THERE IS AN OLD PROVERB that is often misquoted as: "Money is the root of all evil". It should be "Love of money is the root of all evil". It is how we use it that makes it appear good or bad. A knife on the table can do nothing, but immediately it is picked up it can be used for any amount of purposes, depending upon the intention of the user; it can be used to cut string, prepare food, or stab someone with. It is not the knife that does these things but the person using it. And it is the same with money.

Nobody will deny the importance of money unless he is hopelessly impractical. Long gone are the days of bartering goods and services for other goods and services. Certainly, money is important and we wouldn't get very far without it. But there are limits to its use, like with most things; we should recognize what it can be used for and what is beyond it; we should understand its place and always be its master instead of allowing it to become our master, as so often happens. Many of us use money to measure everything, thinking that everything must have a price, and if it hasn't, it must be worthless. "How much is it?" "How much did it cost?" we ask. We cannot conceive of anything being without or beyond price.

Most people, if asked their religion, would probably say something like, "Catholic," "Lutheran," "Buddhist," "Muslim," etc.; few people would say they have no religion; fewer still would tell you their religion is Money. But actually, the most powerful and widespread religion in the world, the one with the most followers, is Money, and always has been; it is the God of a large proportion of mankind, no matter what they call themselves. Many people live for money, caught up in the crazy way of life we have created; and some people will do anything for it, including killing others. They equate money with happiness, but there are people with lots of money who are still not happy. Surely, it would be very difficult to be happy if one were so poor that he couldn't feed his family or pay the rent. But happiness cannot be bought. It is a state of mind that must arise, unsought, as a result of the way we live; efforts to find happiness are self-doomed to failure.

There are many ways to be rich and many ways to be poor. Some people are rich in terms of money but poor in spirit, in friendship, in health or in happiness; others might be rich in health or friends but poor in other ways. A follower of the Way should not think he is poor, even if his pockets are empty; he should always think he is rich, because following the Way and getting the fruits thereof is the greatest wealth. If he thinks he is poor, he will be poor.

Consider the cases of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and the Shah of Iran: they were among the wealthiest men in the world, in terms of money they had obtained by wrongful means. But, toppled by revolution, they became hunted fugitives. All their wealth could not buy them safety or peace of mind; their enemies followed them like bloodhounds, and drove them into their graves soon after.

Then there is the case of an Indian Prince, who had every-thing money could buy at that time; he had only to beckon or clap his hands and servants would run to carry out his wishes. But he felt that there was more to life than the pleasures of the palace; he was disturbed by an urge to find out what life was all about. So, at the age of 29, at the height of his vigor, he crept stealthily out of the palace and became a religious mendicant in search of truth. Finally, after six long years of deprivation and struggle, he found what he was looking for, and from the time he left the palace until he passed away at the age of 80, he never had any money, but just his robes, an alms-bowl, and a few other necessities. But he was the richest man in the world because he was enlightened; he was a Buddha.

Out of necessity, we must earn a living in some way. Many people earn their living in ways that are harmful to others, and therefore, eventually harmful to themselves. That is why the Buddha advised people about right and wrong ways of livelihood, to avoid work that involves killing, hurting or trading in living beings, trade in weapons, harmful drugs, alcohol and other substances like poisons, and not to be involved in gambling, cheating, lying or swindling. Ideally, a follower of the Way should engage in work that is helpful to others in some way, but at least, not harmful. This limits him somewhat, to be sure, but it is for his own benefit.

Somehow, no matter what kind of work a person does—as long as it is not harmful—he should be able to see it as being of some use or service to others. If he works only for money, he will find no lasting satisfaction in it, even if he gets a very high salary, for money alone cannot provide satisfaction. Work should be seen as a spiritual exercise too, so that both the outer and the inner life are fulfilled. If a person tires himself out physically, without any spiritual satisfaction, his work will bring him to an early end; in all probability, he will hate his work—as many people do—if he sees it only as a means of making money, and no amount of money will make him see it otherwise. That is why there are always strikes for more and more money; there is no end to it, like drinking sea-water to quench one's thirst. But if he saw it as a way of contributing something positive to the community, and as a way of serving others, he would find fulfillment and spiritual satisfaction; it doesn’t cost anything to look at work this way, and it would be like getting a double salary! On top of this, he would have more interest and energy in life. Try it with your own work, and see for yourself.

There is another old saying: "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well". This is very true, like most old proverbs. But what has happened in our highly-mechanized world is that people find little meaning in their work and feel that they have not much relationship to the finished, mass-produced articles that they have helped to churn out; consequently, there is little interest in and even less enjoyment of their work. We live in a robotic age, when people are becoming like machines, working in mindless ways. Surely, it is difficult to find satisfaction therein, but that is all the more reason why we need to find it, to look deeper and deeper until we can discern in what ways our labor is useful to others, and how it is making the world a little bit better. And if it cannot be found after a deep inspection, it would be better to look for another job, as such unspiritual work is deadly to one's inner life.

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