Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Money Sex War Karma Series (Money)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

David Loy graces us with a book of essays, provocatively titled with a compelling cover design presenting the four big human hang ups: money, sex, war, karma. (Money, War, Sex, Karma: Notes for Buddhist Revolution, 2008, Wisdom Publications). In his essay, “Lack of Money” Loy reminds us that money is a symbol. In an of itself a dollar bill can’t do much for us, unless we use it a signatory of value. The problem is that we look to this symbol to fill some perceived lack within ourselves, our “emptiness.” He cautions that we wind up knowing “the price of everything but the value of nothing.” If we look to money to fill our sense of lack, we’ll be in trouble. If we mistake the symbol for reality, then we’ll really be in trouble. Ironically, we are not too materialistic but not materialistic enough because we are in love with a symbol. “Because we are so preoccupied with the symbolism that we end up devaluing life itself. We are infatuated less with the things that money can buy that with their power and status.” He also sounds a note of caution regarding debt, how it has become the basis for our economy and by doing so, “the social result is a generalized pressure for continuous growthand expansion, because that is the only way to repay the accumulating dept. This constant pressure for growth is indifferent to other social and ecological consequences.” His final warning is to, “Those who use it to become more real end up being used by it, their alienated sense of self clutching a blank check–a promissory note that can never be cashed.”

I think he is dead-on in these observations. Money has become a proxy for worth. And it goes beyond worth to the very sense of our ontological status. “I am because I have a lot of money” (or “I am less than because I don’t have a a lot of money”). Descartes would be rolling over in his grave, “I spend therefore I am.” Of course this leaves us feel rather empty as you probably already know from your latest jag of retail therapy. Hedonic adaptation predicts this. The shiny new car gives us pleasure for a while because it is, well, new and shiny. However our brains adapt and that newness wears off, probably before the new car smell. It’s only a problem if we look to the car to do something for us other than to take us from point A to point B and back again. If we look to the car to make us whole or real, it won’t work. Such pursuits just reinforce our sense of a solid self independent of everything around us — that sense of self that “owns” the car. It also encourages greed because we can never have enough. And, of course, it flies in the face of impermanence because whatever desire we have now will change and whatever things we have now grow old, get sick, and eventually die. Just like you and me!



  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    The trend here in Lincoln, VT, is to look and act as if you have NO money (even if you do). I wonder what Loy would say about that. Are Lincolnites imitating bhikkus to acquire punna? I don’t think so. I think it’s rather that if they make their wealth obvious, someone might ask them for a bit of it. By appearing not to have enough cash to put cream cheese on that sesame bagel, they can keep it all to themselves…which, in my opinion, is “devaluing life itself,” as Loy says, as much as driving a new car with leather seats. Thanks, Dr. K, for this nugget to ponder.

  • http://exquisitemind.com Dr. Arnie Kozak

    Anti-materialism can carry just as much attachment as conspicuous materialism. As you point out in your comment, it really depends on the intentions behind the behavior, but it sounds like the folks in Lincoln are caught up in the same trap that Loy talks about. Money should help to make ourselves and others more free, not less so. In Vermont, generally, it seems to be “bad taste” to show your wealth. Is it because Vermonters want to show they are “beyond” all that, meanwhile still clinging to an idea. Thanks for reading and posting a comment!

Previous Posts

Time to Wake Up: Reading Your Way to Awakening
We have been asleep, collectively and individually and there is a growing call to wake up. The Buddha was the first to suggest this change in consciousness 2500 years ago (and as you know the term buddha means one who has awakened). And now there are three books that have come to my attention with w

posted 11:05:45am Oct. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Citizen of the Cosmos
I recently heard Ann Druyan interviewed on Radio Lab. She spoke of falling in love with Carl Sagan when they were working together on the Voyager mission in the late 70s, where she was in charge of developing the content that would be sent out into space for alien cultures to discover. It was a touc

posted 9:59:05am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery
Polly Young-Eisendrath has a new book out, her fourteenth. This is a book like no other that I've ever read. It is a memoir and it recounts events that I lived through as dharma friends of Polly and the love of her life, Ed Epstein. The Present Heart is a statement on the nature of love. It defin

posted 8:41:37am Oct. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness and Climate Action
One Earth Sangha presents Mindfulness and Climate Action, a series of online conversations. These are free and start today and will continue through October into November. I am especially excited that Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield will be presenting today. I hope you can catch it. You can regi

posted 8:31:51am Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

A Chilling View Inside the Quiet Room: Electric Shocks Preferred to Sitting Still
A study recently published in Science provides a window into the restless soul of Americans and a compelling case of why we need mindfulness. University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues conducted a series of experiments where subjects spent time alone in an unadorned room. We

posted 8:53:12am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.