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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
47 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, referred to money as “green energy,” something to work with practically as you said, but he also said that the abstract quality of money can cause us to lose track of earth. DaviD Loy: Exactly. I would disagree with John. There is an essential difference between money and other forms of value. It has a lot to do with the abstractness of money. When we’re preoccupied with money, we’re not being materialistic per se. We’re caught up in a symbol. We’re not experiencing the world as it is; we’re worrying about pieces of paper or numbers in bank accounts, which in themselves are nothing. Buddhists often talk about things being empty. Money is doubly empty. It’s nothing in itself, a collectively agreed poten- tiality, which has meaning only because everyone agrees that it has meaning. The abstractness of it tends to create real problems. John TarranT: I think that’s all nonsense. The more cultures one lives in, the more one realizes people make anything into a construct. The fact that money doesn’t mean anything is not in itself intrinsically bad. You can put it to bad uses, but you can put anything to bad uses. DaviD Loy: I’m not saying that money is intrinsically bad because it’s abstract. I’m just saying that being abstract, it leads to different potentialities, such as easily losing track of the meaning it has taken on in your life. But money is not good or bad in itself. John TarranT: All right. I’m with you then. Sharon SaLzberg: If your wealth is in plants and animals I n dealing with money, we are constantly involved in a kind of chaos. This results from a break in the relationship between the earth and oneself. Relating to the earth means knowing when to act practically and directly; it means actually feeling a kinship with whatever work is being done. We rarely have this feeling when it comes to money matters. Money is basically a very simple thing. But our attitude toward it is overloaded, full of preconceived ideas that stem from the development of self-aggrandizing ego and its manipulative pro- cesses. The mere act of handling money—just pieces of paper—is viewed as a very serious game. It is almost like building a sand castle and then selling tickets for admission to it. The difference between playing as a child and playing as an adult is that in the adult’s case, money is involved. Children don’t think about money, whereas adults would like to charge admission to their solemn construction. Even when we try to regard money as insignificant—as merely a credential or token of our creative capacity or our practical- ity—because money is connected with the energy arising from our preconceptions, it takes on great significance. We may even feel embarrassment about money—it is somewhat too close to the heart. We may try to call it something else—“bread” or From The Heart of the Buddha, by Chögyam Trungpa ©1991. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications. “bucks”—to relieve that feeling. Or, we choose to think of money as our lifeline, as a source of security: its abstract quality repre- sents some unspeakable aspect of our personality. We may say, for example: “I have gone bankrupt and lost heart”; “I’m a solid citizen with a steady bank account”; “I have so much money that there is no room for simplicity in my life.” The energy that money takes on makes a tremendous dif- ference in the process of communication and relationship. If a friend suddenly refuses to pay his check at a restaurant, a feel- ing of resentment or separation automatically arises in relation to him. If one buys a friend a cup of tea—which is just a cup, hot water, and tea—somehow a factor of meaningfulness gets added. It seems to me that it is worthwhile to work with the negative aspects of money in order to gain some understanding about ourselves. We must try to discover how to view this embarrass- ing and potent commodity as a part of ourselves that we cannot ignore. When we relate to money properly, it is no longer a mere token of exchange or of our abstract energy; it is also a discipline. No longer hooked by it as a medicine that has become a drug, we can deal with it in a practical, earthy way, as a master deals with his tools. green energy when we relate with money properly, explains chögyam trungpa, we are no longer hooked by it and can deal with it in a practical, earthy way.