Saturday, December 13, 2014

Abundance Without Attachment

"Generous Beauty"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

An op-ed article in this morning's New York Times was very insightful to me, a helpful guide for navigating through this holiday season without losing my spiritual bearings. 

The article talked about the "Christmas Conundrum" faced by many people at this time of year. 

We are supposed to revel in gift-giving and generosity,
yet the season's lavishness and commercialization leave many people cold.

In some sense the "Christmas Conundrum" is a dilemma that permeates all of our everyday contemporary life. Of course we want to enjoy prosperity - a nice house, a car, new clothes, money in the bank. On the other hand prosperity can also lead to a materialism, stinginess and self-centered consumerism that places a serious roadblock on a spiritual path to deeper peace. 

The answer to this conundrum provided in today's op-ed piece sounded like it could have been written by the Buddha or by Jesus or by some ancient Christian desert monk. We can indeed enjoy the comforts of life and and also find deep peace at the same time when we are guided by the principle of abundance without attachment. 

A wise old abbot in an ancient desert monastery told his fellow monks:

It's not possessing something that is harmful, but being attached to it.

Tibetan Buddhists often talk about the dangers of attachment. In the Tibetan language, the word for "attachment" is "do-chag" which is literally translated into English as:

sticky desire

I really like this insight into what "attachment" is all about. 

We can enjoy the car or the house or all the presents under a tree, but if we cling to them, tightly grasp them with a "sticky desire," then the ego is the victor; and whenever the ego is in charge, we know that we have lost the "way."

I have several very prosperous friends who I also consider to be deeply spiritual people. They live with great abundance but at the same time they are more than willing to give it away.  They don't hide  away their cash in piles, craving and desiring more and more; but they use their prosperity as a tool for promoting the welfare of others - establishing a scholarship fund for poor children, a food bank for hungry people, a shelter for the homeless. When I look at these prosperous friends I see that they are happy people. I honor their abundance and I also celebrate their advancement in the spiritual life- perfect examples of abundance without attachment.

As I reflect upon my own life,  I look to the formulas of "abundance without attachment" as a powerful guiding principle for me in my life, especially in this holiday season.  

We are hardly wealthy people and yet my wife and I lead a pretty comfortable life. We have a beautiful desert home, travel from time to time. enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant, but I must also be careful that this abundance never becomes an obstacle to the spiritual path by doing my best not to cling to anything we have, always looking for ways to cleanse my heart and mind of "sticky desire." 

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