The vow of poverty exists in every spiritual tradition I know of. In order to develop a wider consciousness and open to the Divine, one must not entangle or distract or trap himself into heavy material possessions. Leaving material possession leads to liberation and opens the path to true wealth.
Many confuse the vow of poverty with begging and misery. Although some spiritual practices rely on begging, most spiritual communities have built and generated incredible forms of wealth because of everyone’s contributions in the context of a gift economy. Look at monasteries, ashrams, temples, and most spiritual places: they surround themselves with astounding beauty, built with the finest arts of their time, organized around fair economic principles. When authentic spirituality thrives, no one claims ownership on wealth. There we witness one of the deep aspects of the vow of poverty.
Today we live in a world where both material and spiritual poverty have reached peaks like never before, where consumerism and materialism became the form of poverty in industrialized countries, where people enslave one another other for miserable wages. At the same time wealth surrounds us. It exists everywhere around us if we allow it to exist inside us. We just have to expand our view. Hence this practical question: what kind of collective intelligence do we need to access, build, share and allow wealth emerge at a global level?
The vow of wealth stresses that material forms of wealth can leverage our capacity to become realized beings and realized societies, but only if we fulfil certain conditions:
- that wealth doesn’t come from stealing or looting (otherwise we don’t meet Goodness);
- that, on the contrary, wealth becomes additive. The use we make of it benefits to others and the environment;
- that we don’t consider ourselves as owners, but as trustees and stewards. Even better: as creative artists;
- material wealth nourishes our joy and creativity, and vice-versa.
That said, it doesn’t matter how we call this vow – vow of wealth, vow of poverty or anything else – as long as we cultivate a genuine and authentic journey.