Money and the Spiritual Traditions

The history of spiritual pursuits, all over the world, and from a number of traditions, shows a distinct preference among these disciplines to avoid money and its influence as inimical to the spiritual efforts. Many religious orders enjoin a vow of poverty on those joining the monastery or convent. We find this not only in the Christian tradition, but in Hinduism and other religious disciplines as well. In India, the ideal of the sannyasin, the renunciate who gives up all material wealth to live for the spiritual realisation, is of course well-recognised. Anchorites, renunciates, ascetics, all represent the traditional ideal of living without money and avoiding the temptations and distractions that it represents.

Sri Aurobindo’s view of this matter differs from this long tradition:

“…most spiritual disciplines isist on a complete self-control, detachment and renunciation of all bondage to wealth and of all personal and egoistic desire for its possession. Some even put a ban on money and riches and proclaim poverty and bareness of life as the only spiritual condition. But this is an error; it leaves the power in the hands of the hostile forces. To reconquer it for the Divine to whom it belongs and use it divinely for the divine life is the supramental way for the Sadhaka.”

Sri Aurobindo discloses here an alternative to the bareness and ascetic call of the past. Inasmuch as the aim of the Integral Yoga includes the integration of spirituality into life, and the transformation of earthly life into “the life divine”, it is not either necessary nor desirable to shy away from the use of the power that money provides. What is required is a different standpoint and relationship to the money power and its application, not an avoidance or suppression of the force.

Spirituality has tended toward bareness and austerity, but it need not be the case. Beauty and harmony also have their true place in a transformed outer life under the control of the Spirit. Money in and of itself is neutral and depends on the attitude or standpoint of the person applying that force to determine whether it is a “blessing” or a “curse”.

Sri Aurobindo,