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Rethinking our Relationship with Money: A Path towards Generosity

Money holds a very powerful place in our society. It represents security, freedom, and comfort. However, from a Buddhist perspective, real freedom always comes from within, not from external sources such as money. It's a delusion that money alone can provide freedom.

In fact, we can tap into a sense of freedom by changing our relationship with money. Instead of hoarding it and clinging to it, we can focus on where we want it to flow and what we want to support with it.

Examining our relationship with money is crucial – we don’t need to fear or reject it; instead, we can learn to use it as a force for good. By doing so, we are creating a more connected, authentic and sustainable world.

Reimagining Money

There’s nothing inherent in money – we are collectively recreating it on a daily basis. By changing how you think about money, you contribute to changing money itself.

Imagine an economy based not on transactions but on generosity. This concept, rooted in Buddhist philosophy, is known as the dana economy. "Dana" means generosity, and a dana economy is built on the principles of giving and supporting what we value.

At our Buddhist centre, we have implemented this radical approach. Everything, from yoga classes to meditation sessions and even retreats, operates on a donation basis. This model challenges the conventional economic mindset and encourages a shift from "What can I get?" to "What can I give?"

You too can play a part in this transformation, even without access to a community that operates on the basis of generosity. Below are a few steps you can consider to adopt a different way of relating to money.

1. Adopt a Generosity Mindset

Begin by cultivating a mindset of generosity in all aspects of your life. Reflect on how you can contribute to situations rather than what you can gain from them. The situation might not even involve money!

By shifting the focus away from ourselves, we might notice we feel more light-hearted and authentic. There’s less pressure on the outcome and a heightened sense of connection. Supporting what you genuinely value can increase self-esteem and contribute to a more supportive community.

Meanwhile, it’s important to give according to one’s means, not only in terms of money but also regarding time and emotional resources. It’s easy to misuse the concept of generosity as people-pleasing and martyrdom. Whether you can contribute a lot or a little, what matters is the intention and the act of supporting something you believe in, while also fully supporting yourself.

2. Reflect on and Reevaluate Your Relationship with Money

It’s easy to fall back into old habits, especially if the world around us reinforces them. Check in with yourself from time to time: Are you acting out of fear? Are you expecting something from money that it can’t give you? Are you spending on something you don’t actually value deeply?

Notice any habits or attitudes that arise and consider how they align with a generosity-based approach. Reevaluate your financial decisions to ensure they support your values. You can also ask friends who share your views to help you notice behaviors you’d rather let go of.

It’s important to see this as a process and a practice, rather than something to beat yourself up over. We all have strong conditioning around money – the point is to work through it, not to push it away.

3. Concentrate on Where Your Money Goes, More Than Where It Comes From

In our society, money often carries the taint of unethical practices. Even if we know how the money has come to us directly, we don’t know the entire chain and can’t control it. We can do our best to engage in ethical work, but in most cases, that’s about it.

Instead of being preoccupied with our money’s origin, we can focus on its use. Money, regardless of where it comes from, can be ‘purified’ by directing it toward good and ethical purposes. You can direct your money toward ethical practices that align with your values and feel good about using your agency to create a better world.

Changing Our Relationship with Money Can Build a New World

Changing our relationship with money to one based on generosity requires a fundamental shift in how we perceive and interact with it. By embracing generosity, we can create a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable world. This approach not only transforms our personal lives but also has the potential to reshape our communities and economies for the better.

Let’s move beyond transactional relationships and start building an economy rooted in generosity and mutual support. If you’d like to contribute to the Croydon Buddhist Centre’s vision to create a world based on generosity, donate here.


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