essays on suffering and awakening

All the money in the world belongs to us

Ram Dass tells a story about his guru Maharajji and money.

Maharajji was supervising the renovation of a temple. At the end of every day, he would pay the workers with crisp new bills. Eventually, several local police officers came around to ask questions, concerned that he was forging the money somehow.

“Can I show you where I am getting the money from?” Maharajji asked them. “Please,” the officers replied.

Maharajji led them into the forest near the temple. They hiked through the trees until they came to a river. A crocodile sat on the riverbank.

When the police officers saw the crocodile, they stepped back, alarmed. But Maharajji went straight to him, put his hand in the crocodile’s mouth, and started pulling out stacks of crisp new 100 rupee bills.

“All the money in the world belongs to me,” he said to the awestruck policemen.

Most of us live with a lot of fear about money. When we have only a little, we often feel afraid that we won’t have enough to meet our basic needs. When we have more, we often…still feel afraid that we won’t have enough to meet our basic needs.

Some of this fear comes from the fact that money is really just energy, and energy likes to move. No matter how much or how little money we have, it’s going to come and go. There’s no way around that. Even the biggest fortune will eventually trickle away.

But that’s not a bad thing at all. What that really means is that if you don’t have a lot of money, don’t worry. More is coming along. If you do have a lot of money, great! Don’t worry. You’ll lose it all eventually, and also more is coming along.

But we get into fear because we deny the truth that money will always move, and try and convince ourselves we can hold onto it. Denying the truth always leads to suffering.

We also feel fear because most of us were taught that there isn’t enough to go around. At least in Western culture, the prevailing wisdom is that you have to work desperately hard and compete with everyone around you to survive in any sort of comfort. We’re taught to fight and squeeze and scrimp for every last penny we can, lest we go without.

That’s a really stressful way to live. It’s also not helpful or true. 

To get free from that fear, we can make peace with our sense of inner abundance. Most of us have learned to push that away as childish fantasy, but it’s there. Picture for a moment what it would feel like to have a billion dollars. Or ten billion, or all the money in the world. That image will, for a heartbeat, give you a sense of having enough. That's what I'm talking about.

For a laugh, then watch as you instinctively push your feeling of abundance away as unrealistic, or start to worry about losing it. It’s pretty funny once you see yourself doing it.

The more we give ourselves permission to touch our inner abundance, the more we can relax about money. It really does belong to all of us (and none of us). It might be on one person’s bank account now, but it’s on it’s way to another’s. Money is just energy that flows from and through our collective spirit or atman.

We don’t need to worry about how much or how little we have at any given moment—that doesn’t really matter. If we let go of trying to hold on to money, the universe will work with us, like Maharajji with the crocodile, and give us what we need. It's a great way to practice faith and surrender.

Ian Cooper