Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Do we have to renounce wealth to enroll in spirituality?

I once heard a countryside story wherein a follower visited a saint to beg for money. Finding his monetary needs genuine, the saint filled the follower's jholi (shirt) with a handful of soil. The follower, disappointed with the gift, left most of the clay at the temple premises except for the few particles of soil that caught his dress as he rushed back home. On reaching home, the devotee saw the particles of clay on his cloth turn into gold and gems. He was spellbound at the mystic’s blessing but then grieved over his foolishness of having discarded most of the “jewels” at the mystic’s site.

The tale left me thinking, “If such alchemy were possible, what saintly qualities would it need?” My foremost guess was that such a miracle would require mental impartiality between gold and clay. One may turn clay into gold and vice-versa only when one’s mind finds them identical. When one has access to the core unity in material nature, one may learn to interchange its manifestations. Obviously, a saint at such an advanced spiritual level would never store money merrily. After all, why would anyone store “clay” in his or her wallet?

As for the contemporary situation, we rarely see saints like Tulasidasa, who threw out even his kitchen utensils for Lord Rama,* or Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who could not touch metal.** Instead, we see individuals wearing religious robes who guide others towards non-possessiveness while amassing wealth themselves. Isn’t it better to admit that renouncing wealth is very difficult and we are all spiritual beginners? By being true to the self and by estimating our spiritual level clearly, we can allow our inner inspirations to guide us to the stage where money is not significant any more.

* It is said that the Bhakti Saint Tulasidasa threw out his kitchen accessories as soon as he realized that the Lord was protecting his limited possessions because of his devotion.

** Ramakrishna Paramhansa used to experience arthritis-like pain on touching metal (coins; money). Probably, this was the Mother’s way of ensuring that her devotee stayed away from the perishable.

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