, will come along by itself. In other words, keep the priority on opening up the view, and ordinary life will become more workable too.

The Shambhala path incorporates the predicaments of daily life as part of the spiritual path. So here are some musings about the psychology of money from working, studying, financing, and fundraising over the years.

Inspiration and Money
The first thing to know about money is that money is attracted to inspiration. I think that is because inspiration is the expression of wealth itself, and people always want to buy wealth with their money. True inspiration can see applications for money, but does not depend on it – in the absolute sense.

In practice however, “Where there is no grain, there is no Torah, and where there is no Torah, there is no grain.” In other words, we should respect the importance and value of income as support for our own inspiration as well as others, without letting the finances become prerequisite to our sense of worthiness or fulfillment. In his book, Money and the Meaning of Life, Jacob Needleman says it is the lack of respect for the practical role of money that causes our money concerns to plague us perennially.

Money and Drive
Ironically, a lot of our money problems stem from failing to keep a higher inspiration in mind. From the Shambhala point of view the original source of inspiration is not so dependent upon what job we have, but springs forth from synchronizing body and mind. “Meaningful work” is good if you can get it, but we can imbue all of our activity with meaning by maintaining continuous awareness and dedicating the merit to all sentient beings, no matter what our work might be!

Faith, Longing, Invocation and Education
Inspiration manifests itself in many ways: arts, food, service, education, and skillful speech, to name a few. Anything that opens up the senses, sheds light on subtleties, or basically reveals the sacredness of life. Inspiration without money, by the way, is longing, a perfectly good state of mind.

In the I-Ching it says “The world fills what is empty, and empties what is full.” In the spiritual sense empty and full generally refers to ego.

Sometimes we must humbly prepare for the situations we wish for long before we can see exactly how they will come about. Proceeding on faith like this has invocation and education aspects. If, for example, you aspire to be rich, you might try to invoke that by grooming yourself for the halls of power, on faith that if you are technically ready, a path will open up.

The educational aspect is that as you assemble some of the mundane practicalities of your dream of being rich, you may discover that what you ultimately want is a dignified household, or a more spacious mind. You may also discover that you can have a dignified household, or a spacious mind without changing jobs, and that getting rich does not guarantee a dignified household or a spacious mind, at all.

Time and Money
Whether you are Bill Gates or just getting by, success with money usually has more to do with expectations and timing than net worth or income. Simply pacing oneself conservatively can result in reduced stress and increased freedom all along the way. Ironically, materialism is the greatest obstacle to material wealth.

Inspiration and Perspiration
One of the telltale signs of inspiration is perspiration. Money will often follow the sweat. Group sweat is better still. It suggests something meaningful is going on. Perspiration could also be a sign of humility. Money loves humility and likes to fill needs, especially when they are clearly defined, i.e. not a bottomless pit. People like to see a high return on investment (ROI) even when making donations.

Being Specific
It’s only when you define the need/goal that your ask has integrity. Asking for money, even if it is a gift, is always an exchange, karmically speaking. Make sure it’s clear to all parties what’s being asked for, and what’s being given in return, even if it’s in the form of pledging to derive maximum enjoyment from a gift.

Conclusion to Part I
The essential point is to focus on the core inspiration first. Make the world a better place in the ways you know best and the money will follow. If you are leading a meditation center, let no eligible participant be put off due to money. The marginal cost of an additional participant is minimal, but the merit of genuine meditation practice is immeasurable. When your center is filled with practitioners, if you humbly ask for donations, you will find them.

LaythMatthewsLayth Matthews
, is Senior Mortgage Advisor and CEO of RateMiser Mortgage Advisors and the Author of “The Four Noble Truths of Wealth: a Buddhist view of economic life”. He is a Shambhala Training Director and a Former Director of the Victoria Shambhala Center. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada with his wife and three children.

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3 responses to “ Inspiration and Money ”
  1. Michael Smith
    Oct 9, 2015

    “Ironically, materialism is the greatest obstacle to material wealth.” <-THIS! Thanks for the insight Layth.

  2. Thanks for this helpful information!

  3. Calandra Smith
    Sep 2, 2015

    Thank you for this timely and inspirational article. This information is very helpful to me as the prospect of adapting to more prosperity in my life is one of my greatest current challenges.

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