A Spiritual Take on Prosperity

We live in a money-obsessed world.

In his autobiography Nelson Mandela recalls some advice he received from a wealthy businessman when he was training to be a lawyer. ‘Look out there, Nelson,’ he said. ‘Do you see those men and women scurrying up and down the street? What is it they are working for so feverishly? I’ll tell you: all of them, without exception, are after wealth and money, because wealth and money equal happiness… Once you have enough cash, there is nothing else you will want in life.’

I once met a Christian minister who taught that money is a reward for good deeds. To be spiritual, he said, is to be financially wealthy too, because it means you’re contributing greatly to society. Conversely to be poor is to be unspiritual because you’re not contributing very much.

But this doesn’t add up. When Mahatma Gandhi died, all he left was his spectacles, a toothbrush, an old spinning wheel and a couple of loincloths. Mother Theresa’s entire worldly possessions consisted of two sets of clothes, one to wear, one in the wash. Yet both travelled the world, and no airline, hotel or restaurant dared to charge them because they considered it an honour to serve them. Were they spiritual? You decide.

The Latin root of the word ‘prosperity’ means ‘fortunate’. Some who merely have pots of money do not meet this definition. Unhappiness and petty acts of meanness are legion among the rich and famous.

Prosperity only exists when an individual has a good feeling about what they have.

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, studied happiness. He found that people who start with nothing get happier as their material resources increase until they reach a point where their basic needs are met, then the ‘happiness curve’ flattens off. Additional money and ‘stuff’ makes little difference to level of happiness.

E.F. Schumacher, author of ‘Small Is Beautiful’, said that our aim should be the maximum wellbeing with the minimum of consumption. In his seminal chapter ‘Buddhist Economics’ he took clothing as an example. How many garments do you need? Why stress yourself filling a wardrobe with clothes you hardly wear? The most economically efficient approach would be for everyone to have warmth, comfort and an attractive appearance with the minimum toil and least use of natural resources. Yet economists measure the standard of living by how much is consumed and governments are elected on this basis!

The secret of prosperity

The secret of prosperity is to cultivate a prosperity consciousness.

Have you noticed how some people are always happy with what they have no matter what their circumstances? These people live in the moment. They know their needs and wants will be satisfied through their own efforts, now and in the future.

Lack of prosperity is usually a symptom of a more fundamental problem. Money is all around us like the air we breathe. The problem is, just as some people have asthma and cannot breathe freely, some people have a problem with their thinking which restricts their ability to attract the things they want into their lives. If you hold negative beliefs about prosperity and worry about money, you are suffering from poverty consciousness.

  • Do you believe that it is right for you to be prosperous?
  • Do you feel resentful towards others who have more than you?

All of us have something to offer that others need and value. So give. Give freely. Give whatever will genuinely serve others. If you have little money, give of yourself – a smile, a few kind words. When you give, you attract good things. If you want more love, give love; more friends, give friendship; more happiness, make others happy. Practise spontaneous acts of kindness and generosity and your prosperity will grow.

However, it’s not the giving that brings spiritual rewards, it’s the consciousness with which you give. If you give only to get back in return, you are giving from a consciousness of selfishness and you will attract the consequences of selfishness (yours and others’).

Be willing to receive too, and don’t feel guilty. If you don’t allow others to give to you, you are denying them the opportunity to increase their own prosperity.

  • When you have no further use for something, give it away.
  • Make full use of your talents. Find what you love doing, put your heart and soul into it, and as long as it benefits others as well as yourself prosperity will flow in your direction. It has to.
  • Be sincere in your thankfulness for what you have. You have so much to be grateful for.
  • Never envy others, and never make comparisons.

Focus your mind on what you can contribute rather than the financial rewards – if you are motivated only by money you will always feel poor. When you reach the end of your life, will it matter how much money you have in the bank? Isn’t it better to focus on the riches of love and happiness available to you right now?

©David Lawrence Preston, 16.5.2016

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