Amalavajra says: To change the world you also need to change yourself. So whilst there is plenty of money in this world, if you want more of it to serve the good then you will need to awaken to its reality. This means being clear about how much money you have and need, and understanding the conditioned beliefs you hold about it. And by examining money’s ungraspable nature you may unearth a greater confidence and freedom in relation to mobilizing money for work that matters.
We looked at our financial situations, the ways our attitudes to money shape our experience, and how to practise stillness, simplicity & contentment, and generosity more radically for the sake of ourselves and the world.
Read on for comments from participants in the day, and to download the handouts:
Tim Mason: It never occurred to me before but ‘money’ is a quintessential example of the three ‘lakshanas’ – the marks of conditioned existence – namely unsatisfactoriness/dukkha (general too little/too much money and it is unequally distributed without reference to need), it is impermanent (inflation!), and has no real existence – it is a shared fiction/convention which we all adhere to though it has no inherent value. Money probably arose as a token of gratitude for services rendered but evolved to be a means of exchanging goods and services over prolonged time periods and to be a store of value. So we do rely on it and it can have many positive as well as negative consequences.
Quite a few of the 14 or so attendees admitted to being apprehensive and reluctant about coming to the event – myself included, for it was a wonderfully sunny day outside. We had been encouraged to fill in a form before we arrived to calculate our ‘net financial worth’ and a recent bank statement as well, so it was no wonder we were a little apprehensive! It helped us to relax when we were not alone in this and it also helped that there was much honesty and sharing of specific details about our finances. Splitting into pairs helped us to get into more detail and to get a sense of someone else’s approach to and issues with money.
Amalavajra started with a questionnaire which enabled us to analyse how closely we adhered to various classical Jungian archetypes in relation to our attitude to money – archetypes such as ‘pleasure seeker’, caretaker’, idealist’ or ‘innocent’. But none of these were to be considered superior – we were encouraged to think what we might do to spread ourselves across a number of them so that we could be flexible and ‘creative’ rather than ‘reactive’ in our attitude to and use of money.
He used the precepts, particularly the third (“with stillness, simplicity and contentment I purify my body” and the second “with open-handed generosity I purify my body”). We discussed generosity quite widely and there were many examples of its benefits to the giver as well as the receiver.
Amalavajra talked of the principle of the ‘tithe’ (a tenth of income) as used in several religions as a mark of fulsome generosity while recognising that many were not in a position to articulate this in purely monetary terms. He also underlined the value in giving to Buddhist Charities in particular and for two reasons:
Buddhism aims to change peoples’ minds and therefore aims at the fundamental causes of inequity and suffering rather than the symptoms
That as ‘dharma-farers’ if we do not give to Buddhist charities then no one will – many people give to well known organisations such as Oxfam and Amnesty International.
We ended with the chanting of the Ratnasambhava mantra before the shrine, on which this golden figure of the Boddhisatva of abundance, with the hand gesture of generosity had been placed. There we were encouraged to offer any written intentions that we had developed over the day.
So I left feeling that it had indeed been a worth-while investment, to spend a few hours indoors on such a sunny day reflecting on the role of money in my life and what I may wish to do to be more creative in my approach and use of this illusory but influential phenomena.
Katherine Sewell: I attended the recent Money Awakening day as part of BAM. We were asked to do some preparation before hand which involved looking at how we spend our money and bringing along figures and bank statements. This alone sent me into a cold sweat and by the time I was in the opening circle on the day I felt a nervous wreck! I was acutely in touch with a sense of vulnerability around money as I am about to embark for the first time in my life- in actually having to earn money to support myself. My tendency to this sense of existential angst, based around fears of ending up destitute or living off baked beans; is to bury my head in the sand- keep spending what I have and hope by ignoring the realities of money it might go away! Clearly, very much a wrong view in dharmic terms and this day enabled me through a variety of ways to explore what happens for me in relation to money, what archetypal aspects I tend to bring to it (drawn from a fascinating questionnaire devised by Brent Kessel) and in what areas I could balance these a bit more, how my assumptions about money have been strongly conditioned from childhood experience, investigating the reality of how we construct the meaning of money (‘money is something we invented to make life work better’ Amalavajra) and we looked at what Dana really means and why generosity matters from a dharmic perspective. All in all a very inspiring and thought provoking day shared which I felt was held by Amalavajra in a very sensitive manner given the emotive topic.
Dominic Busher: Thank you for a relaxing, inspiring day of insight and self exploration through led group discussions. Recommended for anyone who feels that money could work better for them, their relationships, and the wider community.
Jvalamalini: I was especially struck by how the atmosphere in the room changed after we broke the money taboo by sharing our financial situation with another sangha member – it seemed a relief to us all and released energy. I really appreciated Amalavajra bringing out how crucial the next 50 years are both for our Sangha and for the survival of humanity, how pivotal our work to transform hearts and minds is in that, and how a radical practice of simplicity and generosity is called for. He particularly calls us to give generously to Triratna charities to support the radical change needed – If not us, then who?
Handouts from the day
Listen to Vaddhaka on the importance of community and why capitalism matters.