By George A. Boyd ©2017
Q: In several spiritual traditions, they encourage adopting the monastic path of poverty and idealize the saint’s disregard for money. Can you speak to the motivations of monastics and saints for adopting these attitudes?
A: When spiritual seekers become completely absorbed in their spiritual life, the foundations of material life—career, money, and relationship—are often willingly sacrificed on their altar of devotion to God. Through intense cultivation of their inner life, they learn to tolerate not having money. Moreover, they no longer desire a relationship, a family, or a career, choosing instead to focus fully on their spiritual development and to move closer to the Presence of God.
What are some of the motivations for this abandonment of money?
- Saints are so absorbed in their inner experience that their outer experience is unimportant to them.
- God is the most important thing to saints: they may often see the outer world as a distraction or an illusion. They may see what goes on in the outer world as not relevant to the core values of their lives.
- Saints have gratitude and equanimity for whatever befalls them, as they see it comes from God’s Will and Providence.
- Saints believe God will provide for them, and look to God for sustenance, instead of their own efforts.
- Saints may be so uplifted into ecstatic spiritual consciousness that working a complex, modern job, with its stress, its multiple demands, and highly distracted environment is something they are no longer capable of doing.
- Some saints wish to preserve their energy so they can commune with God, and might feel working a job for the sake of earning money depletes their energy and interferes with their spiritual communion with the Divine.
- On some traditions, saints take a vow of poverty or have renounced accepting gifts during their monastic ordination, so they may see pursuing or even accepting money is a violation of the rule by which they are expected to live.
Abandoning money is an extreme position, but saints readily embrace this, because drawing closer to God is the most important thing to them. Perhaps no more than one percent of seekers have this overriding passion to entirely devote their lives to prayer, meditation, and the service of God—but we note that it is from this small group of the most dedicated seekers that many spiritual groups draw their priests and clergy.
The Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation holds that it is important to be able to function fully in the personality—having the ability to work, have a relationship, and raise a family—meanwhile making steady progress towards spiritual Mastery and Liberation. For some rare individuals, a monastic avocation is appropriate, but for most people, a life balanced between spirituality, and discharging the duties of student, worker, parent, and citizen enables them greater fulfillment, even if their rate of spiritual development and acquisition of holy virtues may be slower than that of saints.