I have met people who seem to be happy with very little, and I’ve met people who seem very unhappy with an awful lot.

I was teaching a fellow to fly once whose uncle was a very wealthy man. He had billions. We landed at LaGuardia airport and we pulled in and he looked up at this huge jet and he says, “Oh damnit. That’s my Uncle’s plane.” This guy who himself had twenty million, suddenly felt very poor compared to his Uncle’s billions.

I’ve watched what happens to people as they make more money; they shift the context of the people they live with, and it seduces them into more and more. The whole concept that more is better is a very deep sickness in this culture.

Some people come through life with a lot of anxiety about starvation and hunger, passed on from their grandfathers two generations back. And so they need a certain security before they’re free enough of their neurosis, or that panic or that fear to be able to be free to do inner work and be productive. Other people can go right along the edge with no savings whatsoever and seem to ride along with it, there’s no general rule.

When people see money as energy and they see that there are karmic effects to holding onto energy and they also see that those karmic effects backfire, then they start to see that part of the responsibility of having energy is learning how to pass it through, learning how to trust, and to keep giving it away. People, especially in the business world, take money too seriously.

There’s a story about my guru, it’s always kind of stuck in my mind, of the sadhu that came to visit him. The sadhu was an old fellow who had known Maharaj-ji for many years. The sadhu came in and he was quite arrogant and he sat down right on the tucket with Maharaj-ji and all the devotees were very upset that he’d sat there. The sadhu said to Maharaj-ji, “You’ve got this big temple. You’re collecting stuff. You’re really attached. You want so much.” Maharaj-ji said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I mean, Maharaj-ji couldn’t care less, he’d had a water pot and a doti that kept falling off and people would build temples to try to capture him.

The sadhu was sitting there playing with a little shaligram, which is a stone you do Shiva puja with, and Maharaj-ji said, “Oh, look at that shaligram! Could I see it?” So the sadhu showed him the shaligram and Maharaj-ji said, “Oh, that’s beautiful! Can I have it?” And the fellow said, “See? I knew it! You’re just greedy. You want everything. You want my shaligram and that’s part of my spiritual practices. I can’t give that to you!” Maharaj-ji said, “I’ll give you 40 rupees.” This thing is only worth 5 rupees and after a moment the sadhu says, “Well if you need it Maharaj-ji, I’ll sell it to you.” So Maharaj-ji got forty rupees from a devotee and gave it to the sadhu.

Then Maharaj-ji said to the sadhu, “Give me all of your money.” So the sadhu said, “I knew you weren’t gonna let me keep the 40 rupees.” He gave him the 40 rupees and Maharaj-ji said, “No, I want all of your money, the stuff you’ve got pinned inside your jacket.” The sadhu took out another 200 rupees and said, “Maharaj-ji, that’s all the money I’ve got.” Maharaj-ji took the 240 rupees and he threw them into the coal fire and they flared up. The sadhu freaked, “Maharaj-ji! My God! That’s all the money I had!” Maharaj-ji said, “Oh! I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t realize how attached you are!” And he took a pair of tongs, reached into the fire, pulled out all new dollar bills and handed them to the sadhu. Then the sadhu got off of the tucket.

Now if you’ve lived in the world where this is even possible, how does money look to you after that? Maharaj-ji said to me once, “All the money in the world is mine.” Now, is that total psychosis? Sounds like it, doesn’t it. Or is it? Is there some other way of understanding money in which you see it as just this kind of play energy, like Monopoly money. You just play with it.

I have the sense that as your faith gets stronger, you keep needing less and less, and when your faith is flickering, you keep wanting more security. You want to keep hedging your bets against life. But as your faith gets stronger, you just keep letting it go and letting it go.


-Ram Dass


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